Well, Tuesday was a wild a day as we’ve seen in Washington in a while. Not one, but two major legal actions came to a conclusion, both with negative implications for the president of the United …
Well, Tuesday was a wild a day as we’ve seen in Washington in a while. Not one, but two major legal actions came to a conclusion, both with negative implications for the president of the United States. I can’t recall, even with the Bill Clinton saga, where it appeared that a sitting president was in as much legal trouble as Donald Trump is since I was all of 11 years old, watching the House Judiciary Committee voting on articles of impeachment.
The conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a number of financial charges was a serious matter, and, with such a conviction, the Mueller investigation is no flakey, fake news witch hunt. It is very real news, and Manafort now must decide how much he wants to cooperate with Mueller to lessen his sentence, and thus he could be very beneficial to future investigation of the Russian matter.
But the surprise is that after the weeks and days of anticipation, the decision turned out to be small potatoes compared to another courtroom.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, took the breath of reporters and political observers, coupled with the plea agreement document produced (which, by reports, was well written and clear). Essentially, Cohen admitted that a federal candidate - and, as I understand it, one who later became president of the United States, via the wording - directed him to make payments to women that were designed to buy their silence in order to make it easier to elect the candidate.
Anyone who was not clear only had to listen and read the words of Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, who said first in a tweet, “Today, (Cohen) stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
Davis would talk in a CNN interview, saying, “Donald Trump directed (Cohen), making Donald Trump as much guilty” as Cohen. He noted the president’s lawyers even said at one point Trump had told the Mueller probe that Trump directed Cohen to make the payments, and that it is clear Trump even reimbursed him. Which is a problem for Trump, as cable news had that tape ready of Trump telling reporters on the plane he never knew about the payments. They also had the audio tape where candidate Trump and Cohen talks about the payments. Meanwhile, Davis also said that Cohen had information that might be helpful to both the Mueller probe and other investigations, and that he feels liberated to tell the truth.
In short, the president of the United States is now essentially an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal case of his lawyer, who has plead guilty and could serve dozens of years. And after Tuesday, two more major officials have reasons to sing to the Mueller probe about all sorts of details, adding to the mountain of evidence federal officials have already confiscated, the likes of which we don’t know of. Although we can surmise, a large amount of documented evidence were said to have been obtained on search, including receipts and the like.
And the second Manafort trial - yes, a second one next month, this one which will deal with the jury tampering charges and other items - has even more documentation than the first one. (By the way, I read Wednesday prosecutors are expected to refile on the charges that the jury could not reach agreement on.)
The man referred to as “Individual-1” is in a heap of trouble. It all comes as Democrats could very well take the majority of the House. If that happens, and the Mueller report comes out as we are beginning to expect, the wheels are likely to turn for an impeachment process. The waters could get even murkier depending on what else could come out, involving such events as the meeting at Trump Tower and the president’s directions at covering up for his son’s actions, again on the airplane.
Mind you, the question may come up about whether actions in the campaign involve impeachable offenses, as Trump was not president yet. Are the actions that are directed to try to get you elected in the first place considered usable for impeachment? Article II of the Constitution tells us only, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The wording and past study seems to indicate that the president could not be indicted in regular court, that such removal was reserved for impeachment. But the wording is also open-ended to lead me to think that the president could be convicted from crimes of any time, especially if it relates to his election. (I saw nothing in press coverage overnight that raised that question anyway.)
And unlike Bill Clinton, we are not talking about simple perjury. We are talking much higher stuff from a felony crime that has already led to a plea deal for one of the two men directly involved. We are talking about illegal efforts to cover up affairs using hush money for the purpose of election to president of the United States.
The magnitude needs to settle in, and the Mueller investigation needs to run more to its conclusion, which I think will result in a report to Congress. Much remains to be seen not only legally but politically, as in how the Congress’ make up will be after the mid-terms. But it is becoming clear the Trump years have reached a new level. We are now at the level Richard M. Nixon was in 1974, even to the point of worries about tapes, special federal investigations and legal action. As with Nixon, the focus now starts to shift from the meddling media, that awful "fake news," to the legal systems of the court and the Congress, which this week is very much a reality.
If, unless a massive surprise is unleashed, we continue to march in this direction, and evidence continues to mount, we could come closer to that fateful August 44 years ago, when a bunch of Republicans had to tell Richard M. Nixon he had no support and it was time to go. Nixon, a fighter who still had some notions of dignity, avoided impeachment with resignation.
Whether Trump, a man of far more bluster and bravado, would do so is a question that only he could answer. But answer it he may, thanks to actions in a couple of courtrooms on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. We are now at the mercy of history and the truth, which all men must ride in the course of time. Trump may find it the hardest ride of his life — and so may we.