Waiting

Like so many people I know, these days I spend too much time following the news. I am reminded of how, back in the mid ’80s when I visited Israel, everyone always seemed to be listening the radio — just in case something happened.

If Cohen really has flipped, then it’s likely a question of when not if Trump has to go.

If we have reached the beginning of the end, then now timing is everything. On the one hand it doesn’t yet seem likely that political opinion will congeal quickly enough to head off the Brett Kavanaugh nomination; once he’s in place the Supreme Court tilts a bit further in favor of the Imperial Presidency which might help Trump in some versions of a showdown. Conversely, so long as the nomination is in play, there is little chance Trump will fire Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or even the AG as everything will break loose; but so long as they are both in office there is no way to get rid of Mueller.

So the second worst-case scenario is Kavanaugh gets confirmed, and then Trump goes nuclear on the Special Counsel. I think that would lead to impeachment, but it would be ugly. (The worst case is of course that Trump actually goes nuclear on something.) Then of course there’s the whole set of issues around whether Pence is implicated too…

Enough. Here’s a bit of comic sort of relief.

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19 Responses to Waiting

  1. Paul Contreras says:

    Add this to the other Great Again movie titles:

    ***** – No Country for Orange Men.

    ***** – Mueller’s Crossing.

    ***** – The Big Dotardski

    *** – Dumb Fellas

    **1/2 – True Twit.

  2. Vic says:

    There will be no impeachment. Ever. Nobody in Congress actually has the political courage, no matter how outraged they pretend to be.

    Rule 1 of politics, I’ll say it again: A politician’s job is to GET elected, then STAY elected. Everything else is a distant second. If they appear to be helping constituents, it’s coincidence. They are in it for themselves. Where else can a person become a multimillionaire with full government bennies with so little actual effort needed?

    You really need to start thinking about this as the fact that it is, it’ll help you understand a lot of these situations a lot better than you do.

    Impeachment gets tossed around a lot, and while it is technically something that occurs in Congress, there is also the willingness of the American People that MUST be a part of it. the People must approve for it to be legitimate. And by “approve,” I mean a higher standard than agreeing that there is an argument to be made for both sides. Trump, more than any President in recent history is absolutely hated by some and is daily accused of things that even Hitler and Stalin never considered normal behavior. You know this. (And lest you invoke Godwin’s Law, note that Trump is called and compared to both of these men on a weekly if not daily rate.)

    So for the moment, forget about whether they are actually true accusations. Doesn’t matter for this argument, really. The IMPORTANT fact is that huge swaths of the American People DON’T see these accusations as even arguably true and agree, coincidentally, with Trump that it is all an over the top witch hunt meant solely to paint him in a bad light and (in dreams) lead to impeachment. This is FAR worse than how either Clinton or Bush were treated. I’d say even Nixon. (Everyone agreed that Clinton did what he did, he admitted it in the end, the argument was whether it mattered.) Polls vary on this, but not an insignificant number of the American People see nothing but pointless rage without any valid purpose aimed at Trump every day. And despite it being seemingly mind-blowing to some, some Trump supporters really don’t care that much about what he says to get everyone all worked up because with his other hand he is doing what they elected him to do, in their opinion. Some of the most over-the-top Trumprage is simply funny to a lot of people.

    So while the Congress can all get together and impeach, given the right “high crimes and misdemeanors” circumstances. How the American People react to all this is definitely on the mind of the politicians (see Rule 1). With the over-the-top anger and vitriol that the media, loudmouthed celebs, Dems and even Republicans exhibit daily, for reasons usually seen as illegitimate or even made up by Trump’s supporters, there is very little chance that a significant number of the American People will see a Trump Impeachment as legitimate. Not after the last year and a half. With Clinton, there were reasonable arguments to be made, no matter which side one took in it. Maybe it was a Ken Starr witch hunt, maybe it was a personal matter between him and Hillary, maybe it had nothing to do with his job as President, or maybe, regardless, he should not have done what he did with Lewinsky. Maybe, maybe, maybe. People chose sides, but they still understood that there were two sides to it. There was no where near the polarization there is now.

    What politician is going to be willing to call for and vote for impeachment, much less conviction, knowing that a significant number of the American People will NEVER view it as legitimate? Only ones in the most secure enclaves, because there will be a backlash at the polls that surpasses anything you’ve ever seen. This isn’t just some academic political question. REAL politicians are going to have to tell a significant number of the American People that what they want doesn’t matter one bit to them and that the election is going to be overturned as an aberration. True or not, that’s how it will be seen, and any politician knows this. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.

    And this doesn’t even address the fact that it raises a whole other set of questions about the Vice President that would replace him by default. Depending on WHY one impeaches the President, does that necessarily include the Vice President? It would HAVE to under some of the more extreme claims being thrown about. I’d say that if Trump is impeached for a good many of the claims being made against him, that Pence is a necessary next defendant.

    So after you impeach the VP, then what? The Speaker becomes President. Assuming it is a Dem, since it would pretty much have to be for any of the forgoing to have happened, do you REALLY think the American People, as a majority, are going to see any of this as legitimate? As not-a-coup? Then, let’s go crazy, the Speaker appoints Hillary (or Bernie) as VP, then resigns, “to put things right.” What do you figure happens then? Do you impeach Gorsuch, since he’s only there because of Trump and GOP shenanigans? There really is a whole cascade that must happen if what is being said is true. More than one of these loudmouths has referred to the Trump Presidency as a coup. It would be reasonable, if true, to un-coup everything.

    I don’t think the people in Washington that get in front of a mic every day and use the word impeachment have any real desire for the necessary consequences of it. Rule 1 will always prevail, just as it always has.

    • Michael says:

      I think this is very static thinking. There are two variables in the dynamic version. The first is the election: this Congress won’t impeach. A good shakeout from an election could change things in two ways: first, put in a Democratic majority, and second worry the remaining Republicans that perhaps tying themselves too tightly to Trump might be costly. I’m not looking for enlightenment, but at some point self-interest can kick in.

      Which brings me to the second point: there won’t be an impeachment until there’s a bright shiny object that the Washington consensus decides merits it. That could be the Mueller report. It could be a reprise of the Saturday night massacre. It could be defiance of a Supreme Court approved order (although the odds that the Court would issue one shrink dramatically if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed). Things can be immovable then change quickly. That’s more or less how it played out in Watergate. There was very strong Republican resistance right until very near the end.

      • Vic says:

        Well, my assumption IS that impeachment, should it occur, must necessarily be preceded by a change of Congress to a Dem majority. I just don’t see it any other way. The never Trumpers abound, but they all (along with the Dems) live by Rule 1. They KNOW Trump is (mysteriously to them) supported by enough Americans to be trouble if they go too far. It will HAVE to be a majority Dem Congress (and by majority, a comfortable majority), or it won’t happen. It will have to be a sure enough victory to get past Rule 1.

        You might think Rule 1 is static thinking, but a whole lot of things start to make sense once you internalize it. So called hypocrisy, by anyone, stops appearing as such and usually makes sense under Rule 1. It wipes away a lot of the confusion. But you have to be willing to stop thinking that politicians are somehow serving a higher purpose – and that’s hard for a lot of people. I find especially in fellow lawyers who already have trouble understanding that they don’t actually serve Justice, rather than just a bunch of made up rules.

        As to the second point, that just illustrates that you don’t understand why there is Trump. Do you honestly think that Trump’s supporters CARE about the Mueller report? Or even about some SCOTUS order directing the President to NOT do something his supporters want done? Do you think they DON’T want Trump to fire a list of about 500 people in Washington immediately and remove security clearances of any and all who don’t absolutely need them NOW?

        There is almost no conceivable event that could make the ardent Trump supported turn on him. If you don’t understand that, and a lot of people don’t, then you don’t understand his supporters one bit. His supporters spent the weekend LAUGHING at Brennan’s losing his clearance and the pre-programmed media freak-out over it. It was funny, expected, and took too long. There was no thinking that it was going a little to far, or muzzling him, or even just that it shouldn’t be done. To Trump supporters, that little Communist never should have HAD a security clearance and been put in a position where he was even on the same block as America’s secrets. If that sounds shocking to you, or a bit hyperbolic, then you just don’t understand and you should accept that. Trump’s supporters will NEVER accept some legal mumbo jumbo like “obstruction of justice” for doing what is Constitutionally Trump’s Article II powers (firing Comey, etc.), even if the legal argument can be made by the greatest legal minds in the country. It will just be seen as the Swamp fighting to save itself. the only legitimacy comes from the People, not legal arguments in Washington.

        The hardest thing about being a lawyer is that they are trained from a early age to think that they are smarter than most others, and therefore try to employ legal logic to situations that don’t involve any, and never did. Embrace Rule 1, start applying it for yourself. You’ll be happier and understand things better.

  3. Just me says:

    Vic’s analysis, although a bit melodramatic, rings true to me.

    Let me share something I witnessed in court the other day. I was early and waiting on a special set outside the courtroom. A jury in another case was waiting to be called back in. One of the jurors, a mild mannered white guy in his late 30s dressed like he was waiting to go straight back to the construction site, said something telling: “I have a real problem with Trump’s morality, but he’s doing great things for the country and so I support him.”

    In other words, this guy, and much of Trump’s base, does not care if Trump’s a lying crook. They have a vision of what they’d like to see American be, and have decided that the end justifies the means.

    Trump’s very election shows that the traditional rules of politics that most people thought applied are gone.

    Not only do I believe that a Trump impeachment (including conviction and removal) has a de minimis chance of occurring, I suspect that the more that we move towards impeachment, the more powerful that Trump will become. His base, which is far bigger than I ever expected, is single minded in outcome driven politics. They see Trump as their only vehicle to the outcome. And they are not concerned with notions of “good government” or morality anymore – just results. Any on Trump will be seen as an attack on the end that they are seeking and will not be seem as a moral position based on unacceptable means.

    They don’t trust/believe anyone who claims that they are acting out of a sense of morality or good government. Much of Trump’s base has traditionally believed that they are the “moral majority.” To tell them now that you disagree with them based on morality is too offensive to the core of their being for them to accept. They conclude, therefore, that you are dishonestly shaping the truth for your own political games and that, at best, you and they are part of the same hypocrisy, and you just play for the other team.

    The merits and morality do not impact Trump supporters – only the outcomes.

    • Vic says:

      I agree, but I would further clarify, it’s not that his supporters don’t care if he’s a lying crook, it’s that they see most of the case that he IS one as being at least partly, if not mostly, made up, by other lying crooks.

      Example: The Access Hollywood tape. This still comes up today as a prime example (to many) of Trump demonstrating his mysogeny and rapey tendencies. OK fair enough – IF WE KNEW NOTHING ELSE.

      But the fact is that shortly AFTER this tape sent everyone into a tizzy, we learned that what Trump was saying was TYPICAL in the media industry. It was everywhere. Look at all of the huge players in media that have been brought down by doing vile things to women. Even some of the #MeToo accusers have now been accused of being a part of that vileness (Ms. Argento being the latest). It turns out that if you listen to the AH tape again, it sounds MORE like Trump was simply describing what even to HIM was surprising. And that media contains some of the worst representations of proper behavior toward women in existence, all prolonged by the media’s business interests.

      So every time some 20 year old in a pink hat starts screaming about Trump thinking this or that about women, or worse, DOING this or that, it just rings as false rage.

      Note that it DOES not mean that the Trump supporter doesn’t care about women, or thinks it’s OK to do or say these things (which is the blood libel heaped upon them right along with Trump by the pink hat crowd), but that the accusation is completely diminished. All these torpedoes are being placed in the water on a daily basis, and they all circle back and hit those who put them there. After a while, you just don’t CARE what the latest outrage is because you know that whatever it is, probably doesn’t mean anything more than the AH tape.

      A court story of my own: Got called for jury duty in Broward. (you’d think being a lawyer would get you out of it simply for being someone who will understand the inevitable shenanigans being played out by both sides, but no…)

      At the very beginning, they make you watch this orientation type video, made by the Court system to educate jurors as to why they are needed. The video actually gives the impression, if it doesn’t outright say, that the jurors duty is to create fairness in the system. That you will be confronted with a situation, and you will need to determine what is “fair.” I kid you not.

      I was shocked, to say the least, as this is DECIDEDLY not the duty of a jury and may, in fact, be the actual cause for juries misapplying their duty to a case. I thought about saying something to the judge, as it would surprise me if he had ever seen it, but I figured that could be more trouble than it is worth if he saw it that way as well.

      So just know: If you try a case in Broward, the jury has been instructed that they get to decide what is “fair.” Act accordingly.

      • I’m sorry but I remember Nixon. His support was very solid … until suddenly it wasn’t.

        I totally agree that a lot of Trumpian theater plays to his base.

        And I agree there are a lot of people who tell pollsters, reporters, and for all I know themselves and each other, that whatever he did, they don’t care, it’s one thing for them to speculate, and other thing to see the smoking gun. Especially if it’s Russians (or Ukrainians). The only thing I see that gives me pause is the question of whether they’ll get to see it: the Talk radio/Fox-bubble is strong. That’s the one difference from Nixon that I think might matter. Access Hollywood didn’t change much because people already knew he was a boor. But genuine proof of bought and paid for? Of being a stooge? That’s not “strong”.

        (As for the jury – criminal or civil? For a civil jury, ‘fair’ is not that far from ‘reasonable’, and even closer in a world of comparative fault. For criminal, I agree, it makes no sense.)

        At the end of the day, all you need is a quarter of the GOP to turn on him. I don’t think that’s impossible with the right Mueller report.

        (Whether we’re better off if they don’t reach Pence too, I have no idea.)

        • Vic says:

          And I remember that as well (re: Nixon), but like the case of Clinton, there were no reasonable arguments that it was all made up. Clinton admitted doing what he did, and was impeached for part of it. Nixon, at the time, all but admitted that he did it and those who were tried and jailed certainly did. Nobody was standing around in the light of day saying Nixon’s problems were all a witch hunt. there was a question, if anything, with both men, as to whether the doings rose to the level of impeachable offence (more so with Clinton), but it was all open and apparent in the end. After all this time with nothing really coming out that isn’t arguably a so-what, I seriously doubt that Mueller has any smoking gun at all besides some process crime that he MIGHT be able to make happen. (And I am of the opinion that process crimes should only ever be prosecuted as part of a real trial for real crimes, never of themselves.)

          I really don’t think there is some bubble that is hiding great crimes committed by the President. FOX reports the things he says just like CBS does. the differences is mainly that FOX doesn’t put on a bunch of experts to explain how it means he’s clinically insane, or wants to re-institute slavery. (Both claims have been made on mainstream news media programs)

          I really think that some people have simply been unable to see that his supporters are not oblivious to what he says and does at all, but that they are MORE shocked and dismayed by how things are run in DC.

          And it is certainly possible that a quarter of the GOP could turn on him. A significant percentage (probably more than a quarter) dislike him intensely NOW. However, go back to my original, they won’t impeach him in the face of overwhelming threat from his supporters because of Rule 1. They are not idiots. (Well, Rubio is, but that’s HIS problem.)

          I suspect pence would be HATED worse than Trump, but would be even harder to drum up some crime on. So Trump won’t be impeached as well, unless it also takes out Pence. remember, the goal isn’t some magic Justice with a capital J, it is overturning the election. Nothing short of that as a sure thing will work.

  4. remember, the goal isn’t some magic Justice with a capital J, it is overturning the election

    If that’s the frame, you’re right. But I think the reality (and thus one hopes the frame) will be “taking the country back from the Russians” or, indeed, the votes likely won’t be there.

    • Vic says:

      I think that would be a poor choice of frames. There are just too many people who know that the Russia thing is silly. Of course Russia may have done various things to screw around with the U.S. Election. The first question is did any of it really affect anything? The second is why is Trump to blame? Both of these questions must be answered for the Russia thing to matter to significant numbers of the people.

      And you have to keep in mind that a lot of folks, probably most conservative and in Trump’s base, but really everywhere, are aware that the US does this all the time. Does nobody remember us bragging about messing with the Israeli election, or is that down the memory hole because…Trump?

      Look, this is what big countries with big intelligence services do. We do it, the Brits do it, china does it, and I’m sure the Russians do it. That’s neither news to anyone paying attention, nor something to be all that concerned about. And it certainly is not likely to have been a brilliant idea made up by someone in Trump’s campaign, maybe the candidate himself, to win (which is the thing that will need to happen).

      I go back to my original statement that to impeach you will HAVE to have it be seen as legitimate, and claiming that Trump came up with the idea that Russia’s intelligence service might try to place disinformation in the US is just silly. Especially since we do this all the time all over the world.

      But take heart, Lanny Davis was just on TV talking about his client Cohen and stated that his client know that Trump committed a crime in paying money to hush someone and that the fact that Cohen is a lawyer means that this statement is dispositive of this as a fact, needing no evidence. He was very clear on that point. When a lawyer, he says, says something in court about a client, it’s absolutely true and indisputable. He went over that multiple times when the TV hosts were dubious that it worked that way. Seriously. He said this. So since Davis is a much higher paid lawyer that me, so must know how courts and evidence work, you can now take heart that Trump will be in jail by October.

      • Just me says:

        I have no particular desire for Trump to go to prison. And, in fact, would probably rather he doesn’t go to prison (not sure that the ripples from that would be worth the perceived benefit). I do think, though, that he is not fit to be president. That, by itself, is not enough for impeachment. So, I sit back and argue with my friends and try to convince them to vote Dem in 2018 (checks and balances), and to vote for ANYONE other than Trump (Dem, Rep, or other) in 2020.

        I have said this before and will say it again, the US is a country defined by ideas. If a government comes to power and subverts those ideas, that is no less an existential threat to the country than a bloodless Chinese coup. While Trump’s presidency has not risen to that level, he seems to have a shocking disdain for the existential american ideals (all men are created equal, freedom of speech, the right to due process, etc.).

        Also, his bluster, disregard for the truth, and non-stop shit talking doesn’t represent me well. The president is equal parts prime minister (head of government) and queen (figurehead). The figurehead role requires that the the president put his best foot forward and represent the country well. Trump is incapable of accomplishing that. He is probably the worst figurehead president in living memory. (W. probably being a VERY distant second)

        • Vic says:

          You are not entirely wrong – given a normal situation where everybody else WAS behaving properly. Trump is no where NEAR the only bull in the china shop right now. And to understand how Trump supporters see the situation is to have an entirely different view of things, even IF you still don’t agree with it all. That’s all I’m saying.

          For example: Manafort. He was essentially found guilty of making a ton of money overseas while “consulting” overseas, then keeping that fact from the IRS so that he didn’t have to pay US taxes on money that was neither earned, nor kept in the US. (And then some made up conspiracy charge to do the same.)

          That’s how they got him and it is a LEGAL truth. However, there are a lot of Americans, many of whom support Trump who see this as an example of government overreach (asking for taxes on money that has nothing to do with the US) and who, if THEY earned millions overseas would just as soon try to keep it from the IRS as well. It is, in a real sense, a victimless crime that many, maybe most, Americans just don’t care about and don’t think even SHOULD be a crime. For the Trump supporter, this is just another example of the power of Government being used to go after someone that is disliked by the right people. (If you think the Clinton Foundation, for example, isn’t a hotbed of financial impropriety, you’re living in a cave – but nobody investigating Manifort seems interested in that). So the Trump supporter sees an entirely different situation and WILL see any connection to Trump that may rise out of this as either not a real crime (as foreign tax evasion crimes are viewed by non-lawyers), or entirely ginned up in a state of bias.

          Add to that Cohen: He pled guilty to “crimes” that are not crimes. It is not illegal, and both Courts and the FEC have said so on multiple occasions, to pay money to hush up a personal matter, from personal funds (not directly from campaign coffers). Anybody remember John Edwards? In kind contributions have to be directly related to the campaign, not some tangential thing that may or may not have had any measurable effect. If you doubt that Courts and the FEC have this correct, you might consider the in kind contribution the media has been making for a couple of years now, because whether their intention was to hurt Trump, help Hillary, whatever, it is the same thing. You also can’t say whether Trump’s intention, if he did it, was to help his election chances, or not harm his reputation, or not hurt his family, or whatever else. And that matters because it’s not a campaign issue at all for those other reasons, even if it DID affect his campaign.

          And now you’ve got Laney Davis, who is NOT a trial lawyer and probably knows nothing useful about any of it, all over TV claiming that since Cohen has pled guilty to non crimes, and says that Trump, his former client was involved, that Trump is therefor indisputably guilty as well AND that no evidence even need be shown since a lawyer is always to be believed when it comes to his client(!!!!). I guess we might as well close the criminal courts now.

          Meanwhile, there are ADMITTED crimes involving national security that garner ZERO interest from the media because they involve Democrats (were there foreign spies in Feinstein’s office and the DNC? Which foreign power hacked Hillary’s server (admitted now) and what might they have found when they did? If only there was some sort of US intelligence service that could investigate these things, and maybe some people with media access to demand they did…if only.)

          The Trump supporter doesn’t CARE that he is a bull in a china shop, and with all the other bulls around bashing things, sees no reason to start caring. Regular people can relate to him. They talk shit, so they see no reason to hold him accountable for talking shit when he needs to. And it’s the opinion of the kind of folks that gave us Jeb! that think he doesn’t represent the country well, lots of conservatives are perfectly fine with him calling out foreign nations that do things like expect the American People to pay for the defense of a country that buys it’s energy from the country it wants to protection from. People who are not Ivy League elitists who think some things “just aren’t done,” see this as a perfectly reasonable call out.

          I just go back to my original point, you have to start understanding Trump from his supporter’s point of view, or you will never understand what’s going on. He STILL, in the middle of his supposedly failing and soon-ending presidency, can pull in rally numbers higher than Hillary managed during the campaign. You can’t just dismiss these people.

          And if you apply Rule 1, you’ll see why the Congress won’t, and why they won’t impeach.

          • Leaving aside all the things I disagree with in this, there is one thing I straight-up don’t follow. You say,

            Add to that Cohen: He pled guilty to “crimes” that are not crimes. It is not illegal, and both Courts and the FEC have said so on multiple occasions, to pay money to hush up a personal matter, from personal funds (not directly from campaign coffers). Anybody remember John Edwards? In kind contributions have to be directly related to the campaign, not some tangential thing that may or may not have had any measurable effect. If you doubt that Courts and the FEC have this correct, you might consider the in kind contribution the media has been making for a couple of years now, because whether their intention was to hurt Trump, help Hillary, whatever, it is the same thing. You also can’t say whether Trump’s intention, if he did it, was to help his election chances, or not harm his reputation, or not hurt his family, or whatever else. And that matters because it’s not a campaign issue at all for those other reasons, even if it DID affect his campaign.

            This seems just plain wrong on the law, and very very probably wrong on the facts. First, there is an obvious distinction between spending at the direction of the campaign or candidate and independent expenditures. So the “media” stuff you refer to obviously different from what Cohen says he did at Trump’s direction. Second, even if it is true that some expenditures at the candidates direction which are not substantially designed to influence the election are not illegal, in this case it is very easy to understand why these expenditures, especially structured as they were with ‘catch and kill’ were primarily designed to influence the campaign. I’d bet that’s how they spoke of it. Even if they didn’t that is what it looks like, and we infer intentions from extrinsic factors all the time. I am having trouble even seeing the argument that these payments were primarily about something else given the method and timing of the negotiations (and of the delay in payment).

            • Vic says:

              It is not illegal to use your own or campaign money to pay off a person in a situation like this even if it helps your campaign. It’s simply not a crime.

              It is also not illegal to direct another person, your lawyer, to do that on your behalf, assuming the funds are reimbursed by you, or your business, or the campaign, etc.

              And ALL of this is with the presumption that it will help the campaign (though obviously in this case that’s not the only reason Trump would do this). It is simply not a crime, on its own, to try to influence your own election. The reason for this should be patently obvious.

              Where it becomes a crime is if Cohen, on his own, decided to “help” Trump by paying off these women, as his limit is $5200. But it’s not a crime for Trump, it’s a crime for Cohen. And you cannot become an “unindicted co-conspirator” with a criminal if what you did was entirely legal.

              So this is a sort of catch 22 that the prosecutor in in. If Cohen did it at Trump’s behest, it’s not a crime. If Cohen did it on his own, it’s not a crime (for Trump).

              And of course if it didn’t directly involve campaign funds, then it’s absolutely not a crime for Trump.

              the only thing that MIGHT come out of this is some sort of reporting error (what you did was legal, but not reporting it to our standards was not.) And nobody cares about that stuff. It’s certainly not an impeachable offence in any way, or Obama would have been, along with probably every recent President. Frankly, I’d be surprised if everyone who runs for office manages to avoid running afoul of the byzantine election finance laws. Not an excuse, just a statement that there is a big difference between the severity of the accusations being tossed around, and what probably happened, if at all.

          • And also, I think this confuses Trump’s liability with Cohen’s. John Edwards somehow managed to persuade the trier that his payment to his mistress (or really the donations that covered it) was to protect his dying wife’s feelings. Maybe somehow Trump could make a similar claim.

            But Cohen cannot. His intent wasn’t to protect his wife, and he made an illegal campaign contribution and that makes it an intentional violation of campaign laws

            • Vic says:

              Well the important point for Edwards was the question of the intent of the donations. Bunny Mellon and the other person said that their donations were intended as personal gifts to help Edwards’ personal situation. As a personal gift, this makes it his money and therefor it was legal for him to spend it to do what it did even if it helped his campaign Money is fungible.

              Trump does need anyone donating large amounts “as gifts” to be able to point to the zillions of dollars he put into his own campaign.

  5. I think this is wrong:

    It is also not illegal to direct another person, your lawyer, to do that on your behalf, assuming the funds are reimbursed by you, or your business, or the campaign, etc.

    I think it is clearly wrong if the money is reimbursed by anyone or anything other than the candidate – that would have be a campaign contribution by the person or entity and be under the legal limits (and disclosed). I think it’s also wrong if reimbursed by the candidate unless disclosed to the FEC; I think it’s also wrong if there’s a long ‘float’ as there was here between payment and reimbursement.

    As it turns out Trump didn’t reimburse the money himself:

    The obscure shell company Mr. Cohen used to pay her, Essential Consultants L.L.C., has since been disclosed. But then it remained secret, even after a Wall Street Journal article about Ms. McDougal’s deal with A.M.I., published days ahead of the campaign, noted that Ms. Clifford had spoken to the news media about selling her story but then disappeared.

    It wasn’t until January 2017 that Mr. Cohen initiated the process of being repaid, presenting executives at the Trump Organization with records showing Essential Consultants’ payment to Ms. Clifford.

    According to prosecutors, executives at the company signed off on paying Mr. Cohen $420,000, which included a $60,000 bonus, money to cover any taxes on the payment to Mr. Cohen and a reimbursement for undefined “tech services.” As prosecutors noted, Mr. Cohen would be paid in $35,000 installments. Mr. Cohen submitted invoices that falsely identified the payments as part of a “retainer agreement.”

    So not only did they obscure the money source in a way that hid it from FEC disclosure, they also exceeded the donation limit, because the money came from a Trump company, not Trump.

    • Just me says:

      I think Michael is right on the law here, but Vic is right on the practical political consequence. The run of the mill voter, and especially the Trump voter, is not going to appreciate the difference between “Trump” and a “Trump company.” Trump will talk about witch hunts and political motivation, and voters (even some of his opponents) will agree. This will turn Clinton-esque (“who cares if he lied under oath, it was a blow job, for heaven’s sake”), Trump will come out stronger on the other side of it, and any Dem in a purple district will not go along with impeachment.

    • Vic says:

      Well I think I am correct on this, at least as a practical matter. Even if some aspect of this is a crime, it will not be pursued as one. Past instances, like Obama’s violations have been treated as a fine, ignored (Hillary’s), or led to acquittals. This are, essentially, another form of process crime not impeachable offended, unless I slept through Obama’s big impeachment trial, and Hillary is decked out in her orange jumpsuit somewhere awaiting her trial. Trump’s supporters will see it for what it is and it will carry no water for them. It will certainly not bring any of them to their senses you feel they lack.

      There is an interesting question in all this though. Cohen was Trump’s lawyer. Did he ever advise Trump that something he wanted to do was illegal? Did he tell him it was legal? Did he tell him it was illegal, but Trump insisted that he do it anyway? Why didCohen record Trump? Lots of very questionable behavior from Cohen as a Lawyer. How much would all of this serve to remove any ability to prove intent on Trump’s part. All of this will matter if it ever gets raised officially.

      And how believable is Cohen as a witness? He is mostly just a product of the corrupt Federal plea circuis, and nobody with any sense would believe much that he has to say that’s not also backed up by real and conclusive evidence. Him just saying so means less than nothing.

      While I still think this wasn’t obviously illegal with what we know and most likely fully legal, you need to remember that without clear cut illegality, a very significant number of the American people are going to view this as a soft coup, not the righting of some wrong. This is ALL an attempt to undo an election, not gain some illusory justice. It is seen this way precisely because of all the over the top bahavior we’ve seen since the Person Who Could Not Lose, did just that.

      You cannot impeach without both a real crime, and the support of those with the power to upset things again. Rule 1 always holds. You’ll see.

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