WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump could face impeachment and jail time if hush money payments reported by his former lawyer are proven to be campaign finance violations, Democratic lawmakers said on Sunday.
Court filings on Friday in cases that stemmed from a federal probe into Russian activities during the 2016 presidential election pointed to potential problem areas for Trump, including whether he instructed six-figure payments to two women during the campaign to keep quiet about affairs.
Federal prosecutors sought prison time for longtime Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen for paying off an adult film star and a former Playboy model at Trump’s behest, evading taxes and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Organization building in Moscow.
If the payments are proven to be felony campaign finance violations, Democratic U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler told CNN those would be grounds for impeachment.
“Well, they would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” said Nadler, who will lead the Judiciary Committee when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January.
Under U.S. law, campaign contributions, defined as things of value given to a campaign to influence an election, must be disclosed. Such payments are also limited to $2,700 per person.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Friday that Cohen has lied repeatedly and that the filing was insignificant.
Friday’s court filings also revealed new information about contacts between people working for Trump and Russians in the cases of Cohen, Trump’s former longtime personal lawyer, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s short-lived campaign chairman who was convicted in August on tax and bank fraud charges.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort lied to investigators about his interactions with a Russian tied to Russian intelligence services. Mueller’s office said the lying prompted prosecutors last week to retract a plea agreement with Manafort on two separate conspiracy charges.
“I think what these indictments and filings show is that the president was at the center of a massive fraud – several massive frauds – against the American people,” Nadler told CNN.