Today has certainly been an incriminating day in the United States Government. Two of the president's top men Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort have been found guilty of crimes that directly could tie back to the Trump Administration.
First of all, Let's look at the Manafort verdict. Manafort was convicted of 8 of the 18 charges brought against him. Charges of Tax fraud, hiding international bank accounts, and bank fraud. The other ten charges were considered a mistrial. Manafort is expected back in a DC area court for more possible convictions later. Here is a breakdown of the counts he was found guilty on.
Count 1: Tax Fraud — Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2010 (3 year maximum sentence)
Count 2: Tax Fraud — Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2011 (3 year max sentence)
Count 3: Tax Fraud - Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2012 (3 year maximum sentence)
Count 4: Tax Fraud — Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2013 (3 year maximum sentence)
Count 5: Tax Fraud — Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2014 (3 year maximum sentence)
Count 12: Hiding Foreign Bank Accounts — Failure to File Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts in 2012 (5 year maximum sentence)
Count 25: Bank Fraud — $3.4 million Citizens Bank loan (30 year maximum sentence)
Count 27: Bank Fraud — $1 million Bank of California loan (30 year maximum sentence)
Michael Cohen pleaded guilty today on eight counts of tax evasion, lying to a financial institution, and campaign finance violations. Cohen said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public. This means Cohen has admitted to paying off Stormy Daniels at the advice of Trump. So long story short, Trump has been implicated.
Other news today also has involved Mollie Tibbets a missing Iowa college student who went missing. It has now been known her body was found in a cornfield and a 24-year-old illegal immigrant has been arrested in connection to the case.
Whether you want to admit it or not, this has been a wild news day. What do you think is going to be next in the Robert Mueller investigation? How much longer do you think it will be until we see another Watergate or Teapot Dome style hearing?
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It was a wild news day, though what the last one has to do with the first two escapes me. If anything, the last strengthens the President's position. Not in the sense that on either side the most extreme partisans will be persuaded. For GOP activists and funders, this is evidence of what President Trump has been saying. For Democrat activists and funders, this is simply a statistic that does not change the fact that most immigrants are honest - leaving aside that they broke immigration laws.
However, for the middle, and for those Republicans and Democrats who are voters but are not the most partisan, what had once seemed an abstraction and a distant argument has just been given very explicit and concrete form - right in middle America. It is hard to imagine a case more likely to tip the scales of the debate.
As to the Manafort case, it only really impacts the President insofar as it confirms the obvious - that the President associates with not especially savory characters. That said, everything Manafort was convicted of well pre-dates his association with Mr. Trump and so probably makes very little practical difference.
Mr. Manafort's next trial - involving his failure to register as a foreign agent - may have more bearing. Even that, however, does not seem likely. Stay tuned.
The Cohen case is a horse of a different color insofar as it suggests the President may have engaged in illegal campaign activities. Even here, though, the effect may be less than it seems.
As a general rule, campaign violations are penalized by fines. They hardly reach the level of Constitutional "high crimes and misdemeanors." In that connection, convictions in such cases are extremely hard to come by. See also Senator John Edwards who was charged with exactly what the President could be indicted for - and was exonerated despite more evidence than exists so far against Trump.
The irony is that - unsavory figures, petty corruption, sex scandals - Mr. Trump resembles no one so much as the husband of the woman he defeated. We had a referendum in the 1990s on such things - in the form of an impeachment of President Bill Clinton - and unsavory figures, petty corruption and sex scandals won.
The Democrats would, in that sense, be hard pressed to bring an impeachment. At least with a straight face.
While I am no fan of Mr. Trump, the way to defeat him is not to bypass the hard work of making cogent arguments against him. In that connection, impeachment will not get you there.