Put your hands together for the rule of law. That glugging sound you hear is Trump’s swamp being drained.
This morning I am proud to be an American. The criminal justice system is working. The wheels are grinding, slowly but inexorably, toward judgment day for the criminal enterprise that purports to be a normal presidential regime. As Sam Cooke famously sang, “It’s been a long time, a long time coming / But I know a change gonna come.”
Contrary to what Rudy Giuliani says, truth is truth. And the truth is that Bill Clinton was impeached 20 years ago for a lot less than what we’re seeing now: Trump’s former national security adviser, guilty on a criminal charge. A foreign policy adviser, guilty on a criminal charge. A former campaign chairman’s chief deputy, guilty on a criminal charge. The former campaign chairman’s ex-lawyer, guilty on a criminal charge. The former campaign chairman himself, guilty yesterday in a jury trial on eight criminal charges. And Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, guilty yesterday by his own admission on eight criminal charges. Best of all, he fingered the boss.
Indeed, the milestone moment (thus far anyway, because there’s so much more to come) came late in the day, when Michael Cohen confessed under oath in open federal court that he committed crimes “at the direction of” Donald Trump. He confessed that, on the eve of the 2016 election, he had paid hush money totaling $420,000 to several Trump paramours, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, for the “principal purpose” of concealing those trysts from the voters. He confessed that he did so because Trump told him to.
In effect, Trump (who’s referenced in the plea deal as “Individual-1”) is now a criminal colluder. Or, as the prominent law professor Jonathan Turley points out (echoing virtually all his legal brethren), “The President just became an unindicted co-conspirator.”
What Cohen did, at Trump’s direction, was patently illegal. The plea deal cited the relevant federal laws, but I’ll explain them in plain English. Because Cohen was trying to hide potentially damaging info from the voters, he dug into his own pocket and made “in kind” donations to the Trump campaign in amounts that far exceed what’s legally permitted. A campaign donation is defined as “anything of value given, loaned or advanced to influence a federal election.” Cohen’s coverup donations (excuse me, hush monies) were made through a Delaware-based LLC set up for that very purpose; the law requires that an individual can donate no more than $5,400, and the amount must be publicly recorded. Those provisions of the law were violated. Plus, an “in kind” donation is specifically defined as “an expenditure made by any person or entity in cooperation, consultation or consult with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate’s campaign.”
It’s probably a waste of time to recap the lies that were uttered before this case blew wide open – we’re shocked, shocked that this regime was lying all along – but, just for the record, let’s remember that Trump initially claimed, to reporters on Air Force One, that Cohen’s work on the Stormy case had nothing to do with him; that he later acknowledged that Cohen was representing him in the Daniels case, but “there were no campaign funds going into this”; and that a previous Cohen lawyer named David Schwartz told CNN that “the president was not aware of the (Stormy) agreement.”
Of course Trump was aware. Of course he was giving the orders. Who among us ever suspected otherwise? As I asked in this space five months ago, “Who among us actually believes he didn’t know what his own loyal lawyer was doing?” Turns out, they conspired in a criminal act on the eve of an election that turned on 77,000 votes spread across three states.
Even though Cohen confessed yesterday that he was only following orders, he didn’t officially agree to minimize his jail time by rolling on Trump with respect to Russia and God knows what else. But his lawyer, Lanny Davis, surfaced on TV last night to advertise Cohen’s willingness to rat out the boss: “Mr. Cohen has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows. Not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”
So, for the moment, that’s where we are. The twin blows to Trump should be obvious to everyone (except the cultists and gutless Hill Republicans). A Virginia jury of Paul Manafort’s peers made him a convicted felon; the felon now faces another criminal trial, next month in Washington D.C., on charges of money laundering, lying to the FBI, and defrauding the United States – with the prosecution introducing more than double the number of exhibits presented in Virginia. Manafort is being squeezed by Robert Mueller in order to make him flip, and the next trial lands in the midst of the autumn midterm campaigns. And while Trump will undoubtedly continue to rage about Mueller’s “rigged witch hunt,” let’s remember that Cohen was outed not by Mueller, but by career New York federal prosecutors. On that key front, Trump’s propaganda is worthless.
And while we await the next inevitable revelations about Trump and “the best people,” let’s also remember the pledges he made during his 2016 Republican convention speech: “I am the law and order candidate…There can be no prosperity without law and order…I will restore law and order…We will be a country of law and order.”
In the hope of restoring law and order to our benighted nation, I’ll close by posing one simple question. It strikes me as timely and urgent and politically commonsensical:
Since when does an unindicted co-conspirator have the legitimacy and credibility to name someone to the U.S. Supreme Court?