With Tuesday’s convictions in the criminal trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, has garnered five guilty pleas and 32 indicted individuals still pending. In addition, yesterday’s guilty plea in the S.D.N.Y., by Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and self-styled fixer, admitting to making payments to two women who allegedly had affairs with President Trump in violation of campaign finance laws at the direction of the President along with other charges, demonstrate that our system of justice is working as it should.
The President’s repeated irresponsible tweets attacking the system, calling it a witch hunt - before, during and after the jury deliberations in the Manafort trial - is a sad commentary on the President’s attempt to obfuscate and confuse the public. Rather than focusing on his stated defense - that these prosecutions are not based on Russian collusion, that the Manafort charges pre-date his role in the campaign and that the President did not violate the law - the President continues to slander our entire system of justice. And by tweeting during the Manafort trial and during the jury deliberations, he risked affecting the outcome.
The day after the jury convicted Manafort based on overwhelming documentary evidence, the President tweeted that he felt bad for Manafort being convicted on an “old tax case”, and lauded Manafort’s courage in not “breaking” or making up stories to get a deal, an obvious referral to Trump’s former lawyer Cohen who may be looking to cooperate with the Special Counsel. Trump also added that since Manafort’s jury couldn’t reach a verdict on 10 of the 18 counts in the indictment, it was a witch hunt.
The charges against Manafort, however, were no different than those brought against any one that commits the types of crimes he was convicted of. Every day across the country the Department of Justice investigates and charges individuals who blatantly failed to report their full income, materially lied to obtain bank loans or failed to report monies held in overseas bank accounts. The charges against Manafort were run-of-the-mill, only sensationalized by his connection to the President and the President’s own continuing comments on the case. The fact that the jury could not unanimously agree on some charges is meaningless as it happens in many cases for a variety of reasons. The important fact is that the jury unanimously agreed that Manafort was guilty on 8 serious counts that potentially expose him to decades in prison.
While my colleagues and I on the defense side fight hard every day for our clients accused of similar offenses, we do so based upon the facts and the law. We vigorously attack the charges through the evidence, pretrial motions and trial. It pains those of us involved in the criminal justice system to see the President attack the rule of law and falsely accuse the system of being a rigged witch hunt. These oft-repeated and highly publicized statements unfortunately have the ability to undermine the average citizen’s faith in our system of justice. And while it is certainly not perfect, it is on balance a fair system of laws and procedures that protect the rights of the accused in the United States – whether they are a celebrity, a politician, a friend or foe of the President, or just an “average citizen”.
Robert Stahl, and his firm, Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers aggressively defend individuals charged with complex federal and state crimes. Founder Robert G. Stahl is recognized as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the NY/NJ area for his skills, knowledge and success. To contact the firm, call 908.301.9001 for the NJ office and 212.755.3300 for the NYC office, or email Mr. Stahl at firstname.lastname@example.org.