A few take-aways from yesterday’s prosecutorial frenzy.
1. Paul Manafort is in deep trouble. Absent a presidential pardon, he is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
2. The crimes of which Manafort was convicted — eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud — not only predated his brief relationship with Donald Trump but had nothing to do with main focus of Robert Mueller’s original writ, namely, to investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’
That was the nub of Mueller’s marching orders. But note that Rod Rosenstein also authorised him to pursue ‘any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.’ Any matters. That is not quite as broad as the topics encompassed by the title of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, but it is close enough for government work, and what we saw yesterday was most definitely government work.
3. Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and sometime self-described ‘fixer’, would also appear to be in deep trouble. Yesterday, he entered a plea bargain and pled guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations ‘in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.’
In plain English, Donald Trump told him to pay ‘Stormy Daniels’ and another woman money to keep silent about their alleged sexual liaisons with the president years ago. Did he? We don’t know. But let’s say he did. That in itself would not have been a crime, and it is not at all clear that would have been a campaign finance violation, either. As John Hinderaker notes at Powerline, ‘there is no legal authority on whether paying a woman to keep her mouth shut constitutes a campaign contribution. It strikes me as a foolish interpretation of the law, and forcing Cohen to plead guilty to the “crime” of paying off Ms. Clifford doesn’t transform it into a crime.’
Now, what’s the point of all this theatre? John Hinderaker gets that as well: ‘None of this would be happening, of course, but for Bob Mueller’s effort to drive President Trump from office on behalf of his de facto client, the Democratic Party.’
Bingo. The multi-ring circus over which the disgusting Robert Mueller and his band of Democratic operatives are presiding has zero to do with any purported ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and Russia. Doubtless they will have the dubious pleasure of destroying more lives in their rampage. That’s something that Robert Mueller has shown himself to be expert at for decades. I am not saying, by the way, that either Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort is a boy scout. The one seems to me to be a sleazy New York lawyer right out of central casting, the other a career political operative with dubious foreign associates and a less-than-candid relationship with the IRS.
But Cohen and Manafort — like Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, and all the others that have been swept up in Obama-Clinton-Bennan-Comey-Mueller dragnet: they’re all just collateral damage. The main target, thus far unscathed, is Donald Trump. Do you want to know what this whole Kabuki theater production is about? An editorial in the New York Sun summarises it as well as anything I’ve seen (and thanks to Scott Johnson for bringing it to my attention):
What needs to be kept in mind at every stage is that this whole investigation is not about Russian meddling. Everyone agrees that they did it and it was wrong. No one needs a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of that. This is part of an effort by the Democrats and their collaborators to overturn a presidential election that they thought they would win. No crime of which either [Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen] was pronounced guilty today is as foul as the campaign underway to foil the decision of the American people. [My emphasis.]
That’s it in a nutshell. There will now be a feeding frenzy of speculation about how, or if, yesterday’s spectacles of prosecutorial power will affect the President. The court of public opinion seems to have turned decisively against Robert Mueller and his legal piranhas. Maybe their full-court press will unseat the President. It is a foregone conclusion, at any rate, that should the Democrats take the House by more than a narrow margin, Donald Trump will be impeached. He would not, I am convinced, be convicted by the Senate, but the impeachment itself would be messy.
Still, that is a big ‘if’. Were I a betting man, I would bet against it happening. The larger question is how long the public will stand for this bloody and ostentatious effort to reverse the results of a free, open, and democratic election. The clock is ticking.