So How Serious Is This?

by John Holbo on August 22, 2018

Manafort and, especially, Cohen.

I honestly can’t tell. Ever since Lester Holt and ‘nothing matters anymore’ I really can’t tell what matters anymore. I mean: obviously any other President would be toast. But Trump? I’m reading Lawfare. But it seems to me the question is: can Congress ignore it? Signs point to: yes. At least until January. Obviously if Congress can ignore, they will.

In the meantime, I would just like to remind you that Jesus colluded with the sinners.

{ 80 comments }

1

Hidari 08.22.18 at 7:55 am

This is bad for Trump but not unexpected. Despite the figleaf of ‘Russian collusion’ the main brief of Mueller was ‘find out bad stuff about Trump and his associates’ and of course it was almost inevitable that he would find such stuff because Trump and his cronies are scumbags who exist to break the law. This is the reality of capitalism (as has been pointed out ‘crony capitalism’ is the only kind of capitalism that has ever existed or ever will exist). Congress might or might not accept it, but the Senate (even more viciously ‘gerrymandered’ albeit de facto) won’t…yet. So Trump won’t go down, not yet.

The only way that Trump will go down, IMHO is if and when the Republican establishment decide that they have got everything out of him that they’re going to get, which means after the next Presidential election. Assuming he wins it, he may be ditched quickly. The Republican elite (and the Democratic elite) have always wanted Pence for President, and they may yet get their wish. But not yet.

In terms of the current situation, Manafort is simply irrelevant. Cohen is relevant, but paying a porn start off because you are worried your wife might find out that you are a philanderer: it seems a stretch to interpret that as ‘trying to influence an election’ although I can sort of see the logic (I suppose Bill Clinton’s behaviour vis a vis Monica Lewinsky was ultimately political too). It also seems weird to conceptualise hush money to a porn star as ‘campaign finance violations’. But what do I know.

2

Layman 08.22.18 at 11:57 am

“But what do I know.”

That is the question. It’s a remarkable feat to write a comment in which virtually every single sentences contains a jaw-dropping assertion, but you’ve pulled it off.

The Russia investigation is a sham, a cover story. Everyone is a crook, so Trump is normal. The Democrats want Pence for President. Illegal campaign contributions aren’t campaign contributions, even when the contributor says they are; and they weren’t made to influence the election, even when the person who made them said they were.

I mean, this takes talent! Kudos.

But, to the point of the post: If Trump had lost the election, he’d now be indicted along with Cohen. But, because the DOJ has a longstanding policy that the President can’t be indicted (where did this policy come from, anyway, and when?), Trump will not be indicted. And he will not be impeached, not while Republicans control the House. And, even if the Democrats take the House and impeach him, they will not take the Senate, so the Senate will not convict.

I think this remains true no matter what facts about Russia and collusion are brought to light. Remember, the collusion is already demonstrated in plain, open sight: Trump encouraged Russians to interfere to his benefit on national television, and they responded to his call. His advisors responded to offers of help by trying to get that help, rather than reporting the offers to law enforcement. Not a single person in Congress doubts that Trump welcomed Russian help, encouraged it, and benefited from it. The Republicans simply don’t care, and nothing will make them care.

3

J. Bogart 08.22.18 at 12:13 pm

Manaforte is a publicity problem, which will get worse with his second trial,and, if the US Attorney decides to proceed on the hung counts, a third trial. None of it ties to Trump; it suggests he hangs out with criminals and does not notice or care about their conduct. That is a publicity issue. Cohen is a serious problem. He has implicated Trump in criminal conduct. As he is still facing a state investigations, there is high risk that he will exchange information for leniency in that investigation. Which will result in more, at least potentially, statements incriminating Trump. It is not clear to me what the status is relative to the Mueller investigation — only that his current deal does not require cooperation with Mueller. Having taken this step, I would expect him to work with Mueller as a way to further leniency in sentencing and to insure no further prosecutions. (I can’t tell from news coverage whether the deal includes all federal investigations or not.) Cohen seems a credible witness and too close to Trump on the direct political issues for any very successful effort to wall him off. His statement also is a big problem for the lawsuits by Daniels, and others, as it shreds Trump’s defenses to date. But none of it will mean that significant numbers of Republicans in the Congress will back away from Trump. Nixon held most Republicans until he resigned. I don’t see a reason to think the team loyalty now will be less.
Lawfare has good analysis of these issues.

4

J.Bogart 08.22.18 at 12:15 pm

Watch what Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, says and does. He is not a Giuliani. He is clearly telling prosecutors his client has valuable information and is willing to provide it (if not already disclosed).

5

Donald 08.22.18 at 12:26 pm

Hidari— I agree with much of what you say in this and the other thread, but Trump’s lawyer paid off Stormy in part because he would have thought it might lose him votes. It’s not clear that it would have cost him very many, but since he won with a small number of votes in several key states, a million different things could have derailed it. I am no lawyer, but apparently if you spend that much money covering up your adultery to avoid damage to your political campaign, that is a crime. It used to be that a politician in America would be finished or at least badly hurt by a scandal like this, crime or not. With Trump it is hard to say.

6

Hidari 08.22.18 at 12:40 pm

‘The Republicans simply don’t care, and nothing will make them care.’

To be fair, I don’t care either, and nothing will make me care.

Anyway, back in the real world….

‘Michael Cohen, who spent a decade as a lawyer for Trump, told a judge Tuesday that he was directed by Trump to coordinate payments to two women designed to prevent them from disclosing alleged affairs with the real estate mogul before the presidential election, in violation of campaign finance law.

Such an explosive assertion against anyone but the president would suggest that a criminal case could be in the offing, but under long-standing legal interpretations by the Justice Department, the president cannot be charged with a crime.

The department produced legal analyses in 1973 and 2000 concluding that the Constitution does not allow for the criminal indictment of a sitting president.

In comments to reporters after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felony counts in federal court in Manhattan, Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said prosecutors were sending a message that they are unafraid to file charges when campaign finance laws are broken. But he did not mention Trump or offer any indication that his office planned to pursue action against the president.’

(Washington Post)

‘Despite impeachment talk, it’s no easy task to remove a president in such a way. Both Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were impeached, but both were acquitted by the Senate. President Richard Nixon resigned before he could be removed from office.

There are three impeachable offenses: treason, bribery and the more opaque “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but the House of Representatives has the responsibility to accuse the president of one of those things. If a majority in the House agrees, a president is then impeached. The Senate then votes on impeachment, which under the U.S. Constitiution requires a two-thirds majority.

In Trump’s case, starting the impeachment process would currently require a mass revolt by Republicans against him in the House of Representatives — controlled by the GOP — an event even less likely than normal with midterm elections on the horizon.’

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/22/trump-impeachment-not-likely-despite-manafort-and-cohen-trials.html

I am not sure that hush money being paid to the porn star the President was banging in order that his pregnant wife not find out was precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind by ‘High crimes and misdemeanors,’

But again, what do I know.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/22/trump-impeachment-not-likely-despite-manafort-and-cohen-trials.html

7

Hidari 08.22.18 at 1:15 pm

‘I am no lawyer, but apparently if you spend that much money covering up your adultery to avoid damage to your political campaign, that is a crime’.

I sort of see what you are saying, and of course, in a certain sense, what you say is not only true but self-evidently and obviously true. Any politician engages in activities to gain him or herself votes. All I am saying is that it doesn’t seem like the most obvious way to conceptualise these activities. CF Bill Clinton.

Presumably one of the key reasons that Clinton lied about the Lewinsky affair was because he thought it would make him look bad and therefore lose him votes in the 2000 elections. And in a sense it did (although others presumably voted for him ‘cos they felt sorry for him). But that seems like a weird way to conceptualise his activities.

Does it not seem more likely that Trump’s main concern in paying the hush money was to avoid his wife, who had just given birth, finding out? Obviously the effect on votes would be of benefit to him, but I’m not sure that was his main concern.

Would it be yours, in his position?

8

Lee A. Arnold 08.22.18 at 1:17 pm

Very serious. Cohen is obviously going to cooperate (if he hasn’t begun already) on topics far afield from his own charges, and Manafort must be thinking hard about doing the same thing, now. Lawfare does not mention the politics: this also boosts the possibility that Democrats will take control of the House. Then they may wait for Mueller’s report do the heavy lifting before impeaching Trump and in the meantime start various committee investigations of emoluments and the corruption elsewhere in the Administration. The next two years will be unremitting television news of more crime and corruption. If and when they impeach Trump, even a Republican-controlled Senate will convict; the Senate only needs 2/3rds. The Senators all want to get rid of him; he makes it harder for them to run for President themselves. For now, they will all be watching the disapproval rating at someplace reputable like FiveThirtyEight’s aggregator. Tuesday’s news will cycle into these figures, in about a week or ten days. If it starts to tick downwards 3-5%, back to the levels in the last half of 2017, Trump is toast sooner rather than later.
https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/?ex_cid=rrpromo

9

Orange Watch 08.22.18 at 1:22 pm

Donald@5

I too agree with most of what Hidari said here (and there), except for their last paragraph here. To further clarify your statement, the issue is that the payment was transparently not to keep Ms. Trump from finding out about Ms. Cliffords or Ms. McDougal – the timing of the payment/catch-and-kill story, well after the incidents but immediately before the election, make that clear: their purpose was to avoid extramarital affairs with adult entertainers from turning into October Surprises. These functioned as (unreported) in-kind donations, insofar as they were third-party resources expended to for the explicit purpose of providing electoral support to the candidate.

10

Glen Tomkins 08.22.18 at 1:25 pm

It may be true that Jesus dined with publicans and sinners, but I think even His forgiving nature would have drawn the line at dining with re-publicans.

11

Faustusnotes 08.22.18 at 1:26 pm

This idea that paying off a porn star couldn’t possibly be relevant to a political campaign is hilarious. Well done hidari.

It’s going to get worse for Trump. Cohen helped organise the broidy abortion bribe. That is going to create big trouble with the base.

And are there any rich people around Trump who have any actual money? They all seem to be scamming campaign money to pay off cascading layers of debt!

12

Orange Watch 08.22.18 at 1:35 pm

Hidari@
I am not sure that hush money being paid to the porn star the President was banging in order that his pregnant wife not find out was precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind by ‘High crimes and misdemeanors,’

It’s intentionally vague. It should be noted that when Johnson was impeached, one of the eleven articles was “Bringing disgrace and ridicule to the presidency by his aforementioned words and actions.”

Again, though, the idea that the payoffs to Ms. Cliffords and Ms. McDougal were made to prevent Ms. Trump from learning of the affairs defies all credibility when considering that they occurred in the fall of 2016 rather than ten years earlier.

13

Hidari 08.22.18 at 1:38 pm

‘Even a Republican-controlled Senate will convict; the Senate only needs 2/3rds. The Senators all want to get rid of him’.

Even assuming this is true (and actually it’s highly debatable whether it is true) are we sure that they ‘all’ want to get rid of him now?

14

hen sholar 08.22.18 at 1:53 pm

@7

just to tidy up the swamp here:

Twas Gore who had the sad in 2000 about Clinton’s lost blow job votes. Or something.

And why wasn’t I told that Melania Trump gave birth to a rather stocky ten-year-old boy back in 2016?

15

Fergus 08.22.18 at 2:22 pm

@Hidari… it would be a strange way to conceptualise the activity if it was based purely on the fact that the hush money was politically helpful. But:

“He told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payments to the women were made “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” implicating the president in a federal crime.

“I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Mr. Cohen said.”

So I don’t really know how you can keep insisting this is an issue of conceptual analysis…

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/nyregion/michael-cohen-plea-deal-trump.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

16

alfredlordbleep 08.22.18 at 2:34 pm

Special Counsel to John Holbo sign-in, please!

17

Glen Tomkins 08.22.18 at 2:37 pm

I don’t think that a Congressional majority, and certainly not the 2/3 Senate majority needed for removal, is going to feel much ethical pressure to impeach based on the list of wrongdoing we know about so far, or that are at all likely to emerge. Quite aside from the lack of gravity of the crimes on that list, none of them are a clear betrayal of the electorate that decided he should be president. That electorate already knew he was a Russophile, had even invited Russians to hack D computers, they knew that he was a pussy-grabber, and that his privately-owned business was ethically challenged — yet an electoral majority voted him in anyway. Removal on impeachment involves the legislature asserting its will and its judgment over that of the people. Of course the legislature is also elected by the people to accomplish duties that include holding the president to certain standards. But I don’t see even a 2/3 D Senate (which we would only get by the Rs losing every race up this year, plus about 15 of them party-switching) having the cojones for such an assertion, certainly not when the electorate already knew about the crimes when they voted for the criminal. The Rs have cojones for such enterprises, and in spades, but not our beloved Ds.

And I don’t see impeachment as a very useful strategy for the Ds to pursue. Even if successful at removing Trump, that just gets you Pence — just as public policy irrational, only less politically disorganized.

Maybe impeachment comes up as a tactic, to facilitate some other plan of action, but I don’t see conviction on impeachment as a useful means of even control of Trump behavior, much less removal.

If the Ds do have control of either house after the election, of course the usual that we can expect of them is not very much. Even if they control both chambers, they couldn’t possibly have the 2/3 in both needed to run the govt by overriding the vetoes that any actual program of theirs would be sure to attract from the president. Even with 2/3, because this is a D 2/3 we’re talking about, we can most likely discount the possibility that they would even try to exercise any oversight over what the govt does in opposition to the president’s control.

An actual political party in this situation of even controlling a bare majority of just the House could do a whole lot to not only thwart Trump, but to at least make a credible effort at asserting control over the govt. They could of course block any new legislation, or the repeal of any existing law, and even the actual Ds are probably up to that. But to go further, to control or limit how Trump runs the govt under existing law, this D majority of the House would have to be willing to boldly set sail on the sea of political hardball and take up a career of budgetary hostage-taking — so right off we should say that this is political fanfic, and not even canonic fanfic.

But a girl can dream, can’t he, so let’s pursue this alternate reality just a bit. Who knows, if Trump’s misrule makes things sufficiently dire, maybe even the Ds will be motivated to find their inner pirate.

To take ICE as an example, it would go something like this. The House only agrees to pass the annual appropriations on a 30-day continuing resolution basis, so that their assent is needed every 30-days to the govt doing anything. They pass all the spending except for the ICE funding (keeping the funding for whatever ICE spends on housing and otherwise caring for people already apprehended — that funding goes with the funding of the rest of the govt), which they hold back until and unless Senate and president agree to ICE funding that includes new law that keeps ICE from doing family separations, and whatever else the Ds find objectionable. After success getting control of ICE abuses, next month when the CRs come due, they do the same maneuver on their next target of Trump misrule.

The risk is that the Rs, Senate and president, just refuse to agree to the omnibus that funds everything else the govt does until the Ds let loose the ICE funding. There is a govt shutdown, and the Ds run the risk of being blamed. It turns into a game of legislative chicken. Of course, this has to be anti-canon fanfic for such a game to end other than by the Ds swerving first, so the real world Ds will never actually even start the game, because whatever their faults, they know their limitations.

18

Lee A. Arnold 08.22.18 at 2:58 pm

Hidari #13: “…they ‘all’ want to get rid of him now?”

The Republican Senate would be happy to throw him overboard tomorrow. His voters are the problem. They won’t wait for his voters to turn on him however, if the Senate receives a lengthy bill of impeachment from a Democratic House and Mueller has signed off on some of the charges. They’d rather have Pence do the sanctimonious messaging and go into 2020 trying to reconstruct the party with an open primary. After all, the GOP stands to lose Senate seats in 2020 anyway, just due to the map (the same problem they have this year, with the House). If the election in 76 days puts the Democrats in charge of the House, Trump won’t make it to the end of his term.

19

Hidari 08.22.18 at 3:17 pm

‘To further clarify your statement, the issue is that the payment was transparently not to keep Ms. Trump from finding out about Ms. Cliffords or Ms. McDougal – the timing of the payment/catch-and-kill story, well after the incidents but immediately before the election, make that clear: their purpose was to avoid extramarital affairs with adult entertainers from turning into October Surprises. ‘

Oh ok, I didn’t really understand that. I haven’t to be honest, been following the Stormy Daniels story too closely for the good reason that I don’t care.

So one infers that the FL did in fact know about these things. Could we conceptualise it thus, then: Trump paid the hush money to ensure that Melania was not publicly humiliated by these things (I mean, humiliated even more than simply being married to Donald Trump)?

But obviously, in that case, Trump not wanting this to be a big story in the run up to the election was obviously a ‘thing’.

20

BruceJ 08.22.18 at 3:45 pm

Does it not seem more likely that Trump’s main concern in paying the hush money was to avoid his wife, who had just given birth, finding out?

His third wife? With whom he was cheating on his second wife? The second wife with whom he was cheating on his first wife?

That is about as likely a scenario as ‘elite Democrats want Pence for President’.

21

Omega Centauri 08.22.18 at 5:29 pm

I can believe that many indeed probably most R’s seriously want to be rid of Trump. But fear of Trump’s base prevents them from showing this. They know their careers are toast if they go against Trump, so they won’t.

22

Trader Joe 08.22.18 at 5:44 pm

This is where Team Trump needs to pull the Vince Foster page from the Clinton playbook and make Mr. Cohen’s untimely death look like a suicide.

23

Whirrlaway 08.22.18 at 6:04 pm

That’s not Paul, not Jesus, but never mind. Jesus was after repentance (turning away) not furthering mutual purposes: “Thereby you use your tradition to nullify the word of God.” He _engaged_ with sinners, he was _friendly_ with disciples.

You must be trolling me, nobody else around here cares about this stuff. On topic, just me but “it won’t be the water but the fire next time”, already in progress! … not that today’s little wiggles signify much other that rising panic on all sides.

24

icastico 08.22.18 at 6:14 pm

I find it astounding that people question whether or not Trump’s actions meet the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. So, “high crimes and misdemeanors” refers, presumably, to misdeeds by those in “high positions” that can only be undertaken by those officials. In other words, misuse of power, corruption, self-dealing, lying to the public, failure to meet the obligations of the office, immoral acts that degrade the office etc. In this case, Trump’s attempts to cover up previous misdeeds would count, his golf trips and other activities to make money at his properties count, his attempts to obstruct justice count, his lies count, his failure to make appointments count, his failure to properly execute the duties of his office count. The Republicans in Congress are short-sighted fools to allow him to get away with these behaviors.

25

Whirrlaway 08.22.18 at 6:24 pm

Hidari @7: Trump’s main concern in paying the hush money was to avoid his wife, who had just given birth, finding out? 

As a woman who lived up the street said to me once, “Obviously I knew what kind of a man I was marrying.” Why would he hide when he can lie? He paid hush money because the alternative was to be nice to the women like a regular hapless beta normie. He would have paid cash at the time but she turned him down.

26

Heliopause 08.22.18 at 7:01 pm

“So How Serious Is This?”

It isn’t, except insofar as mainstream discourse will be hysterical about it for a few days, as they always are with anything Trump related. Election finance violations are commonplace and are almost always either ignored or fined. Assuming Trump did something wrong in the Cohen case, it’s the equivalent of a parking ticket.

Should also be pointed out that most people will probably be surprised that paying hush money to an alleged paramour can be such a thing as a campaign finance violation, given the monumental amounts of dishonesty and graft that exist in the whole farcical system. They’ll likely view this as akin to Clinton’s difficulties with Lewinsky.

As for Manafort, Trump supporters long ago baked in his sleazy associations, and this conviction doesn’t advance the Russia theories an iota.

It pains me to break this to center-liberals, but you’re still going to have to beat them in the arena of policy and ideas, the deus ex machina that you’re fervently praying for may never come.

27

boba 08.22.18 at 7:15 pm

It must be the veteran in me that demands that people in high offices must adhere to high standards. It is one thing that Joe Schmoe engage in petty crimes or unsavory activities that affect him and those around him; I did not elect Joe to oversee a multi-trillion enterprise upon which affects the lives of millions.
Knowingly electing someone who continuously engages in petty crimes demonstrates a disdain for the electorate at large. Knowingly dismissing those activities as innocuous demonstrates amorality. Not sure about you, but the disdainful amorality of DJT and his supporters and enablers is a rather troubling development in the body politic. However, it is apparent to me that honor and integrity are only paid lip service these days, greed and some sense of retribution upon perceived enemies is a greater force in our society.

28

Yan 08.22.18 at 7:34 pm

So, the reasoning is that since Cohen wrote the check he was making an illegal campaign contribution, correct?

But Trump reimbursed him. So is the reasoning that it was originally intended as a donation, but he later decided to ask for reimbursement?

Or is the reasoning that to pay money on someone else’s behalf on the understanding that you’ll be reimbursed is “donating”? Which seems patently false.

I’m sincerely curious about what precisely people are claiming here.

29

ph 08.22.18 at 7:53 pm

How serious is this? Well that depends what ‘this’ is? It’s both deadly serious and utterly meaningless. Trump’s rose on the back of tax-payers bailing out the pricks who caused the housing crisis. How anyone can be unaware of Trump’s shabby business practices after nearly 3 straight years of non-stop negative press takes some imagining.

Most minds are already made up, I suspect, and it isn’t clear to me that prosecuting a sitting president will work. Both Dems and Republicans are gearing to make 2018 a referendum on Trump, a strategy that’s can’t win for Dems. A few have noticed that impeaching Trump, or driving him from office, gets you president Pence. The missing part is an extremely-motivated mass of Trump voters with an extremely big axe to grind.

So, either Trump beats back the big state, which is a Republican win; or Trump doesn’t succeed, he gets to retire – yes, you can be sure Pence will pardon Trump anything, and Dems can feel good about dedicating 3 years towards cementing the Republican base, and that’s still not the worst case scenario. I realize that a large number of people want ‘this’ to be something, but ‘this’ looks at lot like more of the same, only different.

A Republican is going to occupying the oval office and running for president on a robust economy. I’m not sure what impact removing Trump from office will have, perhaps the economy will continue to grow. One thing’s for sure – the bombing other people will remain a favored ‘diplomatic’ tool, and a great way to ‘bring American’s together.’

So, there’s that.

30

Jacob Steel 08.22.18 at 11:03 pm

Citing Paul as an authority on what Jesus did and didn’t think strikes me as a precedent left-wing Christians really, really shouldn’t set.

31

Sebastian H 08.23.18 at 1:44 am

“Or is the reasoning that to pay money on someone else’s behalf on the understanding that you’ll be reimbursed is “donating”? Which seems patently false.”

No, that is characterized as a loan to the campaign. Which must be disclosed or else it would be the easiest way in the world to evade campaign finance laws.

32

Wild Cat 08.23.18 at 1:45 am

I can see why John Crowley doesn’t waste his time on this blog anymore.
Except for a few sane souls, it’s full of fascist Trump apologists.

33

George Louis de Verges 08.23.18 at 3:00 am

This is all well and good, but what about St. Paul and his letter to the Romans? I am not sure I see the the reference to collusion, or to associating with sinners. As an aside, the translation seems terrible to me, flatfooted and awkward. Is it King James? How is it related to Manafort and Cohen? I noted that Jeffress was copied on the email; I live a block from Rev Jeffress’ glowing Baptist temple (my mother-in-law thought it was a casino on first viewing) so I have a certain personal interest in how this citation ties to Our Prez and to his holy warriors. Mr. Holbo, elucidate!

34

nastywoman 08.23.18 at 4:26 am

@”serious” –
is ”the word” – and I love this kind of ”unserious” reference to the bible and that we all should be ”associating” with our ”sinners”.

That will save FF von Clownstick for sure.
-(and just joking)

35

CDT 08.23.18 at 4:31 am

Wow, it’s like the Naked Capitalism commentariat has suddenly appeared. There is no guarantee that the spineless Congressional Republicans will do anything about it, but soon it will be impossible to for them to deny that Trump actively worked with Russian government hackers. It will also likely become clear that Trump has been laundering Russian mob money for years or decades. Pence is a dense theocrat, but he doesn’t appear to be a traitor.

36

ph 08.23.18 at 5:46 am

@28 Hi Yan, for the ‘this is nothing’ crowd Mark Levin provides legal case. I don’t want to debate his argument, but he’s claiming that right now, Trump has done nothing illegal. Didn’t use campaign funds, but his own money to ensure a prior agreement was honored/enforced. As far as Cohen is concerned, Levin argues this is a simple case of non-disclosure. But that’s what he would say. The right is arguing that it’s about setting up impeachment and that Trump won’t be. Personally, I don’t see a thing changing, unless we hit some new plateaus of ‘this time he’s done!!! all caps, which John sensibly avoided. No links, but easy to find. I expect Real Clear Politics will have more, haven’t checked yet.

37

ph 08.23.18 at 5:53 am

Most read at RCP:

http://thefederalist.com/2018/08/22/6-takeaways-about-paul-manafort-and-michael-cohens-legal-woes/

Shorter: interesting, too early to tell, but Russia seems to have been flushed down the memory hole. Based on the actual behavior of the Dems in 2016-2017, I’d say there’s a far bigger downside, should the Steele stuff see the light of day. That’s for another time.

So, no – not serious, not now at least.

38

bad Jim 08.23.18 at 6:17 am

For those keeping score at home: Trump’s first National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. George Papadopoulos, a campaign advisor, did likewise. Rick Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and false testimony and testified against Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort, densely entangled with pro-Russian elements in Ukraine, who was convicted on eight counts of fraud and faces further criminal prosecution on other matters.

The president’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty of fraud and campaign finance violations.

HHS Secretary Tom Price was booted for profligate spending, as was EPA head Scott Pruitt. Wilbur Ross at Commerce and Steve Mnuchin at Treasury seem to be cut from the same cloth.

As Charles Pierce is wont to say, “Nothing But The Best People is never not going to be funny.”

39

Hidari 08.23.18 at 6:26 am

FWIW
‘Members of Congress keep moving the goal posts,” Mack said.

I understand why they do, and it’s an uncomfortable position for them to be in. They don’t want to pursue—or mention!—impeachment until they’re sure it has a chance to succeed. That means a majority in the House and two-thirds of the Senate. That means Democratic control of the House after the midterms and about one-third of Republicans on board in the Senate. And that means Trump’s approval rating among Republicans falling underwater. There’s no sign that will ever happen, and so Democrats are stuck in this position of continually watching the evidence pile up and having nowhere to go.

But sure, maybe if he pardons Manafort. Maybe then.’

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/08/impeaching-trump-why-democrats-would-really-rather-not-talk-about-that.html

40

J-D 08.23.18 at 10:03 am

George Louis de Verges

As an aside, the translation seems terrible to me, flatfooted and awkward. Is it King James?

Hardly!(*) New International Version.

(*)The Online Etymology Dictionary tells me that ‘naive’ did not come into English until the 1650s.

41

Faustusnotes 08.23.18 at 2:09 pm

CDT, pence was in the room when Ryan made the joke about Putin owning rohrbacher (?) And Trump. Pence knows everything, he’s a traitor and he is keeping his head down to avoid people noticing. But don’t be fooled, they’re all in this criminal enterprise together. Conservatives are traitors and economic wreckers.

42

Hidari 08.23.18 at 2:24 pm

‘ They’d rather have Pence do the sanctimonious messaging and go into 2020 trying to reconstruct the party with an open primary.’

I am deeply unconvinced by this. Does anyone think that Pence has the, ahem, ‘charisma’, or whatever you want to call it, of Trump? After 2020, yes, all bets are off.
But before?

43

PatinIowa 08.23.18 at 3:01 pm

Seems obvious to me that the best Democratic strategy would be something like this:

1. Drag their feet on Kavanaugh and hope to retake the Senate and replace Grassley.
2. Leave Trump where he is. Make Republicans own him, over and over.
3. Investigate the heck out of him and his cronies, with a special emphasis on voter suppression. Advertise the heck out of this, especially in neighborhoods where the Republicans are suppressing the vote. Ruthlessly jam through any legislation that increases access to the ballot and ballot security. Court a veto on that, if necessary.
4. Nominate someone energetic, young(ish) and progressive enough to hold the DSA types (that would be me, roughly), but able to convince minimally racist whites (especially white working class people) that they’re interested in governing, rather than settling scores.
5. Make it absolutely clear that Trump is the full expression of contemporary American conservativism. He may be a lunatic, but he governs as a conservative, with the full support of most Republicans.

Who knows? it might work.

44

Patrick 08.23.18 at 3:37 pm

Republicans stuck by Bush through torture. Now it’s a core piece of their political ideology. Supporting it is as much or more of a litmus test than abortion is for democrats.

They supported Bush through planning for a post war Iraq run by Chalabi and relying on that with such certainty that they didn’t requisition hear for an occupation, leading to the unnecessary deaths of US soldiers.

They elected a birther.

The current Trump defense re collusion is quite literally that they tried to collude but it didn’t work so it doesn’t count.

Republicans will stick by him through this. The Republican media has been more and more in charge since the 90s and it can’t be shamed. And they control what their viewers believe.

So how much this matters depends entirely on who wins the 2018 election.

45

nastywoman 08.23.18 at 5:18 pm

– or finally accepting that nothing matters anymore – let’s say it more seriously that FF von Clownstick shouldn’t be would be ”toast” because of such ‘#serious” charges.

It should be something which doesn’t matters at all – or something completely silly or totally unrelated – like… like… remember the Mafia? –
and that supposedly a lot of these Mafia Guys became toast not as much for killing each other – as more for all kind of tax-stuff and so Von Clownstick should finally be toast for…
like ”Scaring Children” – as you guys probably have heard about how scary Clowns really can be.

Let’s have a new amendment to the constitution that ”Clowning” -(especially as President) should be punished by… ”toasting” the criminal in a tanning studio to such a dark color that he will be considered ”Black” and then have a neighbor of the White House call the cops and shoot the Black Intruder in the Bud!

46

Antonin 08.23.18 at 8:08 pm

I guess all the cool comments went to Twitter…

47

MR 08.23.18 at 8:18 pm

In terms of Cohen and Trump’s activities in regard to the payoffs–the evidence shows that Cohen told Stormy to pound sand a week before and that there would be no payoff. After the Access Hollywood tapes broke he contacted her and said “hey about that deal.” Very strong evidence that this was all about the election and had nothing to do with protecting Melania from having her face publicly smeared in the fact that she married a grade A asshole. It was pretty clearly a campaign contribution. Whether it is enough to start an impeachment given the Republicans in the House–the answer would seem to be probably not. Although all the tapes of the same Congresscritters bloviating about “Rule of Law” in regards to Clinton do make for some amusing viewing. It would appear there are more shoes to drop.

48

Not Trampis 08.23.18 at 9:52 pm

Nay, Jesus did not collude with sinners. He met with them to get them to repent.

Your President of course has said he has nothing to repent about.

It is no wonder ‘evangelicals’ over there love him. ( sarc)

49

J-D 08.23.18 at 10:25 pm

I’m glad Jesus was a friend of sinners. He set the right example by associating with them, not shunning them.

‘So, Mr Falwell, how do you associate yourself with sex workers? or do you not consider them to be sinners?’

50

J-D 08.24.18 at 12:34 am

Right now, as I write this, one thing I can say for is that Malcolm Turnbull is in more immediately serious trouble than Donald Trump.

People are complaining about the dysfunctionality of our system, but, all things considered, I’d still rather have ours than yours. You can’t get rid of a President short of an actual crime? How does that make sense?

51

Dave 08.24.18 at 3:12 am

@Hidari

You are drunk

52

Alan White 08.24.18 at 3:42 am

Et tu, Australia?

53

ph 08.24.18 at 6:31 am

54

Nigel 08.24.18 at 7:45 am

‘Both Dems and Republicans are gearing to make 2018 a referendum on Trump, a strategy that’s can’t win for Dems.’

Come gather round everyone a Trump supporter has political advice for Trump opponents! Opposing Trump will be a losing political strategy for Trump opponents you say? Can’t argue with that kind of objectivity!

55

Cian 08.24.18 at 2:12 pm

If Trump was impeached over this I wouldn’t mind, but it doesn’t seem very likely. My sense is that the people who care about this kind of thing care about it, and everyone else doesn’t much – but I could be wrong. I’m not sure what the #Resistance end game is here, either. Pence? The leader of the house.

Best I can tell Republicans are mostly fine with Trump. Certainly the ones I encounter. He represents the ascendant wing of the party, and he’s mostly doing what they wanted. Unlike Democrats, Republicans seem to understand politics and power (hint: It’s about getting the things that you want, rather than ‘character’, whatever that means).

Things that bother me about the coverage generally. Michael Cohen is not a reliable source. He’s trying to save his own sorry ass by offering anything that he thinks the prosecutors might want (incidentally the plea bargaining/prosecution apparatus in the US is awful – even on the rare occasions it’s applied to elite scum bags like Manafort and Cohen). Nobody seems to understand that an indictment is not proof. Or what a trial is. Lots of things have been alleged – very few have yet to be proven. This may change, but maybe wait until the trial (assuming any of this does go to trial – I don’t think a plea bargain is proof of anything personally, except of how bad US justice is in practice).

And the Russia stuff has just moved into farce. The level of ignorance displayed by the media and Democratic party cadres is just astounding. But hey, at least Facebook and Youtube are now censoring radical left wing media. That’s a win right.

56

Hidari 08.24.18 at 2:23 pm

One of the annoying things about this ‘pre-censoring’ thing that CT does now is that I have no idea if this conversation is still ongoing or not. But assuming it is: here’s two pieces from the (Trump-loathing) Guardian about why impeachment

a: might not happen (as the Slate piece above hints) and
b: might not be such a great idea for the Democrats even if it does.

‘The desire to rid the state of a disgraceful and perhaps criminal leader is understandable and righteous. But impeachment is just about the most inappropriate and double-edged weapon for achieving this goal.

Let’s remember what impeachment actually involves. The House of Representatives must prepare and vote, by simple majority, for charges which are then the basis of a trial in front of the 100-member US Senate. A two-thirds vote in the Senate is required to convict and remove the president from office. If 34 senators vote not to impeach, the president stays.

In the current Congress, the Republicans have a 37-vote majority in the 435-seat House and a two-vote majority in the 100-seat Senate. Both bodies have become strikingly partisan in the past 30 years. Control of the House may change in the midterm elections on 6 November. That might allow impeachment to start. But Republican Senate numbers will not fall below the 34 necessary to block impeachment.

Impeaching Trump would risk being more like the Clinton case than the Nixon one. In order for any attempt to impeach Trump to even get off the ground, the midterm elections are crucial. Many Democrats will be mobilised by the possibility of impeachment. But so will many Republicans. Polling suggests that Republican voters are more set in their opposition to impeaching Trump than Democrats are in support of impeaching him. It is possible that impeachment would be counter-productive on the doorstep for Democrats, which is why Democratic congressional leaders are not pushing it.

Even if Democrats do win the House in November, impeachment would be intensely divisive. It might even help rally the country behind the president. True, Trump does not possess Clinton’s ability to attract support across the spectrum. But nor, yet, is Trump accused of committing the level of offence – as president – that Nixon committed. The charges against Nixon related directly to way he conducted his presidency. Those against Trump apply to the period before he entered the White House. (This point has been missed by almost everyone, but it is key).

In other words, there is no way, at this stage, that an impeachment move against Trump would succeed – because there will always be 34 senators who will vote for him to stay. Nor would it help to unify America around an alternative. Trump would still be president, and he would still be president of a more deeply polarised nation than ever.’

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/22/impeaching-donald-trump-defeat-trumpism-cohen-manafort

CF also this, with the self-explanatory headline: ‘Trump’s base may not like him, but they’re not about to ditch him’.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/24/donald-trump-voters-impeachment-legal

It must never be forgotten that the journalists who are predicting with apparent certainty that Trump will be impeached are the same people who predicted with 100% certainty that Clinton would win in 2016.

57

ajay 08.24.18 at 2:33 pm

But Trump reimbursed him. So is the reasoning that it was originally intended as a donation, but he later decided to ask for reimbursement? Or is the reasoning that to pay money on someone else’s behalf on the understanding that you’ll be reimbursed is “donating”? Which seems patently false.

The point is that, if you are running for election, and you pay someone to stop them saying something that would harm your campaign, that counts as campaign spending, because it is spending and it’s intended to further the aims of your campaign – just like buying TV ads or catering or stationery counts as campaign spending. And campaign spending has to be reported, and this wasn’t.
If Cohen made the payment with no expectation of being reimbursed, then that was an unreported campaign donation in kind – just as if Cohen had bought the campaign a whole load of stationery. If Cohen made the payment and _did_ expect to be reimbursed later _by the campaign_, then it’s a loan to the campaign, and that has to be reported too. If Cohen made the payment and expected to be reimbursed later by Trump himself, then it was still an unreported campaign loan. All of those are illegal.

If the campaign had paid off Daniels directly, that would have been perfectly legal, because spending money to get Trump elected is what the campaign is supposed to do. But it would have had to report spending the money, which rather undermines the whole idea of paying hush money.

58

johne 08.24.18 at 7:46 pm

Heliopause @ 26:

“Election finance violations are commonplace and are almost always either ignored or fined.”

Yes and no. Election finance violations are indeed commonplace. It is said that few campaigns escape them. But most result in civil punishments (fines), since they’re inadvertent (not that the fines are small-bore: Obama’s 2008 violations, alluded to by Trump, resulted in a $375,000 fine). But intentionally not reporting a contribution is a crime. Presumably, authorities would choose not to spend resources prosecuting a $20 contribution still unreported months later, but they would do so if the contribution were significant.

Your speculations as to what “most people,” or the stereotypical “center-liberal” might think about the whole affair seem to be about as valid as anyone else’s, of course.

59

johne 08.24.18 at 8:30 pm

“Election finance violations are commonplace and are almost always either ignored or fined.”

Yes and no. Election finance violations are indeed commonplace. It is said that few campaigns escape them. But most result in civil punishments (fines), since they’re inadvertent (not that the fines are small-bore: Obama’s 2008 violations, alluded to by Trump, resulted in a $375,000 fine). But intentionally not reporting a contribution is a crime. Presumably, authorities would might choose not to spend resources prosecuting a $20 $1000 contribution still unreported months later, but they would do so if the contribution were significant.

Your speculations as to what “most people,” or the stereotypical “center-liberal” might think about the affair seem to be about as valid as anyone else’s, of course.

60

Sebastian H 08.24.18 at 9:33 pm

The Allen Weisselberg immunity deal is almost certainly bigger than either the Manafort thing or the Cohen thing. Weisselberg knows all the money things.

61

JimV 08.25.18 at 2:39 am

“Michael Cohen is not a reliable source. “

But he has tape-recordings and other evidence. I myself have no reason to doubt the competence of the prosecutors in deciding to grant him immunity for that evidence.

Also, Cohen the unreliable scumbag was chosen by Trump to be his personal lawyer. That doesn’t argue for Trump’s purity or fitness.

For me, it is quite serious, as it is apt to result in one of two outcomes: regaining some faith in my country and its ability to govern itself, or losing more of it to shame and despair. Maybe that is a more subjective assessment than what was asked for, but it is all I am qualified to give.

62

Hidari 08.25.18 at 7:06 am

@50.
And you’re stupid. But I will be sober in (etc. etc. etc)

63

ph 08.25.18 at 11:10 am

Democrats are NOT going to be talking about Trump.

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article217217600.html

“Democrats say they need to avoid Trump and focus on economic issues to reach the most voters — including their own base. McHugh said many Democratic voters need to believe their party can help them in tangible ways…”

Ya think?

64

Lee A. Arnold 08.25.18 at 12:28 pm

In other boring news, Trump’s tweets yesterday say he’s not sending Pompeo to N. Korea because they refuse to denuclearize — because, he tweets, his trade war with China is giving China cause to not put pressure on N. Korea! (Who didn’t see this coming?) Also in news yesterday, China’s biggest (and the world’s biggest) retailer Ali Baba says they don’t care about losing US products, they are going to start trading with the rest of the world. (And who didn’t see this coming? Chinese trade reps have been traveling around the world for years, to entice countries to forget the US and trade with China instead.) Thus it is, that also yesterday the White House criticized El Salvador for abandoning diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing; Sarah Sanders stated that this “will result in a reevaluation of our relationship with El Salvador. …countries seeking to establish or expand relations with China in order to attract state-directed investment that will stimulate short-term economic growth and infrastructure development may be disappointed over the long run.” (via Politico)

Thus it may start to become clearer to the electorate that Trump’s trade and foreign policies are incoherent — and ultimately will be damaging to US jobs, businesses, growth, innovation.

At this moment the tariffs may start hiking the prices on goods and services inside the US. Before the tariffs, economic forecasters had already predicted a recession coming in the US in late 2019 or 2020 at the latest. Trump’s support has already fallen among moderate Republicans and independents — and among his remaining supporters, only about 19% of the electorate may be hard-core support.

I remember when Tony Schwartz (the writer who ghosted The Art of the Deal) predicted before the election that if Trump were elected, he would ultimately have to resign. Schwartz was certain about this. I always doubted it, but now I wonder if Trump becomes seen by all as such an incompetent and corrupt failure that it will be the Republican Senate caucus sending over a delegation to give him the ultimatum — resign or be impeached — as they did with Nixon.

Make America Grate Your Teeth Again

65

Waiting for Godot 08.25.18 at 6:01 pm

With regard to Trumty Dumpty, Mueller, impeachment, not impeachment and all things under related criminal investigation, I would refer everyone who frequents this site to Emptywheel.net especially those who consider themselves conservative intellectuals (assuming that’s not a non-sequitur).

66

Raven Onthill 08.25.18 at 8:38 pm

Sebastian, yes, just so. As Charles Pierce comments, “Nothing good happens to the boss when they flip the accountant.”

Manafort juror and Trump supporter Paula Duncan commented on Fox: “Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me. I wanted him to be innocent, I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t” but she also still believes in Trump. Still, that is progress. It’s hard to keep believing in the king when his councilors are uniformly guilty.

I am distressed that US national politics has turned into the politics of a monarchy, with courtiers and legitimacy crises.

67

Suzanne 08.25.18 at 10:36 pm

44: “The Republican media has been more and more in charge since the 90s and it can’t be shamed. And they control what their viewers believe.”

The interesting thing is that Trump, as in so many other things, has upended expectations. Normally Republican pols walk in fear of Fox News; Trump has made it Trump News and the programming caters to the First Watcher in the White House.

Trump remains hugely popular among Republican voters. That doesn’t look to change any time soon. There is no active opposition to Trump within the party. McCain is dying and the two senators most actively hostile to Trump, Corker and Flake, are not running for reelection. The GOP is his party now. A Democratic tsunami in November could change things – maybe – but not if the party base remains loyal to Trump.

68

ph 08.26.18 at 7:20 am

@67 responding to @44

Yes. And what’s more important is understanding that Trump’s base is built from dis-affected Republicans and former Democrats who have redefined what’s expected of the candidate – namely to win.

Hence the willingness to forego the elegant speeches crafted by professional market-testing and focus groups (I’m quoting directly, here) and fictions of morality and personal conduct of the CNN – George Washington could never tell a lie variety. So, yes support from the base remains rock solid.

Had a chance to chat with some younger Europeans who find Trump loathsome, but very much understand that ‘Trump’ is what revolution looks like – pig iron ugly. The best part for us is watching ‘liberals’ cheer on US, British, and Australian ‘spooks of high moral character’ trying to overturn the results of the US presidential election of 2016. These young ‘neutrals’ are aware that Obama and Hillary Clinton did fix the Democratic primary to ensure that the incumbent president’s VP and all other potential contenders would get frozen out of donor cash.

The ones I talked with burst into laughter at the mere mention of ‘Russia-gate.’ Now, that ‘unfit to be president 2008’ has passed, we’ll see support for winning more clearly define what matters most to rank and file Republican voters. He lost the electoral college 2-1 to the Dems and he was a legitimate hero – exactly the kind of Republican Dems love, and Republican voters are willing to honor, but want to replace. Winning counts.

That’s it.

69

John Quiggin 08.26.18 at 9:31 am

Weisselberg will be a big deal for Trump personally, since he almost certainly knows enough to destroy the Trump Organization. Also, at this point, anyone else who has any useful evidence to trade will be considering their options pretty seriously. And there are (I think) no pardons for companies.

I agree with ph that winning counts more than anything in the short term. The problem for the Repubs is that they are quite likely to lose at least the House and probably the 2020 election, at which point they may start to reassess the price they’ve paid – for example, the complete destruction of white evangelicalism as a religious faith rather than a cultural affiliation.

70

Lee A. Arnold 08.26.18 at 11:21 am

Raven Onthill #67: “I am distressed that US national politics has turned into the politics of a monarchy, with courtiers and legitimacy crises.”

“So do all who live to see such times.” The US Founders appear to have assumed that this would happen far more often than anyone would like. The Constitution was designed with one eye on the human nature revealed in the continuous corruptions and incompetences of the monarchies, and the undue influences of factions within states, including the steady recurrence of foreign infiltrations. (Russiagate, far from being unbelievable, is to be expected.) In the new constitutional system, individuals are supposed to arise from within the nation to become its leaders — and many of them would be corrupt. Institutions were designed to address this, and at this moment, the institutions are still holding against the bombardment of the top US officeholder. Beyond this, the whole system is ultimately refreshed by regularly-scheduled elections. But it doesn’t quite make an automatically-running system. The proper renewal, from new elections, depends upon an informed electorate. Here is where the real cracks in the system are growing bigger. In the 18th Century they dreamt of steadily improving education; they did not foresee the limitation of an individual’s cognitive budget against an avalanche of information.

71

Nigel 08.26.18 at 1:16 pm

‘‘Trump’ is what revolution looks like – pig iron ugly.’

This is what reactionary consolidation looks like, not revolution. That’s why personal morality suddenly, apparently, doesn’t matter when a mediocre white man is in power after a black man with an exemplary personal life. The ‘genius’ of Trump isn’t that he persuaded anyone of anything. Everyone who supports him persuaded themselves.

72

bekabot 08.26.18 at 4:33 pm

I’m glad Jesus was a friend of sinners. He set the right example by associating with them, not shunning them.

There’s a lack of awareness here of the difference between sinners and goons which is highly disturbing. OTOH, one can guess or glimpse from whence it comes.

73

bekabot 08.26.18 at 4:51 pm

To be fair, I don’t care either, and nothing will make me care.

Then why interrupt the conversations of people who do? (I’m genuinely curious.)

74

anon/portly 08.26.18 at 4:58 pm

Comment 64 has a couple of beauties:

Chinese trade reps have been traveling around the world for years, to entice countries to forget the US and trade with China instead.

That’s right. Rather than making better products and/or selling products for less, the key to Chinese exports is trade reps, who go around the world and talk people into buying Chinese-made products. Or when China wants to import something, rather than just making an order and sending off a check, they send out trade reps, who talk manufacturers in other countries into selling stuff to China. And after talking with a Chinese trade rep, it’s routine for third-country firms to simply ignore orders coming in from America.

Now I know why America’s exports and imports have been declining so rapidly….

Before the tariffs, economic forecasters had already predicted a recession coming in the US in late 2019 or 2020 at the latest.

That’s right, recessions are economic events that we can accurately predict. That’s why you always see expansionary monetary and/or fiscal policy springing into action before the recession hits, right? But alas, massive stimulus in late 2019 or 2020 at the latest can do no good, the recession must come….

75

anon/portly 08.26.18 at 7:30 pm

In 68 ph/kidneystones makes his one good point:

…Obama and Hillary Clinton did fix the Democratic primary to ensure that the incumbent president’s VP and all other potential contenders would get frozen out of donor cash.

I’m not sure of those details, but yes, it does seem that the Democratic Party contrived the 2016 process so as to end up with an extremely poor nominee. (I say “extremely poor” not in the sense of “I didn’t like her” – I massively preferred her to Sanders and Trump, myself, just the opposite of ph/k – but in the sense of “someone with Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.”)

But as usual overall in 29 and 68 ph/k makes bad point after bad point.

Yes. And what’s more important is understanding that Trump’s base is built from dis-affected Republicans and former Democrats who have redefined what’s expected of the candidate – namely to win.

Along with the excellent “he only won because the Democrats shot themselves in the foot by contriving to nominate an unpopular candidate” point, ph/k likes to laud Trump for his ability to win, which is not a quality Trump actually possesses to any great degree. Trump polled/polls/will poll even worse than Hillary. His “ability” to win, as demonstrated so far, is the ability to encounter a divided/weak Republican field in the primaries, which finally winnowed down to Ted and Marco, two other horrible candidates, and then another unusually weak candidate in the general.

Trump’s political instincts served him well in 2016. But that doesn’t mean they’ll work every time. If you look at any of Trump’s careers, you’ll see success and failure in roughly equal measure.

Also Trump’s base is not well-described as “dis-affected Republicans and former Democrats.” This describes the appeal of the Pat Buchanan “trade and immigration” stuff and maybe the people who like the tweets and the aggressive rhetoric and finally have a leader with the pugnacious qualities they were looking for. But it leaves out the “un-disaffected Republicans,” who just care about judges and/or tax cuts.

Most minds are already made up, I suspect, and it isn’t clear to me that prosecuting a sitting president will work. Both Dems and Republicans are gearing to make 2018 a referendum on Trump, a strategy that’s can’t win for Dems.

I agree with the first sentence, but who doesn’t? For example, how many Democratic Party politicians do you hear making noises about impeachment? But the second sentence is nuts – 2018 will be a referendum on Trump, regardless of what the two parties “gear” for. How can it not be? What else could it be about?

And it’s not a “can’t win” thing for the Dems, it’s a “can’t lose” thing. Regardless of the outcome, the Dems should do much better in 2018 and 2020 than if you held things (the state of the economy and world and so on) constant and let the Dems face an “average” Republican.

Trump may have some crossover appeal with the trade and immigration stuff, but you shouldn’t ignore the fact that he genuinely alienates a significant fraction of the Republican base – the Never Trumpers, the people who agree with PJ O’Rourke’s “Hillary’s bad, but within normal parameters” line. In a two party system, how can the Democrats lose to this guy, really? They can only lose by choosing to not optimize their electoral chances, as with nominating a Hillary in 2016 or (say) by moving sharply left in 2018 and 2020.

Everyone thinks Trump’s some kind of genius, and ph/k’s comments cleverly play to that sense, derived from his “inexplicable” win in 2016, but it’s just an illusion.

Trump’s rose on the back of tax-payers bailing out the pricks who caused the housing crisis.

This seems like it was a pretty minor campaign theme to me, I’d say “immigration” was much more prominent. And then Trump gave those “pricks” a big pile of money with the tax cuts. And then after all housing prices have gone back up, so what housing “crisis” anyway? Is it a permanent crisis now? The deep recession with the very slow recovery was the true liability for the Dems, not bailouts. The latter would have been nothing without the former.

A Republican is going to occupying the oval office and running for president on a robust economy.

The endless comedy of the economy that magically transformed from “not robust” to “robust” in January of 2017, despite nothing really changing. Well, yeah, a good economy normally boosts the incumbent party but is any election involving Trump going to be “normal?” Hmmm. Also of course even though the idea (see 64) that recessions can be reliably predicted is fatuous, the idea that Trump’s policies (pro-cyclical tax cuts, trade policies that are intended to get us a “better deal” but get us a worse one, etc) may be making a recession more likely is not….

76

bekabot 08.26.18 at 9:58 pm

Democrats are stuck in this position of continually watching the evidence pile up and having nowhere to go.

Democrats will be able to say “I told you so” for the next 40 years without being discredited. The rest of the world will get a good look at what Mr. Trump is,
and future generations will be able to learn what Mr. Trump was.

Whether or not it’ll all have been worth it will remain a matter of opinion, but it’s nice to be vindicated. It’s also fun to expose one’s enemy for all the world to see, and last but not least, history books have to get their material from somewhere. Sum total, I’d say the show’s worth the price of admission; but, that’s just me.

77

Chetan Murthy 08.27.18 at 5:03 am

bekabot:@76:

Democrats will be able to say “I told you so” for the next 40 years without being discredited.

Uh, well sure, if we survive. I mean, there’s a decent chance that between voter suppression, Shitlord’s willingness to violate *every* norm, and Yertle/ZEGS’ willingness to back him up (with their entire caucus), he’ll be able to shut down whatever investigation. If they succeed in voter suppression (and the Russians help out with a little tampering in states that lack paper trails for voting) who knows: maybe he’ll retain enough of Congress to stave off investigations.

There’s no guarantee that our democracy will survive this. So …. well, no, not really worth it. And with 36% of country being people of color, it won’t be some sort of Nazi takeover like in 1933. It’ll be a civil war. The kind that takes down the country as a functioning modern state. B/c that’s 100m people, and they’re not going to stand for a totalitarian police state. Black Americans had to put up with it, b/c they were outnumbered 7-to-1. Today with Hispanics and Asians, that’s 2-to-1.

I feel I must respond to ph@68:

The best part for us is watching ‘liberals’ cheer on US, British, and Australian ‘spooks of high moral character’ trying to overturn the results of the US presidential election of 2016

Only a Trumpist (or a dead-ender leftist, sure) could write such utter rubbish. Do progressives *like* that we’re relying on the IC in the US and our allies to serve as a check on Shitlord? Do we think it’s necessary? Yeah, we do. The Fascists have every branch of government — of *course* the only thing preventing their running rampant is the bureaucracy. Oh, and the *people*, but as I described above, I think none of us what it to come to that. So yeah, no shit we’re willing to rely on the IC.

Pretending that a racist misogynist mobster white supremacist fascist is “duly elected” in the face of massive evidence of Russian interference is pretty rich.

78

Hidari 08.27.18 at 6:37 am

@75

‘In a two party system, how can the Democrats lose to this guy, really?’

Son, let me sit you down and tell you a story.

79

Hidari 08.27.18 at 6:40 am

@73
I too deplore the law that made it a federal offence not to read my comments.
But that’s Trumpler for you! Whatcha gonna do?

80

Lee A. Arnold 08.27.18 at 11:39 am

Anon/portly #74: “That’s right. Rather than making better products and/or selling products for less, the key to Chinese exports is trade reps, who go around the world and talk people into buying Chinese-made products… …massive stimulus in late 2019 or 2020 at the latest can do no good, the recession must come….”

In the case of El Salvador, the allure appears to be “state-directed investment that will stimulate short-term economic growth and infrastructure development,” as Sarah Sanders read the warning. And she used the plural “countries” suggesting that this is not the only recent occurrence, which will surprise no one who’s been following the international business pages over the last several years.

So, what does Sanders’ threat that this “will result in a reevaluation of our relationship” mean? Tariffs on them? More bloody gang crime as their people get poorer, so more flee to the US southern border? And is Trump going to conduct this shortsighted “transactionalism” bilaterally with every country he doesn’t like? It goes to N-dimensions at once. There are endless complications for trade, foreign policy, and even economic innovation. To look forward at just one of many issues, Chinese help in Salvadorian infrastructure destines an economy-wide lock-in on Chinese tech standards and protocols, shutting out the US.

So what of the US, losing the trade? China has more grad students in STEM than the US has high school students in total. The US is already on course to producing worse products in the future at the rate it’s been underfunding its education and infrastructure. Moreover, it seems likely that the US will not continue to be a smart and attractive place, as the rest of the world moves beyond the infantile idea that private capitalism is always best. Worse still, as current events indicate, nothing thrashes more blindly than a worker who’s lost his job and lost his eminence. The US has already started faint war drums about China’s naval expansions in the Pacific.

On the other topic, OF COURSE no one can predict the next recession with accuracy. My expanded point is that a consensus forecast indicates the approach of one or more of the various causes of recession, e.g. the meeting of real and potential GDP, and/or (perhaps consequently) the overheating of the credit cycle. In this environment, hiking domestic consumer prices by way of tariffs ought to accelerate the advent of a downturn.

Trump and the GOP could try stimulus to get them through the 2020 election, but with consequences even LESS predictable. Not all of those consequences are economic, such as inflation and higher interest rates; some of them are psychological: Trump-supporting proud farmers are already feeling conservative ideological angst at accepting government bailouts to cover their losses during the agricultural tariffs. I suppose Trump can try to convince everybody that more bailouts are for the greater good?

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