Prosecutors say Trump committed federal crimes, Grassley says he doesn’t believe it

Video still of Sen. Chuck Grassley presiding over the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, Sept. 28, 2018.

Sen. Chuck Grassley isn’t concerned that federal prosecutors claim President Trump led a criminal conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws, defraud voters and win the 2016 election. The prosecutors’ claim came in the sentencing memo in the case Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last month to violating federal campaign finance law.

Although Trump’s name is not used in the memo filed in federal court by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, he is cited as “Individual-1,” the person who directed Cohen’s criminal acts and benefited from them. No one other than Trump fits the description of Individual-1.

Cohen has admitted setting up a shell-company to pay two women who had sexual relationships with Trump to ensure they remained silent during the 2016 election (“to spare Individual-1 from damaging press and embarrassment,” according to the memo), as well as failing to report these campaign-related payments and then lying to Congress about them. According to both Cohen’s guilty plea and prosecutors, the money for paying off the women came from the Trump Organization, but the source of the payments was deliberately hidden with fraudulent documents.

On Monday, Grassley, the second-most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate and currently the chair of the Judiciary Committee, was asked by reporters for his reaction to the memo indicating candidate Trump directed a criminal conspiracy.

“As long as Cohen’s a liar, I shouldn’t give much credibility to what he says,” Grassley said. When it was explained to him that prosecutors had implicated Trump, Grassley replied, “He [sic] got his information from a liar.”

As the Washington Post reported, the sentencing memo “explains that it isn’t only Cohen’s word that applies. Cohen recorded conversations between himself and others, including Trump, in which the payments were discussed.”

Grassley’s refusal to acknowledge that Trump may be part of a criminal conspiracy was echoed by other Republican lawmakers on Monday. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the only Republican who has served in the Senate longer than Grassley, was even more blunt in his dismissal of the memo.

“OK, but I don’t care, all I can say is he’s doing a good job as President,” Hatch told reporters.

Grassley’s attitude isn’t a surprise: he’s been an obedient Trump supporter since 2016, and has consistently dismissed concerns about investigations into Trump. Last week, Grassley was asked by the Washington Post about Trump’s repeated and dishonest Twitter attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He deflected the question by saying, “Listen, the president could solve all of his problems if he just showed his wife the tweet before he punches the send button.”

Grassley’s attitude toward presidential behavior was much different two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was impeached by Republicans in the House of Representatives for making misleading statements about his relationship with a White House intern. Grassley voted to convict Clinton and remove him from office.

Clinton, of course, was acquitted and served out his term, but Grassley explained his vote to convict in a statement on Feb. 12, 1999. In addition to accepting the evidence provided by the House impeachment managers, Grassley emphasized the role of morality in his decision.

The President’s actions are having a profound impact, of course, upon our society. His misdeeds have caused many to mistrust elected officials. Cynicism is swelling among the grassroots. His breach of trust has eroded the public’s faith in the office of the Presidency. The President’s wrongdoing has painted all of us in Washington with a very broad brush.

Grassley sternly warned, “The true tragedy in this case is the collapse of the President’s moral authority… [O]nce you lose your moral authority to lead, you are a failure as a leader.”

Last week, Grassley endorsed Trump for reelection in 2020. (Sen. Joni Ernst did the same). Iowa’s senior senator said he wouldn’t even consider any Republican alternatives to Trump.

“They are welcome to come [and campaign in Iowa], but Chuck Grassley won’t be appearing with them,” he said.

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