The conviction yesterday of President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was bad. The plea deal accepted by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was worse.
In pleading guilty to campaign finance law violations, Cohen reportedly testified that then-candidate Trump “directed” and “coordinated” his arrangements to pay off two women in an effort to keep their allegations of extramarital affairs out of the press in the lead-up to the election. That potentially makes Trump an unindicted conspirator.
In the countdown to political Armageddon, it seems that the doomsday clock is striking 11. CNN’s Chris Cillizza doesn’t think that indictment is likely, however — namely because Rudy Giuliani has said that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has pledged that he won’t pursue it. An indictment would likely unleash spasms of violence by Trump’s far-right supporters who would view the criminal justice system working against their guy as a “Deep State” coup.
Cillizza raises the possibility of impeachment. That, of course, is a political question, as opposed to a legal one, and it depends a lot on when Mueller’s report is submitted to Congress and what it says. Whatever the findings, the outcome depends on partisan power. No less a figure than Steve Bannon told Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs on Tuesday: “Today clarifies that November is a referendum on impeachment — an up or down vote. Every Trump supporter needs to get with the program.”
If the Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate, it hardly matters what Mueller finds. The report could find that Trump and Putin are operating an international Satanic child-mutilation cult, and Republican lawmakers wouldn’t buck him for fear of inviting the wrath of Trump’s white-nationalist base.
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