The debate over what does and what doesn't make a campaign finance violation is taking over American politics- And of course the debate over what should happen to the President if his actions do constitute a violation.
Donald Trump has waded into the fray after two of his former associates became convicted criminals on the same day. Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and bank fraud yesterday, while former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes. For Trump, Cohen's court case is the more challenging one- he claims that the campaign finance violation was "at the direction of a candidate", meaning that Trump instructed him to make "hush money" payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal on the assumption their stories may damage his presidential campaign. Both women claim to have had romantic affairs with Trump before he ran for office.
In an interview on Fox News, Trump rejected Cohen's version of events.
"Later on I knew [about the payments]," he said. "But you have to understand, what he did -- and they weren't taken out of campaign finance, that's the big thing. That's a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn't come out of the campaign, they came from me... In fact, my first question when I heard about it was did they come out of the campaign because that could be a little dicey. And they didn't come out of the campaign and that's big. But... it's not even a campaign violation."
On MSNBC Tuesday night Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis said that Cohen is "more than happy to tell [special counsel Robert Mueller] all that he knows," leaving many to speculate what exactly Cohen does know that might be of interest to the investigation headed by Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Cohen will be sentenced in December. The maximum sentence for all eight counts is 65 years, but thanks to his plea deal he won't serve anything close to that.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's first big victory came in court against Paul Manafort, who he successfully convicted on eight charges. This was only the first in two cases against Manafort- the second will be in September, and includes charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to launder money. Of course, the convictions were largely to do with Manafort's personal conduct- the waters of the Russia investigation haven't yet risen to Trump's doorstep.