Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

As of the 8th March 2019, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been sentenced to 47 months in prison, after charges for tax and bank fraud crimes were pressed. Manafort’s conviction arises following accusations that he hid millions of dollars from the taxman that he had earned as a consultant for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government. Robert Mueller, FBI Director, has pressed these charges following his thorough investigation into the role that Russia played in the US 2016 Election. However, Manafort’s sentence appears surprisingly short considering his charges, with prosecutors previously citing that his conviction would usually lead to 19-24 years in prison, which therefore already suggests suspicious practices have occurred, with someone possibly intervening to prevent his sentence prevailing longer. In addition to his prison sentence, Manafort has also been sentenced by District Judge TS Ellis to pay a fine of $50,000, as well as a restitution of just over $24,000,000.

Yet it is not only Manafort who has worked for Trump and then been convicted of a crime, thus giving Trump further damaging associations, but Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, has also recently given a damaging testimony to the House of Committee on Oversight and Reform regarding Trump’s previous actions. Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison due to fraud, lying to Congress, and violating campaign finance laws. However, he has additionally brought revealing information about Trump’s behaviour to light, with him not only saying that Trump directed him to violate these laws, but also stating in the testimony that if Trump loses in the 2020 presidential election, he would be unlikely to peacefully allow his successor to take control of the White House. Cohen has also made suggestions that Trump’s tax returns are not being audited, with Trump refusing to release his tax returns, and subsequently breaking with years of presidential tradition. In addition to Trump refusing to publish his tax returns, Cohen has claimed that Trump has devalued his assets to enable him to pay lower taxes as well, which given Trump’s previous behaviour would be hardly difficult to believe.

Yet it is not only Manafort who has worked for Trump and then been convicted of a crime

It must then be carefully considered what impact Manafort and Cohen’s sentencing and accusations will have on Trump, with Trump seeming unable to be impeached regardless of his questionable and often unlawful behaviour. The question also arises as to whether Trump will try and absolve his former associates of their crimes through the pardon power  he has due to his presidential role. This would again increase the already burning questions surrounding the level of corruption within the US government, something Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, member of the Democratic Party and Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, so brilliantly articulated recently to the House Oversight Committee. Trump has already taken comments from Manafort’s case, and used them out of context in order to claim that the judge has already absolved his 2016 election campaign of any collusion with Russia’s election interference effort, in an attempt to clear his name from the ongoing investigations.

Robert Mueller

Trump’s current lawyers are incredibly crafty, and have previously argued and will likely continue to argue that Trump has not violated the laws, and therefore it will be incredibly difficult to prove anything against Trump directly, even if his previous associates are given convictions. A policy in the Justice Department also states that a President may not be indicted whilst in office, and thus this loophole additionally serves to benefit Trump. Cohen’s remarks however have also brought up claims that Trump has previously shut down, such as the accusation that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the hush money payment to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, in order to silence her about the affair she had with Mr Trump.

there is the hope that the increasing tide of young and more progressive politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will continue to challenge the current government

Despite Donald Trump’s impressive lawyers, all of these accusations accumulated will no doubt make it harder for the Trump administration to push what they want through, with previous scepticism and rumours of corruption that were already present now likely to arise more frequently than before. Cohen’s remarks about these payments from Trump could also be used to press a charge of campaign finance violations against President Trump, but there is also the problem that the campaign finance laws do require proof that the person was wilfully violating them, and that could be hard to obtain. However, there is the hope that the increasing tide of young and more progressive politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will continue to challenge the current government, and thus encourage others to think about the existing financial and political problems with the current system. Therefore, even if Trump remains in power for now, it can be argued that all of the contributing factors, including revelations about the US 2016 election, may prove useful for the Democrat hopefuls in 2020, if they are to oust Trump from Office.

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