When the Feds at the SDNY announced this summer that they wouldn’t be indicting any more people at this time in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money scandal, it raised questions about whether Trump’s corrupt Attorney General Bill Barr might have forced the SDNY to shut things down. At the same time, with the federal criminal case off the table (at least for now), it opened the door for New York State to go first with its criminal charges. It turns out New York is busting through that door.
The Manhattan District Attorney has been interviewing Michael Cohen in prison over the past few weeks, with regard to what he knows about Donald Trump’s hush money scandal, according to a new report from CNN today. This is a big deal, because Cohen’s own conviction demonstrates that a crime was committed, and because Cohen has already publicly shown off various pieces of evidence that prove that Donald Trump and others in the Trump Organization criminally conspired with him on this.
If New York State is far enough along that it’s lining up Michael Cohen as a witness, it means the criminal charges have got to be just about ready to go. The question is when the state will decide to move forward with those charges, and against whom. They can indict Donald Trump right now if they want, as there is no rule against a sitting president being indicted on state-level charges. However, it would be nearly impossible for New York to arrest Trump and put him on trial while he’s still in office, meaning they’d either have to put on a trial without him present, or wait to charge and arrest him until he’s out of office.
Whichever way New York decides to go on that front, there is also the question of what the state will opt to do with the other alleged co-conspirators within the Trump Organization. Michael Cohen has publicly presented a signed check that appears to prove Donald Trump Jr was a part of the criminal conspiracy. New York could opt to charge and arrest Junior now, as leverage for trying to force Donald Trump to cut a resignation plea deal for himself and his family. The president cannot pardon anyone on state level charges. The Cohen interview points to a clear haste involved, so we expect New York will pop someone soon. Stay tuned.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report