The mood inside the White House is grim. There’s no one to spin what’s going on. Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t even try yesterday, deflecting questions and resorting to old talking points. Republicans in Congress are either distancing themselves from Trump or refusing to address what’s going on.
There is no plan. From the NYTimes:
There remained a pervasive belief, rightly or wrongly, that things have looked this bad before. That was little consolation to advisers who admitted they had no strategy for countering the news … nor was there a plan, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former aides, to put a spin on the conviction of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, on eight counts of financial fraud.
Republican incumbents who are in trouble in the mid-terms are actually being asked not to defend the President:
By urging some candidates to speak out or at least stay silent, Republican leaders who gravely fear losing control of the House risked opening the first significant rift between the Trump White House and the Republican-controlled Capitol.
“The only option,” the Times writes, is for Republicans and other advisors to “follow Trump’s lead.”
How’s that going?
“If you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” Trump told Fox & Friends about Michael Cohen. “And I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.”
Flipping should be illegal.
And about the felony campaign finance violations Cohen pleaded guilty to?
“Almost everybody that runs for office has campaign violations. But what Michael Cohen pled to weren’t even campaign-related. They weren’t crimes,” Trump said, which is untrue. “The contributions didn’t come out of the campaign,” he added, which is true, and which is exactly the problem. They were unreported contributions to his campaign, and they didn’t even come from Trump. They came from Michael Cohen and The National Enquirer guy at the request of Trump.
In fact, according to Forbes, Trump just implicated himself (again).
Paradoxically, that is the precise reason why they are crimes. If the payments had come out of the campaign, they would not have constituted the crime of providing something of value related to the election. The very purpose of the law is to shed light on expenditures made outside the campaign. In trying to defend himself, Trump inadvertently confessed to the crimes.
“I wasn’t charged with anything…I wasn’t charged,” Trump argues, which is true! Because a sitting President cannot be charged. The only recourse is impeachment (that said, if Trump survives this, I do look forward to seeing him stand trial for these crimes in 2020). But Trump can’t be impeached because …
Trump: "I don't know how you can impeach somebody who's done a great job." (via Fox) pic.twitter.com/kkPc0X7iJd— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 23, 2018
Oh. That’s his defense? “You can’t impeach me! Unemployment is low!”
How’s it going with letting the President take the lead?
But you know whose fault this is, right? Jeff Sessions!
Trump hammers Jeff Sessions: "He took the job and then he said, 'I'm going to recuse myself' I said, 'what kind of a man is this?' And by the way, he was on the campaign. The only reason I gave him the job I felt loyalty." (via Fox) pic.twitter.com/r9KvpyX033— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 23, 2018
Jeff Sessions is a bad man (which is true, actually) but Paul Manafort — just convicted of 8 felonies and facing yet another trial — he’s a good man, because he’s loyal. “I have great respect for what he’s done in terms of what he’s going through.”
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” - make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Guilty as hell, yes! But he didn’t rat out the President, so he’s a stand-up guy.
It’s a terrible defense, but with his base, anyway, it’s likely to work. Because what is his base, if not loyal, standing behind the President after the Access Hollywood tape, after Charlottesville, after Helsinki, even as the trade war costs them jobs and tax breaks go to the wealthy at the expense of their health care? They don’t care, because the only thing that matters to them is loyalty to the President, whether or not that loyalty is reciprocated.
It’s worth noting that crimes surrounding the hush money payments are far from over. Again, the Times:
Michael D. Cohen wasn’t the only one.
The court filing in the case of Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s self-described fixer, indicates for the first time that others at Mr. Trump’s company had a role in the financial arrangements used to silence women who claimed that they had affairs with him, after the hush money payments were made.
Two senior Trump Organization executives had involvement in the financial arrangements, according to the 22-page court filing.
I suppose, in a way, that Trump is draining the swamp, by bringing attention to all the crime and corruption surrounding him. The longer he stays in office, the more convictions and plea deals prosecutors will get from his associates.