Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump

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Manhattan prosecutors said in a court filing Friday that Trump directed his lawyer Michael Cohen to make the payments to silence women during the 2016 campaign.

Nadler was responding to Friday's filing in the Southern District of NY on Michael Cohen, which stated, in part, "With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election ..."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who will oversee the House intelligence committee next year, said that a new court filing on Friday "implicates the president very directly" in a crime.

Whether a president can be prosecuted while in office remains a matter of legal dispute. And while campaign finance violations are not typically considered the sorts of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that would raise the specter of impeachment, "the point for this day is that the Cohen case in New York City is not about Cohen".

Payments were made to two women who alleged they had sexual relationships with Trump before he ran for president: Playboy model Karen McDougal - who reached an agreement with the publishers of the National Enquirer that she wouldn't share her story of the relationship - and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who received US$130,000 to remain silent about a liaison involving Trump.

Trump has publicly denied the affairs and said he "stayed away" from business in Russian Federation.

"In total, the prosecutors seem to be saying the president was more aware than he has claimed to be", former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin said.

Schiff, who will oversee some of the congressional probes into Trump, said the swirl of investigations "tests the proposition that no one is above the law". Special counsel Robert Mueller's office also laid out previously undisclosed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries and suggested the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his Republican campaign by playing to both his political and personal business interests.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 21, 2017.

Prosecutors wrote that Cohen had implicated Donald Trump in the arrangement of hush-money payments to women during the 2016 United States presidential election.

Mr Mueller said Cohen had gone to "significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel's investigation". Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has also said that a president can not be indicted. "Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero".

Still, he said, "The new Congress will not try to shield the president" as he said Republicans have. In June, Giuliani told NBC's "Meet the Pres" that while Trump "probably does" have the power, "pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment".

Cohen, citing the fact he has cooperated with investigators, had requested a sentence of no prison time.

"I think we also need to see this as a part of a broader pattern of potential misconduct by the president, and it's that broad pattern, I think, that will lead us to a conclusion about whether it rises to the level to warrant removal from office", Schiff said.

"I have great respect for Bob Mueller and if he feels that Cohen is confiding now honestly about it, that's a pretty good indication that's what he's doing", he said.

In these 2018 photos, Paul Manafort leaves federal court in Washington, left and attorney Michael Cohen leaves federal court in NY.

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