Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is set to take over the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats reclaim the House of Representatives in January, told Face the Nation Sunday morning that he believes President Donald Trump faces the "prospect" of "real jail time" after prosecutors accused the president of directing his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to issue payments to two of the president's alleged former mistresses.
""There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him," Schiff said. "That he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time."
.@AdamSchiff on the Russia Investigation: My takeaway is there's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the justice department may indict him. That he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time. pic.twitter.com/3kfwumFkh7— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) December 9, 2018
Although the allegations released by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York on Friday are serious, it's not clear that they carry jail time — or much of a punishment at all. The document, which never mentions the president by name (but appears to refer to Trump as "Individual-1"), says that Cohen "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump, who wanted two alleged former flings, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, paid to keep quiet about their affairs with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The claims, if true, appear to be campaign finance violations.
The claims, which have not yet escalated into official charges, are also separate from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump campaign illegally coordinated with Russian officials to impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. So far, it does not appear there is any evidence connecting the president to any overt coordination effort.
But Democrats seized on the Cohen report as evidence that they may have enough to impeach — or at least imperil — Trump's term in office. Schiff, in particular, told Face the Nation that the Democratic Congress will be keeping a much closer eye on how the president does business throughout this legal ordeal.
Getting a bit ahead of himself, Schiff also says Democrats are considering how to prevent future presidents from pardoning Trump, even though Trump has yet to be officially accused of an offense.
"We have been discussing the issue of pardons the president may offer to people or dangle in front of people," Schiff said. "The bigger pardon question may come down the road, as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump."
"I think the prosecutors in New York make a powerful case against that idea," he added. "All the arguments they make against Michael Cohen ... that argument was equally made with respect to Individual-1, the President of the United States.”
The White House dismissed claims that the new allegations were anything novel on Friday. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the allegations were "nothing of value that wasn't already known," and reiterated that "Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero."
Cohen unlike the president, currently faces years of jail time on several counts.