My take for Slovakia

Here I am blogging a lot on a day I still desperately need to finish a syllabus.  Guess it will be a late night.  Anyway, I did just write out some thoughts for Slovakian Pravda, so I figured I might as well share them here… [Bold is the Andrej Matisak’s questions]

While Donald Trump probably pushed all norms of what is “normal” for the US President did two courtroom dramas of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen just create probably the worst day of his Presidency as with Cohen’s case his former lawyer claims that Trump (a candidate for federal office as legal papers say) directed him to make payments that violated campaign finance laws? It is hard to imagine that Trump can escape this totally unscathed. What effect it might have on his Presidency?

think, this is the worst day of his presidency.  But honestly, I think I’m far from alone in now distrusting my ability to predict when Donald Trump will actually pay serious political consequences for his actions.  There is a strong consensus that he is in serious legal jeopardy, but, for now, the political consequences remian quite uncertain.  Thus far, Republicans in Congress seem willing to protect him at basically all costs.  One has to wonder what would happen if he actually did shoot someone on 5th Avenue in NYC (as he once claimed he could get away with).  That said, his approval is around 40% and a normal president would probably be above 55% in this economy.  And if he manages to fall down to 30% or so,that is pretty close to politically disastrous, especially with the 2018 midterms coming.  I think, as always, the question becomes what will it take for his remaining 35-40% base to finally abandon him.  And now, we just don’t know.  It is hard to dismiss guilty pleas and verdicts as “fake news,” but a lot about Trump has already been dismissed (e.g., “locker room talk”)

Short version: I just don’t know what to expect politically, but it does seem pretty clear that for their to be any genuine accountability for Trump, Democrats need to win back the House in the November elections.

Manafort simplified

Nice interview with Jeffrey Toobin in Slate and this paragraph summing up Manafort is just terrific:

It was just a totally squalid story about a guy stealing money. Basically, the story of the Manafort case was that when he was making money he cheated on his taxes. When he ran out of money, he lied to banks to get money under false pretenses. That’s all it was, which made the president’s comments tonight about what a wonderful person Paul Manafort is all the more reprehensible because it’s not like you could excuse Manafort’s behavior as some sort of misguided patriotism. This was just a guy who wanted money for his ostrich jacket. There was nothing to this except greed.

Meanwhile, in Fox News world

I did wonder what Fox is making of yesterday.  Here’s their lead story:

Because I see Fox in the gym I was already vaguely aware of “missing white girl.”  How utterly perfect for them that it appears to be an illegal immigrant responsible for the murder.

The criminal-in-chief

Short version: Donald Trump is a criminal who has surrounded himself by criminals.  Seriously, that’s pretty much impossible to honestly dispute.  Longer version, David Graham:

Yet what Cohen did say is plenty damaging to the president. While the bank- and tax-fraud charges do not involve the president, the campaign-finance charges indisputably do. Cohen made the payments—$130,000 to Daniels and $150,000 to McDougal—through shell companies. He said Tuesday that the payments were intended to influence the election, making them a violation of campaign-finance laws, and that he had done so at the direction of the candidate.

That exposes several lies that the president made about the hush money. The White House initially denied that Trump had any knowledge of the payments. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” the president said in April. Later, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said Trump had repaid Cohen as part of a retainer. In May, Trump disclosed the reimbursements on an ethics form. In July, Cohen released a recording in which he is heard discussing the payments with Trump during the campaign…

The harsh treatment for Cohen points to the bleak big picture for Trump. Hisformer trusted lieutenant is headed to prison. At the same time that Cohen was in court in Manhattan, a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, delivered guilty verdicts on several of the 18 criminal counts against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. (Jurors deadlocked on others.) One of the witnesses in that trial was Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, who also pleaded guilty to federal crimes. Trump’s first national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, and a campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, have both pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents. It has become banal to point out that almost any of these would have constituted a monumental scandal under any other president, but it remains true and important.

Nor are these troubles likely to dissipate any time soon. No matter how many times Giuliani calls for it, there’s little indication that Mueller will wrap up his investigation by September 1. The Senate Intelligence Committee continues its work as well. The Cohen plea could have been much worse for Trump, but there’s little relief for the president in sight.

And Adam Davidson:

he President of the United States is now, formally, implicated in a criminal conspiracy to mislead the American public in order to influence an election. Were he not President, Donald Trump himself would almost certainly be facing charges. This news came in what must be considered the most damaging single hour of a deeply troubled Presidency.

On Tuesday morning, it was still possible to believe that Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort might be exonerated and that his longtime attorney Michael Cohen would only face charges for crimes stemming from his taxicab business. Such events would have supported Trump’s effort to portray the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” perpetrated by overzealous, partisan prosecutors. By late afternoon, though, Cohen, the President’s long-time adviser, fixer, and, until recently, personal attorney, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. At precisely the same moment, Manafort was learning of his fate: guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, with the jury undecided on ten other counts.

The question can no longer be whether the President and those closest to him broke the law. That is settled. Three of the people closest to Trump as he ran for and won the Presidency have now pleaded guilty or have been convicted of significant federal crimes: Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn. The question now becomes far narrower and, for Trump, more troubling: What is the political impact of a President’s criminal liability being established in a federal court? How will Congress respond? And if Congress does not act, how will voters respond in the midterm elections? …

We will know far more about Trump, his business, and his campaign in the months to come. The country will be moving down two tracks simultaneously. There is one track of investigation and prosecution in which more of the people close to Trump fall or coöperate and the man himself appears increasingly vulnerable and desperate.

There is the other track, though, in which he remains President. He will likely successfully transform the Supreme Court and imperil the environment, immigrants, consumers of financial products, and others. Those who carefully study Trump and those around him know where this story likely ends—in humiliation and collapse—but we can’t underestimate his embrace of mendacity and deflection. Shortly after the fateful hour, Trump flew to West Virginia for a rally with some of his strongest supporters. The crowd, referring to Hillary Clinton, chanted, “Lock her up.”

I am glad that Mueller is out there doing his thing and that even if Trump himself is, so far, avoiding accountability, the net is tightening around him.  That said, how said that our nation has elected a so obvious crook.  This is literally not the least bit surprising to anyone paying attention at all in 2016 and not totally blinded by partisanship.  But, it still is sad.

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