Rep. Steve Knight and his 25th Congressional District challenger Katie Hill offered differing takes Wednesday on whether the conviction of President Trump’s former campaign manager — and his former lawyer’s guilty plea on separate charges — implicate the president himself.
A Virginia jury found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty of tax evasion and bank fraud on Tuesday. That same day, former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, falsifying bank statements and campaign finance violations.
Knight, R-Palmdale, said the two cases were indicative of controversy, but he was hesitant to tie the court outcomes to the president’s culpability.
He believed the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller — investigating the 2016 Trump campaign’s alleged ties to the Russian government — should continue with a suspension of judgment.
“I don’t jump to conclusions about people that haven’t been convicted of something,” Knight said. “I will only pass judgment on what happened yesterday on Cohen and Manafort.
“If the Mueller investigation finds there is something there with President Trump, they’re going to have to bring forward charges,” Knight said. “I’m not close enough to the investigation to say, there’s something here to bring forward. That doesn’t mean it’s not there, it just means I’m not close enough to the investigation to make that judgment.”
Hill said the news of Manafort and Cohen’s guilt made it “more clear that Trump is guilty of something.”
“I was taught as a kid that if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” she said. “We are waiting and seeing. We are letting the Mueller investigation and all this play out still. But what I’m concerned about is what the Trump administration is going to do to try to distract Americans from this. As the commander in chief he can do something massively destructive like starting a conflict and putting American lives at risk.”
Knight said he believed the rule of law would do its job with the investigation continuing.
“If you’re brought up on charges and you’re convicted, there’s a penalty,” he said. “If you’re not convicted because of lack of evidence, then you aren’t convicted. The rule of law is working. Cohen and Manafort have been convicted of crimes because there was evidence, so I guess I’m trying to figure out why people on social media are upset. Passing judgment or snap decisions is not what we should be doing.”
Hill said extra scrutiny on the administration even while the Mueller investigation continues is essential.
“In the meantime, we should all be aware and careful,” she said. “Even if we’re letting it play out, we can take precautions.”
Hill said the system wasn’t necessarily reliable right now, and would only be if there was a government that could put a check on the presidency.
“The way the system is going to work is by winning the House back,” she said. “In a less polarized society, we’d have a Republican Congress that would get past partisan politics and hold Trump accountable regardless that he’s the Republican face of the party. You didn’t see this hesitancy with Nixon and Watergate.
“We’ve seen in multiple cycles there’s a back and forth of one side trying to undo what one side has done,” she said. “My campaign has been trying to get beyond that. If people running in swing districts understand that these communities don’t want extremism on either side, we’ll have a large enough block of people elected who get that.”