All the president's Goodfellas
by Tom Sullivan
Tuesday's blockbuster news cycle was like a Sharknado of Trump Goodfellas. Former Donald Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in Manhattan to eight counts, including two campaign finance violations meant to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. In the same hour in Virginia, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of filing false tax returns, failure to report foreign assets, and bank fraud. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife, Margaret, were indicted in southern California for using a quarter-million dollars in campaign funds for personal expenses.
Rachel Maddow observed the first two sitting members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump have been indicted on corruption charges. (Republican Chris Collins of New York was arrested for insider trading on August 8.) Who's No. 3, she asked?
Manafort is not done. The jury deadlocked on ten charges and the judge declared a mistrial. Prosecutors could elect to re-try those ten, plus Manafort faces trial in Washington, DC on seven other counts. That trial begins September 17.
But most damaging to the sitting president were Cohen's statements in court about illegal campaign contributions (hush money payments) he made ahead of the presidential election to buy the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The New York Times reports:
[Cohen] told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payments to the women were made “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” implicating the president in a federal crime.Rick Hasen adds at Slate:
“I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Mr. Cohen said.
If prosecutors have evidence such as text messages or recordings corroborating Cohen’s statement implicating Trump, that would be more than enough for Trump to be charged with a crime. It is illegal to conspire with someone to make an excessive illegal contribution, and it is illegal for a candidate or campaign to accept an excessive illegal contribution. The same goes for the illegal corporate contributions. As Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis asked: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”A couple of tweets put a finer point on Hasen's comments:
Of course, Department of Justice guidance says that prosecutors cannot indict a sitting president. This has never been tested by the courts, though. At the same time, President Trump is about to be given a hand-picked Supreme Court justice in Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who has indicated a desire to expand presidential power and a profound skepticism of investigations of the president.
Throughout his term, Trump has bristled at the idea that his win with a minority of the popular vote was illegitimate. He claimed an unprecedented electoral college win he didn't have and an unprecedented inauguration crowd photos clearly show wasn't there. He alleged he would have won an outright if millions of imaginary illegal voters had not voted for Hillary Clinton. "No Collusion" will hang around Trump's neck like an albatross. Trump had help from the Russians whether or not Robert Mueller can prove his campaign conspired with them. (TBD)
...and, while you're at it...How in the hell does what is, essentially, an unindicted co-conspirator get to continue with a SCOTUS nominee?— MutherBear (@MuthrBear) August 21, 2018
One wonders what the "program" is. But Bannon is mistaken. November is not a referendum on impeachment. It is a referendum on the rule of law.
NEW: Ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon tells me:— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) August 22, 2018
"Today clarifies that November is a referendum on impeachment -- an up or down vote.
"Every Trump supporter needs to get with the program."