“I lived through Watergate. I lived through the Saturday Night Massacre, when it looked like the Constitution was being barbecued over an open flame. There never was anything like this.”
This week the investigations into Trump’s wrongdoing seemed to spread through the judicial system. On Tuesday came the news that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, had been convicted on 8 of the 18 charges against him, most for money-laundering and bank fraud. While not a complete victory for Mueller’s prosecution team, it was a significant one and will still send Manafort to prison for much of the rest of his life. What’s more, he still faces another trial in September, one that moves closer to his role with Russia and the campaign.
Within the same hour came the second, even more explosive news: Trump fixer Michael Cohen was pleading guilty to 8 felony charges and cooperating with the government. Most significantly, in his attestation he named Trump as the one who had directed him to make pre-election hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. This would make Trump an un-indicted co-conspirator to election fraud. We now have an alleged felon occupying the presidency, one whose felony was committed in furtherance of his own election. Added to the conspiracy with Russia (which is proven; the only question not definitively resolved is whether Trump himself knew, though the likelihood of his not knowing is less than zero), this places the legitimacy of Trump’s victory in grave doubt.
As it turned out, prosecutors had been even busier. The next shoe to drop was the news that the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, had been granted immunity in the investigation. It emerged that the “catch and kill” routine he had run for Trump with the Karen McDougal story, where the paper bought the story only to keep it from being published, was a regular practice. In fact, Pecker had kept a safe with his “catch and kill” stories, not only about Trump but about other celebrities. He apparently traded them for money or favors. Although, fearing exposure, he emptied the safe in 2016, it sounds as if he’ll have stories the prosecutors will want to know.
The final twist of the week was perhaps the most critical. Prosecutors had also granted immunity to Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Weisselberg, who worked for Trump’s father before working for Trump, is the most-trusted non-family member in the business. The one who “knows where all the bodies are buried.” His cooperation would appear to open a whole new level of liability for Trump.
Only the Manafort case is being run by Robert Mueller’s investigators. The Cohen case, to which the Pecker and Weisselberg promises of immunity are related, is being run by the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. Then there’s the DoJ Public Integrity Section investigation into GOP Fundraiser and Trump colleague Elliot Broidy, suspected of trying to sell access to the White House. There’s the Counterintelligence case against alleged Russian agent Maria Butina. And there’s the State of New York case against the Trump foundation, accused of operating illegally by using the charity as a source of funds for personal and campaign use. In other words, investigations into the apparently criminal enterprise that Trump has run for years are cropping up everywhere and each of them, in its own way, and all of them in aggregate, pose a serious threat to Trump, one that won’t easily be resolved by firing and pardoning. It’s about time.
However – if you think this was a lot to follow for five paragraphs, consider that by the end of the week, half of Americans didn’t know about the Manafort and Cohen news at all. The predominant media narrative about Trump’s “win” has been that Trump-addled voters in midwest diners put him over the top and still hold the keys to his power. It has by now become accepted wisdom, despite the strong evidence that what really got Trump elected was a massive campaign of Russian interference, abetted by Trump squelching evidence of his infidelities. Enough to turn out/repress 77,000 votes in three key states? James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, thinks so. Our task, then, in part is to keep the focus on what really turned the election – the same thing that makes Trump’s legitimacy questionable.
In Other News
- Senate Democrats sought to delay confirmation hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, since the new justice could be called upon to render judgement on Trump – who, as the accused, should not have the power to select his own judge.
- Over 500 migrant children are still separated from their parents. More than 20 are under the age of five. The deadline for reuniting them passed over a month ago and the Trump regime has dragged its heels ever since. The children’s lives are being permanently scarred, as are the lives of their parents. This living nightmare is being done in the name of our nation by the miscreants of the Trump administration: Trump, Miller, Sessions, Nielsen, Azar. Never forget that they were responsible.
- Trump released his “climate plan”, which would roll back Obama-era protections, releasing vastly more carbon dioxide into the air, increasing pollution and causing an estimated 1,400 more deaths annually.
- The CIA’s Kremlin sources have gone dark in advance of the midterm elections, leaving the intelligence agency without a clear view into the Russian operation this year to attack our elections.
- California Congressman Duncan Hunter was indicted (there’s that word again) and charged with using campaign funds to the tune of more than a quarter of a million dollars for personal use. Hunter, representing CA-50 in San Diego, is still the frontrunner, with Republicans there currently buying his excuse that the Department of Justice is hounding him like it hounds Trump. His other excuse is that it’s all his wife’s fault. His opponent, in case you’d like to contribute to his campaign, is Ammar Campa-Najjar. Go, Ammar!!
- Was her timing perfect or terrible? The same day that Manafort and Cohen were stealing the headlines, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced legislation to curb corruption in government. The story got buried, but the headlines made a compelling case for why her legislation is sorely needed.
- Senator John McCain passed away after a battle with brain cancer. Long admired and respected within and without the Republican party, his stature within his own party had fallen over the last year as Republicans embraced the intolerance, ignorance and cravenness of Donald Trump.
until the midterm elections. What are you doing this week to make sure that we win? Find actions here. Whether you can put in a lot of effort or a little, every action taken will help us take back the House. And, hopefully, the Senate. Unless we do, no matter how far-reaching the investigations, Trump and the Republicans won’t be held accountable. Let’s make sure that they are.
– Tom Benthin
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.