Donald Trump has all but ignored back-to-back blows to his presidency while appearing before cheering supporters at a campaign rally in West Virginia on Tuesday.
Mr Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of financial crimes on Tuesday (AEST) at almost the same moment the President’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted a series of felonies that he said he carried out with Mr Trump.
In Virginia, Manafort was convicted of eight crimes on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. The judge declared a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a verdict in 10 more.
The outcome, though not the clean sweep of guilty verdicts prosecutors had sought, appears to guarantee years of prison for Manafort. It also vindicates the ability of Mr Mueller’s team to secure jury convictions despite months of partisan attacks – including from Mr Trump – on his investigation’s integrity.
In New York, almost at the same time, Cohen admitted he and Mr Trump had arranged payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to influence the election.
Both women claimed Mr Trump had affairs with them, allegations the President denies.
As part of his plea agreement, Cohen has agreed not to challenge any sentence from 46 to 63 months.
He worked at the Trump organisation for more than a decade and stayed on as the President’s personal lawyer after the 2016 US election. Famously, he once said he would take a bullet for Mr Trump, although the pair have now fallen out in a very public manner.
At the rally in Charleston, Mr Trump spent more than an hour painting a rosy view of his presidential successes, ticking off developments on trade, taxes, North Korea and even his plans for a Space Force.
“What we’re doing is winning,” Trump told cheering supporters.
“Where is the collusion?” he demanded, underscoring that Manafort’s crimes occurred before he became involved with the Trump campaign. “You know, they’re still looking for collusion.”
The President did say he felt “badly for both” men, but he largely ignored Cohen’s guilty pleas to eight felonies.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 22, 2018
Legal experts says it is the Cohen case that is most dangerous for the President. In pleading guilty, Mr Trump’s long-time personal “fixer” has acknowledged his role in a scheme to pay off women who accused the future president of sexual misconduct.
“It’s going to be hard for the President to try to discredit all this. It’s circling him,” said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in the case told Associated Press.
Nonetheless, Mr Trump has shown an uncanny ability to shake off accusations.
In West Virginia, the crowd was no different, chanting Mr Trump’s slogans of “Drain the swamp!” and “Lock her up!” despite the convictions and looming prison sentences for Cohen and Manafort.
The President’s campaign manager was just convicted of serious federal crimes by a jury of his peers, despite the President’s continued attempts to undermine the investigation which has brought Mr. Manafort to justice.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 21, 2018
Meanwhile, Ms Daniel’s lawyer in her civil case against Mr Trump, Michael Avenatti, tweeted on Tuesday that resolution of the criminal case against Cohen “should also permit us to proceed with an expedited deposition of Trump under oath about what he knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it”.
For many around the President, Cohen has been considered a greater threat than even Mr Mueller’s Russia investigation, thanks to his decade with the Trump organisation.
In April, an FBI raid on Cohen’s New York office and hotel room rattled the President, who is said to be privately worried about what material his former lawyer might have.