Trump’s ‘hell week’: Is this a turning point?
In Donald Trump’s White House, “the warning lights of growing legal jeopardy are flashing red,” said Jonathan Swan in Axios.com. Last week, a jury convicted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, of tax evasion and bank fraud. Only hours later, Michael Cohen, formerly Trump’s personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations—facilitating unreported “hush money” payments, at the height of the 2016 campaign, to women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs. Cohen declared that he committed these crimes “in coordination and at the direction” of candidate Trump. And Trump’s “hell week” was just getting started. Federal prosecutors have reportedly given immunity to longtime Trump friend David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer, who kept a safe filled with unflattering stories about Trump and his family that he’d bought and buried. Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, who has “true and deep visibility” into Trump’s financial and business dealings, also is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors. The cascade of bad news clearly rattled Trump, who raged about “rats” and “flippers.” His panic is warranted, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. We have reached “an inflection point in the Trump presidency.”
Actually, there is “almost certainly much less here than meets the eye,” said Andrew McCarthy in NationalReview.com. Manafort was convicted for financial crimes unrelated to Trump. As for Pecker and Weisselberg, their immunity deals were part of the probe into Cohen’s hush-money payments, but it’s unclear if they’ve agreed to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller or otherwise testify against Trump. More importantly, said Robert Knight in WashingtonTimes.com, “none of this has anything to do with alleged Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, the supposed focus of the Mueller investigation.” Do liberals “giddy” with fantasies of impeachment really think Trump’s affairs and hush-money payments, while “undoubtedly sordid,” will drive him from office?
Let’s take a look at what we know so far, said David French in NationalReview.com. The list of “former Trump officials who are guilty of crimes” now includes “his former campaign chair, deputy campaign chair, national security adviser, and personal lawyer.” We also know that other members of Trump’s inner circle—including his son, Don Jr., and son-in-law Jared Kushner—at least tried to collude with Russia in the 2016 election, and then lied about it. Sorry, but the claims by Trump and his supporters that this is all a “rigged witch hunt” are ringing hollower by the day. “No one can outrun the truth forever,” said Charles Blow in The New York Times. When Mueller finishes his work, “I predict the whole truth of Trump will shock the world, even more than it is already shocked.”
Trump’s base will stick by him, said Salena Zito in the New York Post. The populist coalition he assembled “knew who Trump was going in,” and they’ve heard nothing to make them abandon him and return elitist Washington insiders to power. Even if Democrats impeach Trump after November, Senate Republicans won’t vote to convict, because they know their party’s rank and file stand squarely behind the president. We’ve known all along that “the rule of law and Trump would at some point be unable to coexist,” said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. Is it possible that Trump will, in the end, get away with everything—even if it’s shown he conspired with the Russians? Given the tribal loyalty of Trump’s voters, that question remains “nerve-rackingly open.” ■