By Matt Rooney
You don’t need context, Save Jerseyans. We’re all reading/watching the news.
Here we go…
(1) Manafort’s conviction has nothing to do with Trump, but…
Trump can make it about himself if he continues to criticize the prosecution of Manafort.
(2) Trump’s choice of friends sucks.
Like I was saying…
Look: I’ve never been a huge fan of the Trumpster as a person as long-time readers are well aware, but I respect the job he’s done in office and I certainly enjoy how he tweaks the Left as much as the next guy. That being said, he’s always been a double-edged sword kind of savior for a GOP that seemed rudderless and hopeless in 2016. The same still holds true today. He’s energized new people while driving others out. He’s disrupted the Media’s narrative but continues to let them pick the topics. He’s turned the U.S. economy around almost overnight yet imperiled his administration by associating with the likes of Paul Manafort, Cohen, Omarosa, etc.
Real “losers,” to borrow a Trump favorite. Folks who don’t belong anywhere near the White House.
Do I think the President is a criminal? No. Not based upon the facts in evidence. We’ll revisit that below.
Do I think he’s a creature of the fast-and-loose NYC real estate world? Where relationships and results matter more than the details (and the corners you cut to get the project done)? Uh-huh. And he hasn’t learned that his new job has nuances which his old job didn’t have, among them the fact that extreme power of the type you encounter in D.C. is like crack for creatures like Cohen who don’t belong in positions of power.
(3) Revolutionary coalitions are messy.
At the same time, there isn’t a single revolution in the annals of human history that didn’t have its Benedict Arnold (or several). Populist rebellions are broad, and crowded, and loaded with hangers-on who don’t belong (see above). Arnold’s treachery didn’t invalid the judgment of Washington, nor did it erode the revolutionary ethos of the rebelling colonists. Trump is no Washington, but his bad decisions aren’t necessarily the sum of the man either nor his swamp-draining mission. Just sayin’.
(4) Where’s the crime, exactly?
Now we’re getting to the important questions.
In the court of public opinion? Tuesday was a definite blow to GOP hopes of retaining the U.S. House because it’s getting harder and harder to change the subject to substantive issues like the economy and jobs, but it’s actually a giant question mark for Trump and his anticipated 2020 reelection campaign since, as we learned with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton far later, over-aggressive impeachments and the accompanying partisan theatrics can easily backfire. Johnson’s impeachment was over policy disagreements. Clinton’s situation was less ambiguous; lying under oath is pretty clearly a crime. Both men survived their ordeals all the same.
In Trump’s case? High profile political defendants don’t usually accept aggressive state interpretations of campaign finance law lying down. Ask Bob McDonnell.
I’m unaware of a single precedent, rule or regulation classifying an NDA as a campaign finance event. The state seems to have invented a brand new crime, out of thin air, and criminal defense attorney and veteran Clinton loyalist Lanny Davis went along with it.
Cohen must’ve been desperate to escape the other charges. Or is something else going on here?
(5) Impeachment is more likely, but conviction is no less remote.
The something else is setting Trump up for impeachment. They want him to testify about all of this and lie, because perjury is rock solid in terms of criminal liability whereas, again, NDA payments are not.
The most likely midterms outcome? As of this writing? Republicans losing the House and retaining the U.S. Senate. Democrats would have a slim majority in the lower chamber but, without the Senate, almost no chance of convicting and removing Trump barring something dramatic which (as we just discussed in point #3 above) isn’t yet in evidence. Even a lot of Democrats who may be in the House come January — like Jeff Van Drew who is favored to win in NJ-02 — would have a hard time voting to impeach when the President carried their swing districts.
The one thing worse for Democrats than failing to capture the House altogether would be to impeach Trump but fail to convict and remove him. Ironically, the Clinton experience set the precedence for it.