75% ≠ 100%

Nate Silver’s Midterm forecast has the Democrats chance of taking the House at almost 75% (currently 72.7, to be precise).  Very worth noting that while most everybody else (including me who was too credulous of the more optimistic forecasts) way over-estimated HRC’s chances, Silver had her at about 75%.  So, very important to remember that Democrats taking the House is far from a done deal.

That said, I actually think the chances are notably higher than that.  Probably over 80%.  Why?  The model does not account for Mueller and all the criminality surrounding Trump.  Now, much of that is already factored into Trump’s approval numbers, but, there’s lots of reasonable belief that Trump may face substantially more bad news before November.  And little basis for reasonable belief that he will have substantial good news.  If we figure it fairly likely that Trump takes some meaningful hits (and, no, he’s not totally immune– if he were his popularity would be way higher in this economy), then the 75% figure is low.

For example, a nice summary of yesterday’s implications via Brian Beutler and the Crooked media team:

In the course of investigating hush-money payments Michael Cohen made to silence Donald Trump’s former mistresses ahead of the 2016 election, federal prosecutors from the southern district of New York granted immunity to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg—the one person reported to have as much visibility into Trump’s business practices, legal and illegal, as Trump himself.

The fact that Weisselberg was given immunity means he was in real legal jeopardy and agreed to cooperate with investigators to make that problem go away. It’s possible prosecutors gave him immunity simply to investigate the campaign finance violations Cohen already pleaded guilty to. But even if Weisselberg has thus far only provided information about Cohen, he may still be obligated to cooperate with other investigations, including the one Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading.

Weisselberg’s cooperation makes Trump’s potential legal jeopardy all-encompassing: his private business, his family, his campaign, and his administration are all vulnerable. Even if prosecutors never ask Weisselberg for any information about Trump beyond the hush-money payments, Trump is still exposed to:

  • The Mueller investigation
  • The SDNY’s investigation of Cohen and the National Enquirer
  • A DOJ public integrity investigation of former RNC Deputy Finance Chair Elliott Broidy, who allegedly tried to sell access to the Trump administration
  • Charges in Manhattan stemming from the way the Trump Organization recorded reimbursements of the hush-money payments
  • A New York state criminal tax investigation of Cohen

And that’s just what’s public.

From Brian: Not all of these distinct, overlapping lines of inquiry will necessarily touch Trump. But some of them likely will, and there’s little Trump can do to stop it. For over a year now, we have been worried, for good reason, that Trump might fire Robert Mueller and try to shut down the Russia investigation. It’s still an important concern, but at this point that would only obstruct one avenue of his legal exposure. There’s nothing he can do about his exposure in New York state, and pragmatically speaking, he won’t be able make three separate federal criminal investigations go away. He can’t fire and pardon his way out of the mess he’s made anymore.

Yeah, maybe I’m a little optimistic and projecting what I want to believe, but, honestly, it is so absurdly clear that Trump is a crook who has surrounded himself with crooks and that Mueller is well onto that fact.  The more we learn about that, the worse for Republicans.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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