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Donald Trump Jacob Heilbrunn Politics US Politics

Trump undaunted in the face of a midterm onslaught

The Donald declares the last two years the ‘most successful’ a president has ever had. Cohen, Manafort and Khashoggi may disagree with him there

October 17, 2018

3:10 PM

17 October 2018

3:10 PM

Poor Paul Manafort. His defense attorney Kevin Downing asked if he could appear in his street clothing rather than a dark-green prison jumpsuit for his sentencing on Friday. Manafort, who has spent millions on bespoke suits, has always placed a premium on his public appearance. Judge T.S. Ellis III, however, was having none of it: ‘This defendant should be treated no differently from other defendants who are in custody post conviction.’

Another former Donald Trump associate also got kicked in the shins this week, but the source wasn’t a federal judge. Instead, it was Trump who delivered the blow, dismissing his old chum and confederate Michael Cohen as a nobody. Yesterday, Trump explained to the Associated Press that he never really had all that much to do with Cohen and that he was merely ‘a PR person who did some small legal work.’ (Small may have been on Trump’s mind because his former inamorata Stormy Daniels, whom Trump called ‘horseface,’ responded by referring to him as ‘tiny.’) Meanwhile, Cohen himself is talking about campaigning against Trump and has registered as a Democrat. On Twitter, he declared, ‘The#MidtermElections2018 might be the most important vote in our lifetime. #GetOutAndVote #VoteNovember6th.’

He has a point. If the Democrats take the House, then they will be able to subpoena a Mueller report that the Trump White House might prefer to suppress. Bloomberg reports, ‘Mueller is close to rendering judgement on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation.’

As the midterms approach, Trump is professing confidence in the results and disclaiming any responsibility if things go awry. Indications are that the Democrats may win anywhere from 30-40 seats, a development that would come as a rude surprise to Trump, who has been able to rely on a cowed Congress as a kind of life preserver. His assessment of his own presidency, which he delivered to the Associated Press on Tuesday, was upbeat: ‘I would say, without question, first two years of office, I’ve had the most successful two years in the history of this country as a president.’

Yet the Washington Post provided some bad news for Trump this afternoon: ‘US Border Patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members in September, the highest one-month total on record and an 80 per cent increase from July, according to unpublished Homeland Security statistics…’ Trump is trying to go on the offensive. He tweeted, ‘Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country. Great Midterm issue for Republicans!’

But the most treacherous ground for Trump is his insouciance about Saudi Arabia’s malignant actions in Turkey, where some 15 members of its security services apparently murdered and dismembered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump’s pivot to Saudi Arabia is imploding as the regime’s actions blur any real distinction with Iran. Trump, though, claims to be undaunted. ‘Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,’ Trump said to the AP. ‘I don’t like that.’ He added, ‘We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.’ Presumably, Justice Kavanaugh is less than enamoured of the comparison.


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