TrumpLand Circa August 21, 2018
Dan Balz wrote After two convictions, pressure mounts on Trump for the Washington Post on August 21. Dan—I’ve had the pleasure of his company, briefly, a couple of times—knows President-stuff as well as anyone today, and he writes beautifully, too. Best line in the piece? “This was a day when truth overran tweets, when facts overwhelmed bald assertions.” (Recall that almost 72 hours ago Rudy Giuliani treated us to “truth isn’t truth.”)
To update those who don’t know the facts the Paul Manafort jury convicted Mr. Manafort on eight felony counts. The jury hung—no unanimity—on 10 other counts but: (a) presumptive sentences on the eight counts have Mr. Manafort, 69 years old, in prison for a long time; and (b) Mr. Manafort faces another federal court trial in weeks.
On the Michael Cohen front, Mr. Cohen—Donald Trump’s personal attorney and a crooked businessman on his own account—pled guilty to eight serious felony counts. Two, separate in kind from the tax evasion and fraud counts, dealt with campaign finance law violations. On those counts, he referred to acting “at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Candidate for federal office? “Could be anyone,” POTUS might say. “Cohen? I barely know the guy.”*
Dan Balz hits the nail on the head regarding the former NYC Mayor in his column. “Giuliani has been no help to the president,” says Mr. Balz. Hello! I practice law for a living. Not so much, Rudy. Yes, I have never represented a POTUS, but lawyers should stay in the background and, if they come forward, they need to focus on their client’s interests. Whoever they happen to be representing!!!**
Mr. Giuliani has flooded the noise machines with his talk about President Trump providing Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller with an interview. I expect that Mr. Mueller, who chooses not to spend his Sunday mornings spouting off, will pass. There’s surely plenty of evidence without any need to hear from POTUS, with his nonsense about this or that limitation, restriction, or condition. Simply, from Mr. Mueller to Mr. Trump: “The train has left the station.”
Yes or No v. Not So Much
Finally, in a very grand way the “whole Russia thing,” as POTUS likes to refer to is, has gotten framed as Collusion, Yes or No. Not So Much might, in fact, better explain the situation.
Yes or No v. Not So Much gets discussed by Tom Nichols, a Russia scholar who wrote What Jonathan Chait Gets Right About Trump and Russia for Politico on July 10, 2018. He was responding to Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?, written by Jonathan Chait for New York magazine on July 8. (Mr. Chait referred to the Helsinki meeting, which only happened five weeks ago.)
Professor Nichols posits that no smoking guns exist, nor anything like the collusion which has become a marker for the success or failure of Mr. Mueller’s efforts. (He’s the Not So Much guy, while Mr. Chait puts together compelling reading which suggests conscious collusion.)
Professor Nichols says we should focus on something more like an investment in Mr. Trump, decades ago. Ironic it may be, but Russia and the Soviet Union—which fancied itself the counterpoint to capitalism—have been investing in people for a long time. A loan here, a purchase there, and help with this or that. Like the Mob, setting its hooks into someone and waiting for payday.
Did Russia believe the United States of America would ever elect Donald Trump? Who knows. Who cares. Instead, Russia and TRUMP have benefitted one another financially for a long time, as the Trump organization launders dirty money and helps keep the Trump empire afloat. Then, then, along comes a fluky set of circumstances and … Hot Damn, we have Our Man in Washington!
Collusion, Not So Much!
Might there be a smoking gun? Sure. But making something truly untoward a reality requires lots of people, pulling the oars in the same direction. A structured plan, with competent people in place, lots of controls, and lots and lots of luck. Does any of that describe this production we’ve been watching for what seems like several eternities?
Here’s my “the dog never barked” answer to the quest for a smoking gun. No one other than the bad actors and the Special Prosecutors’ personnel knows very much here. However, I’ve been struck for a while by the quiet diligence associated with the prosecutorial effort. No noise. No grandstanding. Nothing but slow and steady. Only one thing, I think, might change the mix: evidence so clear about collusion that Mr. Mueller reaches the conclusion that he must spill now. Not yet, has that happened, which suggests to me that we can expect plenty of bad acts … and no real evidence that Donald Trump and the Russians plotted his path together.
*Mr. Trump on Fox & Friends, after this post first appeared: “He was a lawyer for me, one of many. Didn’t do big deals, did small deals.”
**Anyone: show me a news cycle where Mr. Giuliani helped his client. Make your case and the cocktails are on me.