If you’re like me, Tuesday went a lot like this:
And if that wasn’t enough for you, Rep. Duncan Hunter of San Diego and his wife were indicted on fraud and campaign finance charges. This is extra special because Duncan Hunter and Rep. Chris Collins of New York were the first two House Republicans to endorse Trump’s candidacy and now they’ve both been indicted. The first senator to endorse Trump, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, perjured himself during his confirmation hearings and had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. So, there’s a nice pattern here.
But that’s still not all. There’s more!
The special counsel’s office and Michael Flynn’s lawyers were in court Tuesday where they agreed to put off sentencing for a fourth time because Flynn’s cooperation with the investigation is still ongoing.
But the big news was that Michael Cohen pled guilty to eight federal crimes and Paul Manafort was convicted of eight federal crimes. In Cohen’s case, it almost certainly means that he will now be a fully cooperating witness, although that is not technically confirmed and any agreement is probably under seal. In Manafort’s case, it means that he’s probably already looking at three to four years in prison at a minimum, and that’s before the more serious charges are settled next month in a Washington, D.C., courthouse in front of a Washington, D.C., jury with a judge who is not likely to be as friendly to the defense as the judge was in Virginia. Also, when he’s sentenced for today’s convictions, it will be as a person with a clean record. That won’t be the case when he’s convicted in the next go-round. Manafort has to hope he gets pardoned because otherwise he’ll probably die in prison.
Unless, of course, he decides to do his patriotic duty and tell the truth to the special counsel about what he did during the campaign to coordinate with the Russians, in which case he’ll see a major reduction in his prison time.
The Cohen case is more immediately serious for three reasons. First, by pleading guilty Cohen has implicated the president in a conspiracy to commit federal crimes. Cohen admitted that Trump directed him to commit felonies, and in the ordinary course of things, Trump would be getting indicted. These crimes are more serious than lying about a sexual dalliance with a White House intern, although I’m not quite ready to say that, on their own, they amount to a high crime. As part of a larger case arguing for removal from office, these criminal acts should play a supporting rather than a leading role.
Second, the fact that Cohen is almost certainly now cooperating makes Tuesday’s developments in his case more of an immediate threat than the Manafort convictions. Manafort may already be looking to cut a deal, but Cohen has apparently already cut one.
Third, Cohen’s information is much more likely to be lethal to Trump than Manafort’s simply because Cohen was working on a making a Trump Tower in Moscow happen throughout the fall, winter, and spring of 2015-16 and that’s likely to involve impeachable offenses. But the one thing Trump probably cannot survive even in a Republican-led Senate is confirmation that the Steele Dossier was correct about Cohen traveling to Prague. That is the most serious allegation in the entire Russia investigation.
As I’ve said many times before, if Michael Cohen went to Prague, Trump will be removed from office. Four months ago, McClatchy journalists Peter Stone and Greg Gordon reported the following:
The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.
Donald Trump better pray that Peter Stone and Greg Gordon were catastrophically wrong in their reporting, because Cohen is going to spill the beans now on what really happened.
As for Manafort, he probably has enough information to end this presidency, too, but it’s not quite as certain in his case. At least for now, he’s not talking. But it doesn’t look good having your personal lawyer and campaign chairman convicted on the same day.
Some Republicans argue that these charges have nothing to do with Russia, but that’s delusional. Cohen worked overtime on a Moscow Trump Tower project during the campaign that the president assured us did not exist, and the taxes Manafort didn’t pay came on income from Russian proxies who were running Ukraine for the Kremlin’s benefit while the bank loans Manafort sought were at least in part to pay back nearly twenty million dollars he owed to a mobbed up friend of Vladimir Putin. Manafort even used a Russian intelligence officer who he employed for years as a contact for this Russian gangster and offered to give him private briefings on the Trump campaign. He also may have expected to get debt relief for softening the Republican Party’s platform on Ukraine, which is something he completely denied having a role in.
The truth is going to come out. Tuesday assured us of that.