It's difficult to imagine a worse day in the presidency of Donald Trump than Tuesday, when two gripping legal dramas, one involving his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and the other embroiling his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, collided in a surreal split screen crescendo.
In New York, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to eight felony counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
Two hundred miles south, in Alexandria, Virginia, a jury found Manafort guilty of eight unrelated felonies: Five counts of felony tax fraud, one count of failing to report a foreign bank account, and two counts of bank fraud.
As the parallel dramas unfolded in federal courthouses Tuesday afternoon, Trump was at first uncharacteristically silent as he traveled to a campaign rally in West Virginia. But then he broke his silence after Air Force One landed.
"Paul Manafort is a good man," Trump told reporters after landing in West Virginia for a campaign rally. "I feel very badly for Paul Manafort." While pointedly refusing to comment on Cohen, the president stressed that Manafort's conviction "doesn't involve me," and called it, "a very sad thing is happening."
Trump also emphasized that Manafort's legal woes have "nothing to do with Russian collusion, absolutely nothing." He then segued into familiar criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, calling it a "witch hunt and a disgrace."