Editorial: Question Now Is Will It Ultimately Change Anyone’s Mind About Trump?
In lawfareblog’s very thorough examination of the case against Trump, they point out that “what most drives these prosecutions is the evidence of aggravated disregard for the law”.
Cohen did not sign a plea agreement, partly because he wanted to pick and chose what areas of the investigation he wanted to provide information about. And Judge William Pauley pointed at the fact that “Mr. Cohen selected the information he disclosed to the government” as reason not to accept his lawyers’ argument for no prison time. In addition, Pauley called Cohen’s crimes a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct”.
And the mounting case against Trump was further bolstered by a spanking new plea agreement with the publishers of the National Enquirer, who first denied they arranged payoffs on behalf of Trump while going to great lengths to hide them, and now said they did it. Now that they won’t face any prosecution, that is.
Let’s rewind back to late spring 2016, when we were sitting in a diner in rural Connecticut and overheard a bunch of “regulars” talking about how if Trump was able to “deal with the construction business in New York, he’d damn sure be able to deal with Congress, terrorists…” the list went on. This was the first time–as we commented in a precursor to The Chaos Report–we thought Trump actually had a shot at winning. And it was a sentiment we heard repeated all through the summer and up to Election Day, all over the place. The implication was clear: ‘dealing with’ the legendarily ugly world of New York construction and real estate implied some level of shady conduct at the edges of legality. But something many voters were willing to accept if it meant he’d shake things up and get things done.
So here we are. Trump’s personal lawyer convicted and sentenced for crimes he committed he says at the direction of the President, as well as lying to Congress. Crimes that–except for the lying to Congress part–were investigated and prosecuted completely outside the Mueller investigation. And seems pretty simple to us that if an attorney commits a felony at the behest of their employer, that employer would be guilty of the same felony.
Trump’s gone through all his typical stages of lying and deflecting, from denying he knew about anything, to now saying the payments were just a “simple private transaction“, or “Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me“, and not an “in-kind” campaign contribution, which is a key legal point.
At the same time, we wonder if those guys we overheard talking in the diner are even surprised or moved. While Trump’s behavior was certainly reprehensible, it was also kind of representative of why they liked him in the first place. So what if he paid off a couple of women to prevent them from revealing affairs? They also got a President who was willing to circumvent U.S. laws to keep refugees out; who praised extrajudicial murders of suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines, commenting the U.S. wasn’t ready for that yet.
We first had that thought last week when former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson caused a stir when he said: “So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law“. But isn’t that at least part of the reason a lot of his supporters voted for him? Because in their view he’d do what needed to be done, and damn all the stupid rules standing in the way?
Of course Trump’s opponents–for the very same reasons the folks in the diner did–knew he was probably a crook; now they have mounting evidence. But Trump won’t be prosecuted while he’s in office: the Justice Department has already said this. Which leaves the option of impeachment. But a trial in the Senate is a remote outcome with Republicans still firmly in control, and still strongly standing behind Trump.
And word of warning about that: overaggressive impeachment efforts backfired when they were aimed at Bill Clinton during his sex scandal.
Does this mean we throw up our hands and do nothing? Of course not. It might mean however the ultimate arbiters will be the people, who judged Trump fit for the job of President in the first place.