The End Is Nigh
Yes, like a recurring bout of nausea, it feels like we’ve been here before. But this time circumstances make it slightly different than before. With increasing frequency ever since Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, Trump has seemingly become more and more enraged and more determined to derail the investigation either by taking control of it by firing Sessions and/or Rosenstein or firing Mueller directly. At the same time, his attempts to illegally influence and obstruct the investigation have also intensified.
With the double-whammy convictions and admission of guilt from Manafort and Cohen, the law is closing in on Trump on all sides. Having been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a felonious attempt to subvert the election by paying hush many to at least two of his mistresses, Trump has now opened himself and the Trump Organization to tax and fraud investigations by the state of New York and potentially other state jurisdictions as well. What other criminal activity those investigations may reveal is unknown but you’d have to rate the chances of that occurring are pretty high based on way Trump ran his company. That became more likely today with the news that the longtime Trump Organization CFO, Allen Weisselberg, has also been granted some kind of immunity in the Cohen probe.
Remarkably, Trump seems less concerned about the danger from Cohen than he does from Paul Manafort, who has moved from someone who worked for Trump for “just a short period of time” to a “brave man” who has “refused to break”. As Maddow pointed out last night, Mueller has farmed out a lot of potential prosecutions he has uncovered to other jurisdictions, such as the Cohen matter, but has maintained control of the two cases against Manafort. This seems to indicate that Manafort knows all when it comes to the Russian collusion. Certainly, Mueller has already produced plenty of evidence of that collusion, from the Trump Tower meeting to Flynn’s talks with the Russians regarding the lifting of sanctions. And now Cohen is indicating that he has knowledge that Trump had foreknowledge of at least some aspects of the Russian attack on our election, although his lawyer, Lanny Davis, is walking that back somewhat today.
Why Trump seems more concerned about Manafort rather than the exposure of financial crimes by Trump, his family, and his business seems to clearly revolve around the absolute proof of collusion that Manafort probably could provide. And I’m guessing Trump believes his base can hold with just the exposure of campaign finance violations and tax evasion and that Cohen does not have the full picture of the Russian collusion. A Trumpster caller on WNYC dismissed both the Cohen and Manafort prosecutions as part of a soft coup by the deep state, saying those cases never would have been brought unless they had wanted to squeeze those two in order to get Trump. Apparently, this caller believes that massive tax evasion is not worthy of really being prosecuted. And I’m sure there are plenty of Trump supporters who feel the same way, having been brainwashed by Republican propaganda outfits into believing that everyone does it and everyone is equally corrupt.
Whatever the case, Trump’s focus is on Manafort. He is already seriously considering pardoning Manafort but apparently has so far been persuaded by Giuliani not to do that before the election. While pardoning Manafort will eliminate his right of self-incrimination, it seems probable that he will take the Susan McDougal route and risk a contempt of court sentence rather than give up not only Trump but the Russian oligarchs he’s in hock to.
Trump is similarly targeting Jeff Sessions so he can shut down the Mueller investigation entirely and rid himself of the Russian investigation entirely. On that score, he seems to have support from important Republican leaders in the Senate, specifically Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley. Graham stated that Trump deserves an Attorney General he can trust and Grassley indicated he would be willing to hold hearing for whomever Trump chooses to nominate. Again, however, the firing of Sessions would wait until after the election.
So the path for Trump is clear now. After the election, he can fire Sessions and probably Rosenstein as well, clearing the way for him to neuter the Mueller investigation. At the same time, he will pardon Manafort and, for all we know, Cohen as well, considering he doesn’t consider what Cohen did as crimes. Meanwhile, Mueller’s investigation will have to go dark in another week or two in order to avoid “influencing” the election. Yes, the second Manafort trial will go forward. But unless there are some startling revelations from that trial, which certainly is entirely possible, there will be nothing coming from Mueller until after the election. That will allow Trump to state that Mueller has uncovered “no collusion” when he takes the ultimate steps to protect his presidency.
Every election is the “most important election of our lifetime”. This time, it seems like it could actually be true. If the Republicans hold the House and the Senate, there will be no restraint on Trump. The Mueller probe will be cut short, unresolved. Trump will be a multiply unindicted felony co-conspirator in both state and federal cases, but only because he can’t be indicted, a point of law that will be backed up by his two appointments to the Supreme Court. And, as Krugman points out today, Social Security, Medicare, and the ACA, which I’m convinced the GOP will take a run at whether they win the election or not, will all be under threat. And that’s not even mentioning the damage to our environment, the continued self-dealing and corruption, and attacks on other institutions that might restrain Trump.
Perhaps this will pass like other Trump-inspired attacks of nausea. But it really does feel like we are closing in on the endgame.
Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on August 24, 2018.