Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Trump Outlook Post-Manafort/Cohen

As I predicted, Paul Manafort was not convicted on all charges in his tax evasion trial. In fact, the jury hung on more than half the charges. And since the charges, so far as the prosecution's hand is publicly tipped, have precisely zero to do with Donald Trump or "Russiagate," not a big deal for the Trump presidency.

Michael Cohen's sudden plea agreement yesterday might be a different story. He entered guilty pleas to eight counts, including one count of making an illegal campaign finance contribution.

In his plea entry, Cohen specifies that he made the contribution 1) "at the direction of the candidate" and 2) for the "purpose of influencing the election."

What was that illegal campaign contribution? Who was it to?

The date specified for the contribution is October 27, 2106. That's the day Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 for the purpose of keeping her quiet about her sexual relationship with Donald Trump. Which, if the reason for wanting her kept quiet was to "influence the election," constitutes an illegally large and non-FEC-reported "in-kind" campaign contribution.

Grounds for impeachment? Maybe, I guess.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn that Bill Clinton skated after working with the DNC to launder millions in illegal campaign contributions -- and foreign ones to boot.

On the other hand, Clinton got impeached over lying about sex, and this case involves illegal campaign contributions and lying about sex, although not the "agents of a foreign power" angle of the Clinton scandal and that Clinton partisans have been pressing versus Trump with the "Russiagate" nonsense.

Could some Republican politicians finally be embarrassed enough by Trump to throw in with a Democratic impeachment effort, especially if Trump is criminally charged? Yeah, it could happen. But even if impeachment happens in the House, conviction in the Senate is hardly a lock.

As for Trump's "base," they knew he was a lying and corrupt serial adulterer when they voted for him in 2016, so I doubt this latest bit will shift many 2020 votes if he stays in office and runs for re-election.

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