Trump faces mounting legal pressure on three fronts

President Trump is under mounting legal pressure on three different fronts stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Trump is awaiting a verdict in the trial of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The New York Times revealed over the weekend that White House counsel Donald McGahn has been much more cooperative with Mueller than previously thought.

And federal prosecutors are reportedly close to bringing criminal charges against longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen.

{mosads}None of those developments necessarily spells doom for Trump — and an unexpected twist, such as a Manafort acquittal, could give him a boost. But together, they present a new and serious set of challenges for an already embattled president.

Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said that, if she were Trump, “I’d be worried about the combined effect of all of them. This is not just a one-dimensional legal challenge. This is a number of different issues [and] some might connect and reinforce each other.”

Overall, Vance added, “if there is anything the president has hidden in his past, it is about to catch up with him.”

Trump on Monday lashed out at a variety of personal boogeymen after a New York Times report said he had been rattled by the McGahn news, citing people familiar with his thinking.

In a series of tweets, the president slammed Mueller as “disgraced and discredited” and labeled his team of investigators a “National Disgrace” that is trying to hurt Republicans in the fall midterm elections.

Trump also challenged former CIA Director John Brennan to sue him over the revocation of his security clearance and called for the firing of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has ties to a firm that produced a salacious dossier of claims about the president’s ties to Russia.

That followed a string of Sunday tweets, in which Trump denied that McGahn had become “a John Dean type ‘RAT,’ ” referring to President Nixon’s White House counsel who cooperated with prosecutors after he was implicated in the Watergate cover-up.

Some allies of the president put on a brave face, disputing the notion that Trump has grown increasingly worried.

They cited a line in the Times report that said McGahn cautioned investigators “he never saw Mr. Trump go beyond his legal authorities,” a key question in Mueller’s investigation into whether the president has obstructed the Russia probe.

“Nobody was stressed about anything,” said a former campaign official, who requested anonymity to describe interactions with White House officials and Trump allies following the McGahn report. “The more he cooperates, the more it validates our case that there was no collusion or obstruction.”

Trump supporters cast his tweets as a concerted effort to push back against the Mueller probe, rather than evidence the president is cracking under pressure.

“If your political opponent has wrongly accused you of treason, it would be hard to keep quiet about it,” said Barry Bennett, another former Trump campaign adviser.

That attitude belies the seriousness of the challenges facing Trump, legal experts say.

McGahn, in particular, may have provided Mueller with damaging information against the president during the course of 30 hours of testimony over the past nine months.

While Trump’s team signed off on McGahn’s interviews, the president and his lawyers are reportedly worried by the fact they were not aware of how long McGahn spoke with Mueller’s investigators and do not know everything he said to the special counsel’s office.

The White House lawyer has the ability to provide eyewitness accounts of the president’s conduct and mindset when he decided to fire James Comey as FBI director, as well as during his attempts to fire Mueller.

The irony is that McGahn’s role as a key resource for Mueller appears to have been unintentional.

He was allowed to speak under Trump’s previous team of personal lawyers, which sought to cooperate as much as possible with Mueller’s team in the hopes of bringing a quick end to the Mueller probe. The Times reported that McGahn’s willingness to be forthcoming with Mueller was partially borne out of a fear the president was going to use him as a fall guy.

Critics of the president reacted with glee to the McGahn news, predicting it could have seismic implications.

“Don McGahn is counsel for the Office of the President, not for President Donald J. Trump,” Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe tweeted. “We may see the presidency bring down the president. Poetic justice.”

Allies of the president say that amounts to wishful thinking — and gross exaggeration — among his opponents. In fact, some contend that McGahn’s testimony to Mueller could ease the pressure on Trump himself to grant an interview.

Joe diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia who has been in touch with the president, noted that one justification for seeking Trump’s testimony would be if investigators could show they could not get the information any other way.

Instead, he said, “they got it, big time, from the White House counsel, who spoke directly with the president. So why are we here, why is this happening?”

Other Trump allies worry that the president’s intemperate tweets are counterproductive. Mark Corallo, who served as a spokesman for Trump’s private legal team for a brief period in 2017, said that none of the current developments had produced anything damning on Trump.

“I wouldn’t be worried,” Corallo said. “I’d probably be annoyed. But I doubt I would vent it publicly the way the president has. Because I think the president’s posture makes it look like he is worried, right?”

In New York, federal prosecutors appear to be ramping up pressure on Cohen to cooperate in a wide-ranging criminal probe that includes his dealings with Trump.

The Times reported that government lawyers have focused on $20 million in loans obtained by his taxi businesses and that they are considering bringing charges by the end of the month.

Any criminal charges against Cohen would represent a blow to Trump, who employed Cohen for more than a decade, and serve as another black mark for Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.

But the headache could be compounded if Cohen decides to tell prosecutors what he knows about hush-money agreements he helped arrange for women who say they slept with Trump.

Last month, it emerged that Cohen had secretly recorded a conversation he had with the future president, in which they discussed payments to one of those women, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The emergence of the recording was seen as an indication Cohen is willing to cooperate with authorities.

Unlike Cohen, Manafort has not shown a willingness to give prosecutors damaging information about Trump. But his trial on 18 criminal counts is being viewed as a barometer of the strength of the Mueller investigation.

If prosecutors win a guilty verdict against Manafort, it could bolster the probe’s standing, even though his alleged crimes are not directly linked to Manafort’s time as Trump’s campaign chairman.

Manafort is facing bank and tax fraud charges stemming from his consulting work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign.

Tags Donald McGahn Donald Trump James Comey John Brennan Mark Corallo Paul Manafort Robert Mueller

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