Quick Takes: How to Avoid Trump Scandal Overload

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* In noting the way the media obsessed about the Clinton email scandal versus the pass Trump is getting about using an unsecured mobile phone, Jonathan Chait makes a good point.

…nobody wants to live in a world where Donald Trump is held to the same standard as Hillary Clinton. Nor can anybody imagine what such a world would look like. It already feels like we are numb from the sensory overload of endless sirens directing us to the latest unprecedented outrage. No human could generate the mental space to process Trump’s firehose stream of offenses calibrated at Clinton levels. The political system couldn’t function at such a standard.

* Adam Serwer gives us a way to deal with Trump scandal overload.

There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.

* Eugene Robinson says that the constitutional crisis has begun.

Stop waiting for the constitutional crisis that President Trump is sure to provoke. It’s here.

On Sunday, via Twitter, Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which appears to be closing in.

Trump’s power play is a gross misuse of his presidential authority and a dangerous departure from long-standing norms. Strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin use their justice systems to punish enemies and deflect attention from their own crimes. Presidents of the United States do not — or did not, until Sunday’s tweet.

* Is Michael Cohen next?

A significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Under the agreement, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, will avoid jail time, and will assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter…

Mr. Freidman, who was disbarred earlier this month, had been accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny — all B felonies. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Instead, he appeared in court in Albany on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes; he faces five years of probation if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, the judge, Patrick Lynch of Albany County court, said during the roughly 20-minute proceeding.

* This headline wins the prize for the most ignorant take-of-the-day on Trump: “Can the ‘dealmaker’ president deliver on North Korea?” because…

Trump, who has pitched himself as the ultimate negotiator, has focused on ambitious deals as president but has struggled with the fine print. He just hit the pause button on his threatened trade war with China, announcing an agreement to reduce America’s trade deficit with China — but few details. He recently withdrew the U.S. from the international Iran-nuclear deal — without outlining a path forward with his allies. And his Middle East peace plan, which he deputized his son-in-law to lead, is months overdue and facing a more skeptical audience than ever.

But there are some interesting tidbits that reaffirm much of what we’ve learned about Trump.

Going into the North Korea meeting, senior administration officials say, the president has been almost singularly focused on the pageantry of the summit —including the suspenseful roll-out of details. He has not been deeply engaged in briefing materials on North Korea’s nuclear program, said three people with knowledge of the White House efforts. They were not authorized to speak publicly…

Driven by gut instinct, Trump rarely dives deep as he prepares to meet with foreign counterparts. For the North Korea meeting, insiders say, he is motivated by the idea of scoring a historic deal and is tickled by suggestions he could win a Nobel Peace Prize — especially since Barack Obama won the honor early in his presidency.

* Darren Samuelsohn notes that Rudy Giuliani is pretending to be Robert Mueller’s spokesman.

Giuliani has told the media in recent days that the special counsel has agreed to limit his interview with Trump to a narrower set of topics. He insists that Mueller has concluded that he legally cannot indict a sitting president. And in a weekend interview with The New York Times, he said Mueller told him of plans to wrap up at least part of his Russia probe by Sept. 1 if Trump grants him an interview.

But…

As is its custom, Mueller’s office declined to comment on Giuliani’s statements.

* With the outing of Stefan Halper as the FBI source who talked to three members of Trump’s campaign, perhaps you would be interesting in reading an article he wrote back in 2004 for the Washington Monthly with Jonathan Clarke. It is a review of the book by David Frum and Richard Perle titled, “An End to Evil: What’s Next in the War on Terrorism.”

* Finally, don’t listen to the latest tune from Jason Mraz if you prefer to wallow in doom and gloom.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.