I’m a political scandal junkie but I’ve never seen anything like the events of yesterday afternoon. The manic intensity of it conjured up images of magic 8-balls and the kids’ card game Crazy Eights, hence the featured image. It was a crazy day in a crazy time.
I posted my instant analysis on the tweeter tube:
8 is the magic number. Manafort convicted on 8 counts. Cohen pled guilty on 8 counts including hush money payments. This makes the president* an unindicted co-conspirator. Firing Mueller won't get him out of SDNY charges.
— Shecky (@Adrastosno) August 21, 2018
One of many remarkable things about a remarkable day is that the two things happened SIMULTANEOUSLY. I switched on MSNBC and watched them whipsaw back and forth between two huge stories. Holy adrenaline rush, Batman.
I’ve been following the Manafort trial very closely; make that first trial. This was Manafort’s best shot at an acquittal or hung jury: a white suburban jury and a judge who enjoyed baiting lead prosecutor Greg Andres. The mistrial declared on 10 counts is the best refutation yet that this is NOT a “rigged witch hunt” as a certain unindicted co-conspirator is wont to say.
Judge Ellis’ conduct has made this case bulletproof on appeal. The government is unlikely to retry the 10 counts because a second round is coming up next month in the District of Columbia. DC juries have customarily taken a dim view of rich Republican defendants so Manafort’s options boil down to copping a plea or begging for a pardon. Going to trial on the heels of a loss would be foolhardy. Trump may be a fool but Manafort is not.
Even *if* Trump is inclined to pardon Manafort, the calendar argues against it. The inevitable firestorm would become a major campaign issue, which would be delightful as far as I’m concerned but makes a pardon less likely. The smart move is for Manafort to cut a deal with prosecutors. Besides, how will be pay for a second trial? He’s a former rich guy, after all. I don’t think his Russian pals will pay for his defense. They know a loser when they see one.
The Failing New York Times sees the Cohen plea as the bigger deal:
I’m inclined to agree. The plea deal does not mention co-operation with Team Mueller BUT the former Fixer’s mouthpiece Lanny Davis has made it clear that his client is ready, willing, and able to co-operate. I suspect the special counsel’s office will want to test the credibility of his story. Like Omarosa, the Fixer is a liar who learned from Trumpy to document things. This will be very interesting indeed.
The reporter with the best ties to Fixerworld is Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox. She was at yesterday’s hearing and captured the atmospherics beautifully. Here’s the money quote:
Whether Cohen would be able to surrender voluntarily was a matter of concern for him, according to people familiar with his thinking. He had wanted to avoid a perp walk, which his children, who are around college-age, would inevitably have had to witness. Last week, he made jokes about setting up a chair in front of the court house in the middle of the night so as to allow agents to take him in immediately, these people said.
The fact that he was not subjected to a perp walk means that Federal prosecutors want to preserve Cohen’s dignity, such as it is, and to keep their options open in regard to co-operation. According to Fox, the Fixer has gone from:
… a man who once told me he would take a bullet for Trump to one aiming directly at his former boss, making no secret of the fact that he felt he was being hung out to dry by the president and those around him, that he was strapped for cash, that he was willing to do whatever it took to protect his family.
Holy reciprocal disloyalty, Batman.
Thus far Trump’s response has been muted by his standards notwithstanding this morning’s twitter tantrum. I expected a public meltdown at last night’s West By God Virginia rally for Joe Manchin’s dull challenger but it didn’t happen. No worries: I think Trumpberius will soon be in need of a straitjacket.
I’m not sure exactly what will happen next in this dizzy scandal but the Current Occupant has been directly implicated in a crime by someone close to him. As Lanny Davis put it in a statement after the hearing:
“Today [Michael Cohen] stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
Why not indeed? It’s time for the Insult Comedian to get some real attorneys and sideline the Pagliacci of lawyers, Rudy Giuliani.
In the immortal words of Warren Zevon, “Send lawyers, guns and money, the shit has hit the fan.”
WZ gets the last word: