August 23, 2018

What Cohen’s Admission Means for Trump

On Tuesday, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, declared under oath that “in coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office” he arranged payments to two women for their silence “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” (Reuters)

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The left views this latest development as a turning point for the Trump presidency, while lamenting that any immediate consequences for President Trump are far from certain.

The right dismisses the allegations, pointing out that they have nothing to do with Russian collusion and further arguing that the alleged payments were not criminal.

“This preposterous age of manic news cycles — Mr. Cohen’s admission came on the same day that Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was convicted of eight counts of tax and bank fraud — weekly bombshells and improbable politics has left us deadened to amazing developments. So let me repeat it for emphasis and for history: The president’s personal lawyer pleaded guilty to a federal crime and testified under oath that the president told him to do it.”

New York Times

“You can’t just evade campaign finance rules by paying for your campaign expenses with non-campaign funds. If you could, the rules would be meaningless... there is no legal way to spend money on your election campaign without disclosing that fact.”

Vox

“This is no witch hunt... Let’s imagine Hillary Clinton was in the Oval Office and her campaign chairman had just been found guilty of eight counts in federal court; imagine that her personal lawyer had given her up and accused her of directing the lawyer to commit a federal crime. There would be pitchforks in the hands of every Republican in Congress. There would be hearings as we speak. There would be demands for her to resign or to be impeached.”

The Hill

“The questions around the president have always been political, not criminal. The Constitution allows for impeaching a president for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ but leaves that phrase wonderfully, ambiguously undefined. A crime, in short, can be almost anything Congress decides it to be... for now, GOP lawmakers appear to believe that supporting the president remains good politics.”

Wired

While none of this relates to the Russia investigation, it’s worth noting that “we simply don't know what Mueller knows -- and how Manafort and Cohen tie into what he knows. Both men were in Trump's inner circle for critical moments during the campaign. It may turn out that neither one had anything to do with Russia or the broader Russia probe. But to conclude they didn't when we still haven't seen a single word of Mueller's report is like leaving a basketball game in the second quarter and declaring that the team that was ahead when you departed ‘won.’”

CNN

“Trump, for his part, will continue to issue daily Twitter bombardments about all of [the] investigations... But as we witnessed this week, even if Trump can insult every investigator—and effectively retaliate against an all too significant number of them—he likely can’t stop all of them from getting to the truth.”

Slate

“For all the chaos and corruption of Trump’s presidency, American institutions are holding it accountable. The rule of law is being upheld. And the president, rage as he might, can’t stop the wheels of justice.”

Bloomberg

The right dismisses the allegations, pointing out that they have nothing to do with Russian collusion and further arguing that the alleged payments were not criminal.

out of touch with the American electorate...

"[For] Democrats, Never Trump, and some media voices... the details for impeachment are unimportant since the real crime seems to have been winning the 2016 election.”

The Federalist

“The rule of law demands that we distinguish between political sins and federal felonies. As the record now stands, Donald Trump appears to be guilty of political sins, but not federal felonies or impeachable offenses... there are still large gaps between Michael Cohen’s plea of guilty, on the one hand, and crimes or impeachable offenses against Donald Trump on the other.”

The Hill

“What are campaign expenditures? Payments for advertising, consultants, rallies, transportation, polling, and get-out-the-vote efforts, of course. But has anyone ever reported payments to a mistress as a campaign expenditure? Almost certainly not... Payments to President Trump's alleged mistresses to stay silent certainly benefited his campaign. But they also served the purpose of not embarrassing the president's family. There clearly was a dual use to the payments, therefore they were not ‘campaign expenditures’ under the act.”

American Thinker

Furthermore, “the Justice Department has a history of treating serious campaign-finance transgressions as administrative violations, not felonies. A prominent example: The 2008 Obama campaign accepted nearly $2 million in illegal campaign contributions, but was permitted to settle the matter with a $375,000 fine... The conduct here is not of the egregious nature that rises to high crimes and misdemeanors — it is an infraction committed by many political candidates and often not even prosecuted.”

National Review

“This controversy is ultimately a political matter – even if prosecutors conclude Cohen is telling the truth, Justice Department guidelines say a sitting president can’t be indicted. If Democrats want to remove President Trump from office, the proper avenue is impeachment. But Trump-hating Democrats who pursue impeachment will be punished by the American voter – the more Middle America learns the facts of the Cohen case, the worse the president’s opponents will look.”

Fox News

“As it stands we... really only have two parties; the party of the governing elite and the party of Trump... Democrats are not making any efforts to drive a wedge between Trump and his voters. Instead, they’re running on issues like ‘abolish ICE.’ The party’s entire goal is get more Democrats to vote. It’s not to win back Trump voters. So how could you expect Trump voters to move away from him? Where would they go?

New York Post

On the bright side...

Now you can have your cremated remains launched into the abyss of space.

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