2 Trump aides guilty. We can’t fuhgeddaboudit

Watching the Trump saga unfold is a lot like watching a crime family implode.

  • His friend, former lawyer, fixer and a guy who once said, “I’d take a bullet for Mr. Trump” yesterday implicated him, under oath, as a felon. Then again all he did was say the same thing Trump’s incompetent lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in a court filing some weeks ago — that Trump directed Michael Cohen to pay off a woman accusing Trump of having an affair with her as a way shut her up to influence the election.
  • His former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of eight counts of tax evasion and other crimes, and the jury couldn’t come to agreement on 10 other charges, which could be retried. He faces what would amount to the rest of his life in prison. He hasn’t spilled his guts to the special counsel yet but he has that option, which could reduce his sentence.
  • The first two congressmen to endorse Trump are under indictment for their own, unrelated sins (by the way, the third congressmen to endorse Trump was his attorney general and former senator, Jeff Sessions.)
  • At least five have pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s probe — most prominently, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, who are both cooperating with Mueller. Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying to the special counsel. A bunch of Russians have been indicted and it is clear to all, except Donald Trump, that Russia meddled in our election.

You also have to wonder, of course, about the President claiming he’s not concerned about people “flipping” on him because he’s done nothing wrong. Cohen proved that was another lie yesterday. Plus, Trump’s tweets this morning clearly show how upset he is with Cohen, thus there are things for folks to flip about, it would appear.

Did Trump and/or his people collude with the Russians? No real proof yet is public unless you count that Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer and others with Trump’s son and son-in-law and Manafort, where dirt on Hillary Clinton was promised but not delivered.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Eliot Ness of the story, is methodically doing his job. He just keeps plodding along buoyed by the fact he is fighting to correct injustices (by the way, just because his investigation is focused on Russia messing in our election doesn’t mean he can ignore other crimes he comes across — like Manafort’s and Cohen’s). Trump tweets, Mueller stays silent. You cannot ruffle Mueller that way.

Trump has tweeted already this morning, among them:

  • Regarding Manafort: “A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. ‘Witch Hunt!’’ and “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” — make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!”
  • Regarding Cohen: “Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!” and “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”

Manafort and Cohen’s cases are about financial crimes having nothing to do with Russia meddling directly. A difference is the crime boss in this case also is the President of the United States and he has pardon power.

While eventually Trump could pardon Manafort, I don’t think it’s a rue thing. Nor will he pardon Cohen (Cohen’s already betrayed him). His morning tweets could be a message that a pardon could come, but likely not until after Manafort’s next trial next month. Still, facing the rest of his life in jail, Manafort could decide to cooperate with Mueller. For Cohen, Giuliani, in his statement yesterday said, “It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”

Even though Trump is known to contradict his Cabinet members, aides and even himself, you would think Giuliani’s statement and the President’s tweets preclude Trump from then saying. “Michael is a good guy and even though he threw me under the bus, and is a chronic liar, I’m pardoning him.”

Oy.

So, what happens next? Who knows? Department of Justice guidelines don’t allow a sitting President to be indicted, though he could be after his term(s) ends.

Impeachment is still an unknown because while many GOP members are not fans of Trump, they do seriously fear Trump’s base, which could vote them out of their jobs, which they are holding more important than their country right now.

On top of that, the impeachment process begins in the House which charges the President but the trial is held in the Senate. The charging does not toss the president out of office. The conviction, though, can. At the moment, the GOP has a two-vote majority in the Senate. One or two vote switches and…well, we’ll wait to see if that’s even a factor later.

This is just one reason the mid-terms are important. The Democrats need to control both Houses to even think about removing the president from office.

Trump’s base is unlikely to fold after this development. Most of these folks, however, have logical minds and this is one major blow to Trump’s credibility. He has lied repeatedly to the country about many things but at minimum, the Stormy Daniels Affair (pardon the double meaning). We’ll see what the polls say but I’m not feeling a folding of his support yet. It should soften some though.

Then again, I double-checked and it’s only Wednesday, and I haven’t watched the news yet so anything is possible!

Written by

Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: bjaycooper.com.

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