Long, long ago — in the before-times — a married politician’s payoffs to two women to hide sordid affairs from the voting public would have been a kill-shot.
Today, it’s known as “Trump being Trump.”
CNN could show footage of Trump storing dead prostitutes in a giant warehouse like in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and most Republicans would say stashing dead bodies isn’t really a crime. And besides, Hillary colluded with the Russians in the election she lost … and which the Russians worked very hard to ensure she lost.
But some conservatives still haven’t relinquished the small sliver of soul they were born with.
Writing in The National Review, David French, who briefly considered a run in 2016 as an anti-Trump independent candidate, notes that many Republicans these days are whistling past the graveyard, which already has several 6-foot-deep Trump-’n’-Kushner-sized holes dug into it:
In response to the emerging evidence that Donald Trump directed and participated in the commission of federal crimes, all too many Republicans are wrongly comforting themselves with political deflection and strained legal argument. The political deflection is clear, though a bit bizarre. The recent wave of news about Trump’s porn payoffs is somehow evidence that investigators and critics are “shifting focus” from the Russia investigation to alleged campaign-finance violations.
Back in the ‘90s, Ken Starr, who’d been authorized to look into a failed real estate deal and found nothing, really did shift his focus to blowjobs — because it was all he had. With Trump, it feels a lot more like another log being tossed on an already raging fire, and French says as much:
The current wave of news reports is largely driven by court filings, and those court filings don’t represent a shift in law-enforcement focus on Trump but rather an arena of additional inquiry. The sad reality is that the Trump operation was a target-rich environment for any diligent investigator.
Gee, ya think? This isn’t Al Capone’s vault we’re talking about. It’s more like a DMT trip where the machine elves show you an infinite cavalcade of increasingly squalid Trump crimes.
Some conservatives are drawing a parallel between Trump’s current legal mire and the trial of John Edwards, who was accused of campaign finance violations because one of his supporters sent money to his mistress.
But French notes that the case actually points to greater legal peril for Trump, not less, and he cites a recent Washington Post column by Trevor Potter, Neal Katyal, and Mr. Leni Riefenstahl himself, George Conway.
Unlike with Edwards, prosecutors have noted evidence that Cohen “coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments.” If Cohen had made the payments as a purely personal matter for Trump, separate and apart from Trump’s candidacy, Cohen would not have consulted with the campaign about doing so. Further, Trump was first aware of threats to publish information about this affair in 2011, when his youngest child had just been born to his new wife and at the time made no offers of money to keep the news quiet. What was different in 2016 was the election.
In the Edwards case, there was a paucity of evidence. A key witness, Bunny Melon, was 101 years old and too frail to show up at trial. There were no written legal agreements providing money in exchange for silence, as there are in Trump’s case, and no threats by the mother of the child to go public immediately if the funds were not received. That’s why one juror told the media that the evidence wasn’t there to show even that Edwards intended the money to go to Rielle Hunter. In contrast, in a bombshell disclosure this week, the public learned that AMI, the parent corporation of the National Enquirer, is cooperating with the prosecution and has stated that the payments were made to influence the 2016 election.
So while conservatives may try to wrap the Edwards case around them like a fuzzy security blanket as they settle in to watch endless hours of Walker: Texas Ranger with a cup of hot cocoa and shame, their smug self-assuredness simply won’t cut it in the legal realm.
Here is the fundamental reality, Republicans — there is already far more evidence of legal culpability against Trump than ever existed against Edwards, and a federal judge permitted the Edwards case to go to trial. It is true that, if Trump does eventually face indictment, a different judge may have a different view of the law, but if Trump is counting on a favorable legal ruling, he’s playing a dangerous game indeed.
And this is just one case. As we’ve seen in the past few days, the Trump corruption carousel is revealing more grotesqueries each and every day.
Mueller isn’t done. But with the campaign finance scandal alone, Trump very well could be.
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