Wednesday, August 22, 2018

All the President's Witches

Boy, for a witch hunt, Bob Mueller seems to be finding an awful lot of witches. The latest two to join the ranks of the defrocked are Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. In a Northern Virginia court room Tuesday, a jury found Manafort guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. That same day and two hundred miles to the north in New York's Southern District, Cohen pleaded guilty in front of a judge to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution and two counts of campaign finance violation. Both men are facing considerable prison sentences.

To date there have been a total of seven convictions and twenty-nine indictments in this "witch hunt," and by all accounts, Mueller isn't done. There's still Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, both of whom attended that meeting at Trump Tower and, thanks to dear old dad, are now clearly implicated in this investigation. Contrary to what Rudy Giuliani keeps insisting, soliciting information on a political opponent from a foreign government IS a crime. Maybe this president can't be indicted, but that protection, I can assure you, does NOT extend to members of his family. And if you think Mueller won't indict both, you haven't been paying very much attention these last fifteen months.

For more than a year there has been this assumption that Trump and his lawyers don't know what Mueller knows. To quote John Brennan, that's hogwash. They know perfectly well what this prosecutor knows. That's why they're choosing to fight him in the court of public opinion, because if they fight him in an actual court, Mueller will clean their clocks.

While there is a very real possibility Trump will pardon Manafort, he probably won't do it until after the midterms. Let's not forget Manafort still has one more trial, this one in a Washington D.C. court. So long as Trump is going to issue a pardon, he might as well kill two birds with one stone. Besides, unless he flips, there's very little risk Manafort poses to Trump, apart from the embarrassment of knowing yet another one of his merry band of witches is a convicted felon. But, let's face it, the only thing Trump cares about is himself. If Manafort were on fire, I doubt he'd bother to throw a bottle of water on him.

The real threat to Trump, though, is Cohen, who probably knows more about his business dealings than anyone alive, with the possible exception of Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization. If we assume Mueller already has Trump's tax returns, both these men have the power to destroy this president, if not legally, than most certainly financially.

Even if his hands are tied by Justice Department regulations, there's nothing barring Mueller from issuing a report so damning to Trump that he and his family would rue the day he ever descended that escalator in Trump Tower. In fact, I can think of only one thing that would force this president from office: the prospect of financial ruin. To people like Trump, being poor is worse than imprisonment.

I think we're way past the seventh inning stretch. Indeed, to borrow a football term, we're in the two minute warning. Fasten your seat belts, kids, because it's going to get real bumpy from here on in.

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