Wednesday, August 22, 2018


I'm supposed to believe impeachment could be just around the corner:
... [Michael] Cohen was blunt about the president’s culpability as he stood in court and admitted his guilt: “In coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office,” Mr. Cohen said he conspired with a media company to keep secret Mr. Trump’s affair with Stephanie Clifford, a pornographic film actress known as Stormy Daniels.

“Mr. Cohen, when you took all of these acts that you’ve described, did you know that what you were doing was wrong and illegal?” the judge asked. Mr. Cohen answered, “Yes, your honor.”

... it raised the prospect that Mr. Trump’s presidency could be at risk by impeachment in Congress even if the sprawling Russia investigation never definitively concludes that there was collusion or obstruction of justice.
If Democrats take the House, they might believe this is enough for an impeachment, though I think they know better. I believe any impeachment will be an exercise in futility unless public opinion changes dramatically and persuades Senate Republicans that they should vote to convict. I think impeaching on just this illegal campaign contribution would be a recipe for failure -- and not just because members of the Trump cult would be unmoved.

I think ordinary Americans are simply too cynical about campaign finance -- and rightly so -- to get worked up over this. What's the admission here? That Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to remain silent during the 2016 campaign. But another news story yesterday told us that Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave $25 million last month to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC. Would you blame people who don't follow politics closely if they don't understand why a six-figure de facto campaign contribution is a felony but an eight-figure gift is just fine? I think most Americans believe that the problem is that American politics is awash in money, not that a gift directly to a candidate ought to be under strict dollar limits while super PAC money can flow much more freely.

Also, Cohen's the guilty plea doesn't change what we already believed about Trump's adultery -- Trump opponents believe (correctly) that he's a sleazebag, while his fans shrug it off. The money is secondary to the loathsome behavior.

It's likely that Cohen has something more substantial to tell Robert Mueller, and now he's more likely to talk. That will matter. This? It won't even cause a noticeable dip in Trump's poll numbers. And Trump will never be impeached and convicted on it. (On similar charges, John Edwards wasn't convicted.)


And really, will there ever be a moment when Republican officeholders and voters defect from Trump? Consider what yesterday was like in Trump's media world, as reported by The Washington Post:
In Trump’s right-wing media universe, it was a day like any other

It’s Tuesday afternoon. Imagine, for a moment, that President Trump logs on to Twitter. News is breaking that could prove existential for his presidency. But his social media feed hardly records the magnitude of the developments.

Instead, a link from Sean Hannity of Fox News appears, announcing the intention of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, to enter a guilty plea but omitting the fact that Cohen’s admission implicates the president. A minute later, another link from Hannity comes through, this one about a former congressional IT staffer targeted by conspiracy theories cooked up by right-wing media and advanced by the president.

Trump’s carefully curated feed is a reflection of the ideological chasm that’s dividing the media and splintering society. Tuesday offered vivid evidence of the way in which right-wing media insulates Trump, and his most devoted supporters, from blunt assessments of his administration.
It's not just "his most devoted supporters" who are influenced by this -- it's virtually all of his supporters. In Republican World, the media diet moves the Overton window so far to the right that even conservatives who are capable of skepticism at least believe that all of Trump's enemies are cynical and corrupt, that Hillary Clinton is a criminal and a Benghazi murderer, and that Democratic electoral victories would literally result in the end of America as we know it.
Alongside a Daily Caller story about Cohen were a series of laudatory posts about Trump, from the president’s defense of free speech to his status as “the most feminist president.” TheBlaze gave prominence to Trump’s attacks on ESPN for not “defending our anthem,” foregrounding the president’s grievances with NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence....

Also on offer to the president was an announcement from his own White House about business confidence and a supportive message from Donald Trump Jr. If he went online shortly before 4 p.m., the only “BREAKING NEWS” alert he would have seen was the one from Fox about the 24-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico who law enforcement officials say killed Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old college student who disappeared last month.

Alarm over the student’s death dominated the president’s feed....
This isn't just Trump's bubble -- it's the same bubble his voters live in. I get annoyed when commentators say that Fox & Friends or Hannity is programmed for "an audience of one" -- they're really programmed for an audience of 62,984,828, because the narrative filters out to the universe of Trump's voters.

It's going to take much more than what happened yesterday to move those voters -- and if they're not moved, no Republican in Congress will ever vote to impeach or convict.

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