Trump aides' felony convictions spur calls to oppose Kavanaugh nomination

In the words of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Tuesday’s legal developments are a “game-changer” for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Democrats quickly seized on the guilty plea by President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and the guilty verdicts in the case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as fresh justification for their long-shot bid to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Schumer’s rationale is based on an article Kavanaugh authored in 2009 for the Minnesota Law Review in which he argued that presidents should not be subject to legal proceedings while in office.

“I believe it vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible. The country wants the President to be ‘one of us’ who bears the same responsibilities of citizenship that all share. But I believe that the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office,” Kavanaugh wrote.

While Manafort still faces the prospect of a retrial on the 10 counts that the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Va., failed to decide, he also will be tried separately on charges of money laundering, obstruction of justice and failing to register as a foreign agent. Trump argued Tuesday that Manafort’s convictions had nothing to do with him, which appears to be true, but it is unclear if the president will be implicated in the upcoming trial.

Trump is in far greater legal jeopardy regarding Cohen, who in his statement to the court tied the president to campaign finance felonies. Cohen told a judge in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday that Trump had directed him to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to hide allegations of extramarital affairs that were seen as damaging to his presidential campaign. Cohen admitted that he knew the payments constituted illegal and unreported political contributions. The president has not been charged with a crime in the case, and it is not known if he is under investigation, but legal observers have said he faces a potential legal liability.

President Trump announcing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in the East Room of the White House on July 9. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
President Trump announcing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in the East Room of the White House on July 9. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

Thus, according to Democrats in the Senate, Kavanaugh’s nomination presents a clear conflict of interest, a point that Schumer attempted to hammer home on Wednesday.

Several other Democrats joined Schumer’s call to stop Kavanaugh from reaching the Supreme Court. At Wednesday’s briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the notion that the Manafort and Cohen cases have changed the outlook for Kavanaugh’s nomination “desperate.”

Some senators, like New Hampshire’s Jean Shaheen, did not go so far as to argue that Kavanaugh was now effectively disqualified from being considered, but called for a delay.

But others, like Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, saw Cohen’s guilty plea as the end of the line.

For many Democrats, “co-conspirator” was the favored way to describe Trump.

Of course, Trump had his own verdict on the matter.

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