In two separate courtrooms separated by a couple hundred miles Tuesday, cases involving Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort appear to have thrown cold water on the idea that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is a "witch hunt."
Despite his outspoken public relations battle against Mueller, President Trump went to work on Wednesday morning in a world where his former lawyer and longtime fixer implicated him in campaign-finance crimes, and his former campaign chairman was convicted of tax and bank fraud.
Here's what happened in court Tuesday:
• Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts, including two campaign finance violations that stem from hush-money payments ahead of the 2016 election intended to silence two women who claimed they'd had affairs with Trump — porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.
• Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of various financial crimes, including bank fraud and tax fraud. A mistrial was declared on 10 other counts after jurors in federal court in Alexandria, Va., said they couldn't reach a consensus on those charges. All of the crimes occurred prior to Manafort's role in Trump's presidential campaign.
• Manafort is scheduled to return to court, this time in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17 to face seven additional counts that weren't part of the first trial. Those charges include making false statements to the FBI, money laundering and foreign lobbying.
And here's how the aftermath of the bombshell day for the Trump administration played out Wednesday:
During an interview with Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt, Trump claimed he only found out about the payments made by Cohen after the fact, contradicting Cohen's account and the case made by prosecutors that Trump directed the payments.
"Later on I knew. Later on," Trump tells Earhardt. "And they weren't taking out of campaign finance. That's a big thing, that's a much bigger thing… they didn't come out of the campaign."
Trump also admitted the first time that he was behind the payments to both Daniels and McDougal, telling Earhardt, "They came from me."
As NBC News investigative reporter Tom Winter pointed out on Twitter, prosecutors claim they had an abundant amount of evidence that would have involved the president, including "hard copy documents, seized electronic devices, and audio recordings" made by Cohen.
As part of his plea agreement, Cohen told Judge William H. Pauley III the payments to Daniels and McDougal were made "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," understood to be Trump.
"I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election," Cohen said.
Trump's full interview with Earhardt will air on Fox & Friends Thursday morning at 6 a.m.
The popular conservative website Drudge Report raised some eyebrows early Wednesday afternoon by featuring the headline "Crime Isn't Crime" in the top of its homepage.
The link goes to an NBC News report about Trump's decision to unload on Twitter Wednesday morning about Manafort and Cohen. In one tweet, the president repeated a talking point promoted heavily by several of the president's allies that Cohen's admitted campaign-finance crimes "are not a crime."
"I believe that Michael Cohen pled guilty to actions that are called crimes in the plea deal, that aren't in fact crimes," Matt Schlapp, a Trump supporter and the chair of the American Conservative Union, said on CNN Wednesday morning.
The decision to claim that crimes Cohen admitted to aren't actually crimes draws an obvious comparison to the widely mocked phrase "truth isn't truth," which was made over the weekend by Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
"It's a bit baffling that Trump would assert that criminal charges accepted by Cohen aren't a crime," wrote Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump. "Perhaps he's arguing that the alleged crimes didn't occur or that prosecutors crafted their charges in a way to maximize Cohen's exposure to legal risk. It's not clear. It's not true."
In a whirlwind media tour Wednesday morning that included stops across all the morning news shows and cable news networks, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said there was "no dispute that Donald Trump committed a crime." Davis also reiterated that his client had information that would be valuable to Mueller and insisted that Cohen would not be "dirtied" by a presidential pardon.
But Davis, who served as former President Bill Clinton's special counsel during Clinton's impeachment hearings, added an interesting wrinkle during an appearance on Fox News by slamming the network for its promotion of "rhetoric without facts."
America's Newsroom fill-in anchor Eric Shawn drew Davis' ire when Shawn asked about creating a second special counsel to investigate "the Clintons, the DNC, the dossier, Christopher Steele and the way this was handled by the Department of Justice."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to create a second special counsel investigation back in March. But the idea continues to garner airtime on Fox News and has been promoted by several of the network's personalities, including Sean Hannity, Jeannie Pirino and Jason Chaffetz.
"You didn't state a single fact involving the Clintons, and although I have a lot of friends at Fox and have been a Fox guest on almost every show on Fox, that kind of rhetoric without facts is unfortunately too common on Fox shows," Davis said. "So, state me facts of what Bill or Hillary Clinton actually have done that would suggest anything illegal suggesting a special counsel."
Harry Litman, who served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania under former President Bill Clinton, said he believes that Cohen's plea deal makes it clear that Trump has obstructed justice more than former President Richard Nixon.
"I think it's more serious than Watergate in the actual crimes alleged," Litman said during an appearance on Sky News in the United Kingdom. "Richard Nixon did some obstruction of justice. I think Trump stands already proven to have done more than that and suspected of doing quite a bit more."
Litman said the main difference between then and now is that Republicans in Congress are still supporting the president and have refused to turn on him the way Republicans turned on Nixon, which ultimately resulted in Nixon's resignation.
"So far, Trump's allies in Congress and his minority popular support have not been moved by various scandals that I think would have brought down other presidencies," Litman said. "Whether this is finally enough for some people to… part company with him remains to be seen."
Former New Jersey governor and Trump campaign surrogate Chris Christie admitted that Tuesday was "not a great day" for the president.
Christie, now a political analyst for ABC News, said on Good Morning America Wednesday that there were still several questions that need answered, including Trump's motive in directing Cohen to make the payments and whether they were intended to interfere with the outcome of the election.
The former U.S. attorney for New Jersey also brushed away a comment made earlier on the show by Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, who suggested his client had information that would be "of interest" to Mueller and that "President Trump committed a criminal act."
"For Lanny Davis to be sitting there and saying that a guy who defrauded the federal government of $4 million in tax money, committed bank fraud and all the rest of that, now needs the help of the American people? I think it's outrageous," Christie said, referencing a portion of the financial crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to on Tuesday.
Trump broke his Twitter silence Wednesday morning and unloaded about Cohen and Manafort in a series of tweets Wednesday morning.
The president began by stating he wouldn't recommend Cohen's legal services to others, but quickly shifted to a head-scratching statement that the campaign-finance crimes his former lawyer pleaded guilty to "are not a crime." He also attempted to draw a parallel between Cohen and a $375,000 fine former President Obama's campaign paid in 2012 for campaign reporting violations.
On Manafort, Trump reiterated he felt "very badly" for his former campaign chairman and appeared to criticize his own Justice Department for bringing the case in the first place. He also credited Manafort for refusing to break under pressure, "unlike Michael Cohen."
Despite the guilty verdict on eight counts in the Manafort case, Trump once again dubbed Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt," pointing to the mistrial declared on the 10 remaining charges. Prosecutors could decide to try Manafort again on those charges.