Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen’s travails could be the straws that break the camel’s back. Not because they can attest that Donald Trump broke the law, which is speculative at best. Rather, Trump supporters have to be asking themselves why their leader has terrible judgment. How could he possible trust these two sleazy characters?
Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has been posting some impressive wins and has indicted a whole slew of Trump minions (seven). Unfortunately for Mueller, none of his investigations have proven that Trump colluded with Russia to influence the elections in 2016, the original mandate of the special counsel.
I wrote in an earlier blog that it’s highly improbable that Trump could have orchestrated a comprehensive and massive conspiracy with the US’s mortal enemy. Candidate Trump didn’t have the stature before the election or the brainpower to actually conduct such an operation. Unlike Richard Nixon, neophytes surrounded him. These people were not savvy enough to conspire in such a grand manner.
It’s clear that the Trump team, as in every campaign, was trying to find dirt on Hillary Clinton. This is not an illegal activity. No way Trump would have been able to conduct clandestine meetings with Putin or his spymasters to influence the election and hurt Clinton. Americans should not believe for one second that a real estate developer and his amateur advisors could actually pull this off.
Paul Manafort is a con artist, a thief and a liar. He committed bank fraud, chiseled lenders, stole money from acquaintances and spent it on his lavish lifestyle. He was a lousy crook who was bound to trip over his own feet and be thrown into jail for decades. But none of his crimes had anything to do with the elections and occurred long before Trump’s campaign for the presidency. Yet, Trump said he admired Manafort for defying the special counsel. Really?
Because Manafort is facing a long prison sentence, prosecutors have great leverage over him, if he actually knows of serious crimes committed by Trump. We should all be reassured that Manafort will sing to save his ass, if he knows something.
Cohen is a different story. The feds don’t have any leverage over him because he’s already coped a plea for a few years of prison time. Like all prosecutors, Mueller is ready, willing and able to offer leniency if someone is prepared to give up a larger fish.
Cohen was responsible for making payments to two women who had been with Trump to buy their silence. The principal charge, which seems like a real stretch, is that Trump made the payments to ensure these women would not negatively impact his campaign. And therefore the payments are effectively campaign contributions that should have been disclosed. There are experts on both sides of this controversy. Whether Trump committed a campaign violation may need to be adjudicated in court.
The indictments (outlined by the New York Times) of people who worked for Trump is going to impact the election even though none of their crimes rise to a high level. Rich Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators. Alex van der Zwan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about conversations with Gates. Richard Pinedo pleaded guilty to identity fraud. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian Ambassador. And George Papadopolous pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. Public outrage over these nickel an dime offenses are dwarfed by the most obvious comparisons to Watergate (breaking and entering) and the much more serious offenses of Bill Clinton (lying under oath).
Yet Trump haters, in particular the liberal press, will continue to magnify the crimes of this group of people that over 95% of Americans never heard of before the events of the past few weeks.
And certainly, Democrats will push to impeach Trump if they overtake the Republicans in the House. The odds of attaining a 2/3 vote in the Senate are highly improbable at this point. But the crimes revealed about most of the indicted parties do not rise to the high crimes and misdemeanors standards that would justify impeachment. And, other than paying hush money to an exotic dancer and a Playboy Playmate, Trump has not done anything to warrant such severe action by his adversaries.
But the implications to the 2020 presidential election are growing. The power of the press, especially when it’s so intent on destroying a politician, is very great. Trump is going to be seriously damaged by these sideshows. Ironically, the much more serious accusations about election interference have gone nowhere up to this point.
Trump is vulnerable in his own party and could very likely be challenged by another Republican in the impending primaries. His judgment and leadership is being fairly called into question. He’s a deeply flawed man with character that is not fitting of a US president.
Please see my blog post relating to a possible challenge to Trump by Nikki Haley (https://softballpolitics.com/2018/08/21/nikki-haley-the-alternative-to-trump-in-2020).