Prominent Colo. Republican Breaks Party Ranks, Calls On President Trump To Resign

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Photo: Victor Mitchell Governor Candidate
Candidate for governor Victor Mitchell at the CPR studios Wednesday April 25, 2018.

A prominent Colorado Republican is calling on President Donald Trump to resign, after Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty Tuesday to tax evasion, false submissions to a bank, unlawful campaign contributions, and other federal counts.

The guilty pleas implicated Trump in a cover-up to buy the silence of women who said they had sexual relationships with him.

“I thought yesterday was a tipping point,” Victor Mitchell, a former state lawmaker and recent candidate for governor, told Colorado Matters.

Mitchell said he had wanted to believe that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in favor of Trump “was a witch hunt,” he said -- echoing the president’s oft-repeated assertion. But the Cohen news and the “corroborating evidence of telephone calls, and bank statements and other documents, there clearly was a conspiracy,” caused Mitchell to change his mind.

As NPR reported:

With Cohen's admission, he is implicating the president of the United States in what would be a major violation of campaign finance law. Trump admitted in May to reimbursing Cohen — after first denying any knowledge of at least one payment. But he noted that the reimbursement to Cohen had "nothing to do with the campaign."

“I think the time has come that we have as Republicans, for the betterment of the nation, to do the right thing,” Mitchell said. “I mean, that is we should call for an immediate resignation of the president and there should be hearings.”

Gardner spokesman Casey Contres told the Denver Post that Republican Sen. Cory Gardner supports the Mueller investigation, especially in light of Cohen's admission.

“Senator Gardner fully supported the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel and continues to do so,” Contres said to the Post. “Based off of the public reporting he has seen, Senator Gardner believes the special counsel’s investigation has been conducted with the utmost integrity. These developments are the result of the Mueller investigation that Senator Gardner will continue to support.”

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays declined to comment on Mitchell's call for Trump's resignation.

More via NPR:

Cohen has said Trump illegally directed him to make payments to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump in an effort to influence the 2016 election; the president has denied the affairs. Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, told NPR's Rachel Martin that his client believes Trump is "both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office" and that Cohen would not accept a pardon from Trump.

Cohen “stood in front of a judge yesterday, acknowledged his guilt, implicated directly the president. Yes, I think the president should resign,” Mitchell said.

“I don't think the president will resign. He's never shown any inclination to do the right thing. So I think that at this point we have no other choice but to ask our Republican friends -- and I've been a lifelong Republican since I was 18 years old -- I'm just ashamed that we are no longer the party of law and order if we don't do the right thing here. I mean this is so clear cut and dry, that [the president of the United States] should be immediately impeached.”

“Country and the rule of law should come ahead of party politics,” Mitchell said.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brushed past reporters Wednesday without answering questions about Cohen or the possibility that the lawyer's accusations about an illegal campaign cover-up are grounds for impeachment proceedings against Trump, The Associated Press reported. GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is away from Washington, had no direct response either.

The president defended the hush-money payments Wednesday, saying, incorrectly, that the effort outlined in Cohen's guilty plea wasn't "even a campaign violation." Trump told Fox News in an interview set to air Thursday that the payments "didn't come out of the campaign, and that's big."

NPR and The Associated Press contributed national reporting to this story.