Some years ago, a lawyer was kicked to death by a moose in the parking lot of the federal courthouse in Anchorage, Alaska. That’s how the story goes, anyway. Local lawyers said, that’s a really bad day in court.
President Trump didn’t have that bad a day in court today, but it wasn’t great. I was on the radio, hosting the Laura Ingraham show, when breaking news came across the wire: the Paul Manafort jury had gone to the judge with a question, saying they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any count. The judge did what judges always do. He told them to keep trying. I was exultant, thinking that a hung jury would deal a serious blow to the Mueller Switch Project. Alas, it was not to be. The jury continued deliberating and, as Paul noted a little while ago, convicted Manafort on eight counts of what essentially amounted to tax evasion.
As Paul said, the Manafort charges had nothing to do with Donald Trump, nothing to do with the 2016 election, and nothing to do with Russian participation in the 2016 election. So Bob Mueller could only have brought the case in order to put pressure on Manafort to come up with some “dirt” on Mueller’s target, President Trump. As far as we know, Manafort has to dirt to give.
Meanwhile, and almost simultaneously, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a series of offenses. Mostly, the counts relate to tax evasion. The only politically significant counts, as I understand it, relate to Cohen’s role in paying off Stephanie Clifford (“Stormy Daniels”) to keep quiet about her sexual encounter with Trump.
It is not illegal to pay someone to remain silent. The theory here is that the money paid to Clifford was an illegal campaign contribution. Since Cohen says he made the payment to Clifford at Trump’s direction, Mueller is trying to ensnare Trump in that “crime.” To my knowledge, there is no legal authority on whether paying a woman to keep her mouth shut constitutes a campaign contribution. It strikes me as a foolish interpretation of the law, and forcing Cohen to plead guilty to the “crime” of paying off Ms. Clifford doesn’t transform it into a crime.
None of this would be happening, of course, but for Bob Mueller’s effort to drive President Trump from office on behalf of his de facto client, the Democratic Party. In a nauseating bit of hypocrisy, Deputy U.S. attorney Robert Khuzami said today that “The essence of what this case is about is justice, and that is an equal playing field for all persons in the eyes of the law….” Equal justice has nothing to do with this prosecution. Michael Cohen was targeted solely because he was Trump’s personal lawyer, and enforcement of campaign finance law is anything but equal. Just ask Dinesh D’Souza.
As we and others have said many times, what is going on in the courts is mostly theater–unless, of course, you are Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen. President Trump can’t be indicted, so legal niceties are not very material. The Mueller Switch Project has three objectives: 1) furnish House Democrats (assuming they take the majority in November) with ammunition to impeach the President; 2) help the Democrats to win the midterm elections; and 3) make President Trump’s re-election less likely in 2020.
Today’s legal developments unquestionably represent a step forward for the Democrats on all three fronts. But in principle, there is no reason why they should change the landscape. Manafort’s conviction has nothing to do with Trump. And no matter how Mueller may try to dress it up with talk about campaign finance–which voters don’t care about, anyway–the Cohen plea simply confirms what we already knew–that Trump tried to keep Stephanie Clifford quiet. That may be a big deal to Melania, I can’t speak for her. But I doubt that it is a big deal to a significant number of voters, and I doubt that tomorrow’s headlines will move the needle on the midterm election.
So, yeah, President Trump had a bad day in court. But it could have been worse. He could have been kicked to death by a moose.