Don Lemon Calls Out The GOP’s “Deafening Silence” After Cohen & Manafort’s Convictions
As President Donald Trump continued to deny any wrongdoing after two of his top allies were found guilty of criminal activity this week, his party had the opposite response. CNN's Don Lemon called out Republicans' silence following the convictions of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, pointing out that GOP leaders in Congress have refused to address the issue.
“You might think that Republican lawmakers would feel compelled to speak out in the face of all of this,” Lemon said during a CNN Tonight segment on Wednesday, Aug. 22. “Actually, it probably won’t surprise you at all to hear that the response from the president’s own party is pretty much this — crickets, deafening silence. Nothing.”
Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and a campaign finance violation on Tuesday — the same day Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, was found guilty of multiple counts of tax fraud. Neither verdict is good news for Trump, but Cohen specifically implicated the president by claiming in court that a candidate for federal office asked him to make two illegal payments meant to influence the 2016 election.
After all of Tuesday's drama, though, the nation's top Republican lawmakers didn't have much to say.
As Lemon pointed out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hasn't commented on the convictions or what they mean for the president. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has remained similarly quiet, telling CNN through a spokesperson that he needs "more information than is currently available at this point."
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said more than his colleagues, but stood by the president's comments asserting that Cohen's claims don't affect him.
“I don’t think it implicates him at all, particularly on the Russia investigation,” Cornyn told NBC News on Tuesday. “This doesn’t add anything to the allegation of misconduct relative to the Russia investigation.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told reporters that "the president shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of people who he's trusted," as CNN reports. This response also fell in line with the White House's official response: Cohen's crimes don't involve the president.
"As the president has stated on many occasions, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him in this," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a Wednesday press briefing. "Just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn't mean that that implicates the president on anything."
However, Cohen explicitly told a federal court that he committed campaign finance violations because the president instructed him to. Lemon's main criticism of GOP leaders was that they essentially ignored that allegation.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had a slightly different response, though he still failed to say anything of substance. "That is in the hands of a prosecutor, that is working its way through courts. They will handle that and the prosecutor’s office will handle that,” he told The Hill on Wednesday.
While Lemon said most Americans probably aren't shocked that the GOP has stood by the president, he urged lawmakers to take Cohen's allegations more seriously.
"The point here is that Michael Cohen, in his allocution, said that Donald Trump directed him to make the illegal payments," Lemon said. "We can and should hold the president responsible for that."