Donald Trump could face the “beginning of the end” of his presidency after being implicated in criminal behaviour over hush money payments to a porn star, a US politics expert has claimed.
Dr Brian Klaas – a fellow in global politics at the London School of Economics – said the wheels were starting to come off Mr Trump’s presidency as he warned Americans would start to question whether the president should remain in the White House.
The academic said he believed the Michael Cohen court case was the start of “continuing investigations, indictments, guilty pleas and convictions in Trump’s orbit”.
Mr Cohen, who is Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer”, admitted making payments to two women “at the direction” of the president.
It came as Mr Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort was convicted of fraud offences.
Dr Klaas said: “I think that the pressure to co-operate will be overwhelming for both Manafort and Cohen, and both of those people very likely have damaging information about the president.
“I don’t expect this to be the end of any of Trump’s legal challenges, but it could be the beginning of the end of his presidency.
“The wheels really are starting to come off and I think at some point Americans will ask the question ‘do we want to have a president who is constantly enmeshed in scandal, criminal allegations and potentially is guilty of crimes?’”
He also warned there was a “real risk” of Mr Trump failing to make it to the end of his first term and said: “This has not happened since Watergate, in which a sitting president is accused under oath by somebody in his close orbit of having committed federal crimes.”
Dr Klaas added: “Anybody in the White House who says that they are not worried about these allegations is not telling the truth because they are extremely serious and they are probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of legal and political challenges that the Trump White House will now face.”
The former US campaign adviser said there were three ways the president could lose office – resignation, indictment or impeachment.
He suggested it was more likely Mr Trump would be impeached than the other options, saying: “It would involve a significant number of Republicans turning on their own party’s president, which makes it harder to do, but not impossible, depending on how damning the evidence is.”
Dr Klaas dismissed suggestions the storm could bolster Mr Trump’s presidency, explaining: “It could entrench views among his base that he is being victimised in some way, but Trump’s base is not going to turn on him.”
However, he said the core support was not sufficient to win elections.
“With the midterm elections coming up, the question is how much political damage does this inflict on the Republican party and if the answer is quite a lot then the Republicans in Congress will be tempted to turn on President Trump to save themselves.”