It looks as though the great walls of Trump’s empire are finally crumbling down.
On Tuesday Trump’s ex-personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pled guilty in federal court to knowingly violating campaign finance laws when he paid off one of Trump’s former sidechicks right before the 2016 presidential election. (Cohen didn’t have the brass to mention Trump by name, referring to him only as “a candidate for federal office.”) The lady in question, Stephanie Clifford, porn name Stormy Daniels, was paid $130,000 by Cohen just a few weeks before Election Day, money for which Cohen was reimbursed–and then some–by the Trump Organization in 2017.
The Washington Post covers the evolution of Trump & Friends’ lying about the hush money paid to Stormy, beginning with Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks’s flat-out denial that “We have no knowledge of any of this” four days before the election, to Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis (Hillary’s man in Honduras), releasing audiotape secretly recorded by Cohen in September 2016, on which he and Trump discuss paying off another one of Trump’s ex-side pieces, Playboy pin-up girl Karen McDougal. The month before, in August, McDougal had sold the story of her tryst with Trump to the National Enquirer for $150,000–not knowing one of its editors, Dylan Howard, and the guy who owns the company that owns the Enquirer, David Pecker, were already working with Trump’s lawyer and other people on the Trump campaign (we still don’t know who or how many) on buying and burying stories that might hurt Trump’s chances of winning the White House.
The Washington Post just reported on the shady business between the Enquirer, Trump and his lawyer, too: Basically, Mr. Pecker–whose company, American Media, Inc., also owns Star, US Weekly and Men’s Journal, to name a few–used “his tabloid operation [as] a research arm of the Trump campaign,” says the Post, “identifying potentially damaging stories and, when necessary, buying the silence of the women who wanted to tell them.”
(As I’m writing this, headlines have appeared saying Pecker and Howard have both been granted immunity in the Cohen case, which should mean we’re going to hear more of the seedy details.)
Word is Trump didn’t take the news of his ex-lawyer turning on him well. “Several advisers who spoke to Trump [on Wednesday] said he seemed more frustrated than furious, more sad than screaming,” reports the Post.
Trump was mostly calm, frequently distracted by the Cohen and Manafort cases but insisting that Democrats could overplay their hand if they seize on those issues ahead of this year’s midterm elections, the people said, adding that the advisers were eager to turn his attention elsewhere. …
While Trump angrily maintained in private with his aides that Cohen had betrayed him, the president stuck to gallows humor on Twitter — an attempt to shrug off the legal developments and focus on other topics, just like he did at the West Virginia rally on Tuesday, officials said.
‘If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!’ Trump wrote.
Let Trump laugh about it all he wants. It’s probably nervous laughter, anyway.
‘This Cohen stuff is an earthquake,’ said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and Trump supporter. ‘Cohen is admitting that Trump told him to commit a crime. A lot of people in Trump world have been spinning and spinning. How do you spin a fact? This is a hard fact in a formal setting that is unavoidable.’
Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director under Bush and Obama, and the man leading the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections, is steady sharpening his ax. After pleading guilty on Tuesday, Cohen offered himself up to Mueller investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to steer the elections in Trump’s (and the Republican’s) favor. Davis, Cohen’s attorney, told the Post his client has “information on whether Trump participated in a ‘criminal conspiracy’ to hack into the emails of Democratic officials during the 2016 election,” and would be “more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows”–in exchange for immunity, of course. But people close to the special counsel investigation say Mueller need not make any such deal with Cohen since he’s already given enough testimony in court to then be subpoenaed by Mueller and made to testify against Trump. Plus there are the other audio recordings and documents already seized by federal prosecutors in a raid on Cohen’s office in April.
This alone should spell the end of our Trump nightmare–if not through impeachment (should the Democrats manage to take the house this November), then through him and the Republicans losing big in 2020. Some are debating whether a sitting president can be indicted on criminal charges, though I’m not sure how anyone can argue that a president cannot be charged with a crime even when the crime he committed is what secured him his immunity in the first place. Possession may be nine-tenths of the law, but not when you’re in possession of the Oval Office, which is not strictly a right but a privilege, an honor really–one which can and should be stripped away from any incumbent found to be breaking the law. That’s like a candidate working with a foreign government to steal a presidential election and then saying once he’s in the White House, You can’t charge me with treason–I’m already President!
We’ll soon see what we can or can’t do about this thug.
Featured image: Claus Rebler/Flickr