Late Friday afternoon, the Southern District of New York and the Special Counsel released sentencing memoranda on Michael Cohen. The Special Counsel also unveiled its breach determination in respect to the plea deal with Paul Manafort. Collectively, these documents probably did not live up to the hype, but that’s really only because the crimes detailed within are comparatively minor compared to many of the more serious crimes that have been alleged.
Of the three, the most immediately damaging is the Southern District’s submission. And that’s because it accuses the president of the United States of having knowingly committed multiple campaign-finance-related felonies. It then spells out precisely why these crimes are so damning. In short, Donald Trump defrauded the American people by illegally denying them vital information they needed to make an informed choice in the 2016 Election. If he were not presently serving as our president, Donald Trump would assuredly be prosecuted for these crimes exactly as Michael Cohen has been. And as the ringmaster and beneficiary of the conspiracy, his sentence would be the more severe.
Paying off a porn star and Playboy bunny to conceal his infidelity might not be seen as the kind of high crime envisioned in the Constitution of meriting impeachment, but this case is complicated by its consequence for the very outcome of the election and by the subsequent coverup that took place while Trump was in office. The prospect is very real that Donald Trump would not be the president at all if he had not committed these crimes, and his criminal conduct in office is more serious than his criminal conduct on the campaign trail.
Truthfully, however, this is still relatively small potatoes in the greater scheme of things and it alone is not going to convince Senate Republicans to march up Pennsylvania Avenue and ask Trump to pack his bags.
There are more serious implications in all three of today’s court filings that relate to Michael Cohen, organized crime and Russian intelligence, as well as Trump, Manafort, and Cohen’s dealings with Kremlin-connected Russian figures. Unfortunately, most of what really happened is left to our imaginations as the documents were not particularly fulsome. Other parts were redacted and other parts remain under seal.
I will try to unpack some of that in coming days, but for now we have to sit with the fact that the president of the United States is accused by the Southern District of New York of having led a felonious conspiracy that probably was necessary for him to win election.