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How some on the right are spinning the Cohen and Manafort news

One senator argued: “How does this implicate the president? I don’t think it implicates him at all.”

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, exits federal court, August 21, 2018, in New York City.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s allies in the conservative movement lined up behind him on Tuesday when a jury found his former campaign chair Paul Manafort guilty of federal crimes and his personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight crimes,.

Trump’s supporters argued that while Manafort and Cohen might be crooks, that has nothing to do with Trump, and certainly not whether he colluded with Russians to beat Hillary Clinton.

In a media scrum on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “People who do bad things, who break the law, need to be held accountable, but this doesn’t add anything to the allegations of misconduct relative to the Russia investigation.” He added, “How does this implicate the president? I don’t think it implicates him at all, especially on the Russia investigation.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agreed, telling reporters that Manafort was “a tainted businessman” but that there was no evidence of Russian involvement. Graham also said that “I do believe that if the government knew Manafort was a shady character they should have told the Trump campaign.” (Paul Manafort’s sketchy track record over the past four decades was well known in Washington, and widely reported on in April 2016, when Manafort came on board the Trump campaign.)

In a statement, Graham said that “the American legal system is working its will” but that “there have yet to be charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign.”

It’s worth noting that the Cohen case wasn’t brought to court by Robert Mueller’s special counsel team; he referred the case to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. But some conservatives seemed to argue that the lack of any reference to the Russia investigation in either case somehow rendered the guilty pleas moot.

Matt Schlapp, chair of the powerful American Conservative Union (his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, serves as Trump’s director of strategic communications), tweeted, “So all this legal activity strange I see no ‘Russian collusion’ in any breaking news.”

And President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said in a statement, “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.” But in court, Cohen admitted that he made hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and other women “at the direction of” Trump, and with the goal of influencing the 2016 election.

Still, some on the right took the news as worrisome for President Trump. The Drudge Report headline for the day’s news: “TRUMP HELL HOUR.”

Drudge Report, August 21, 2018.

It was, at least, one hell of a day.

Ella Nilsen contributed reporting to this story.