Sunday Commentary: If This Was A Normal President He Would Be Done For

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There are a lot of details that of course need to come out, but based on what we now know, it is really hard to imagine that the Democrats in the House will be able to avoid Impeachment Hearings for President Trump and frankly, again, based on only very preliminary evidence, it is hard to imagine how a normal president would survive.

But Trump at least for conservatives seems to get graded on a curve, his presidency has been anything but normal and it is equally hard to believe that the Senate would vote to remove him.

That leaves the Democrats in a bind as to what do – and they largely prior to Friday said they would not be inclined to impeach him – but I’m not sure they can keep to that any longer.

What is interesting is that the release came at the end of the day on Friday – a time normally reserved for announcements you don’t want in the news – but that seems almost coincidental at this point.

Prosecutors wrote that payments made by Mr. Cohen and other actions were taken “with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election” and pursued “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1” — that is, Mr. Trump.

As one commentator noted in the NY Times: “In light of these disclosures, the likelihood that the company and the Trump campaign face charges is now high.”

Trump himself may avoid being indicted on this, but he could be named as an unindicted co-conspirator, as was President Richard Nixon.

Worse yet is the emerging evidence of collusion with Russia.  This includes an unreported phone conversation in November 2015 between Mr. Cohen and a contact in Moscow.  This conversation was “explicitly political” and focused on creating a potential partnership.

There is also emerging evidence implicating the president and others in conspiracy to obstruct justice or to suborn perjury.

Then there’s the potential for exposure under  the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for activities relating to a potential Trump Tower Moscow.  Mr. Cohen apparently floated the idea of giving Putin a $50 million luxury apartment in a Moscow Trump Tower.

The President and his supporters have spent a lot of time on the issue of collusion, but I have always believed that the bigger issue was going to be obstruction of justice – now it may be both.

The prosecutor would appear to have Mr. Trump dead to rites on the issue of hush-money to the women to avoid exposing affairs – hush-money that in the full context of the campaign seems odd given the wide-knowledge that people have and had about Mr. Trump’s affairs and the apparent lack of concern by his core voters.

Regardless, the quote is damning: when Mr. Cohen  he paid the hush money he “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” – Individual-1 being Donald Trump.

Randall Eliason, a GW Law Professor in an op-ed this morning however, points out that the law here is “more complication.”  For instance, in order for a campaign finance violation to be criminal, it “must be ‘willful'” and ” the government must prove the defendant knew he was breaking the law. If Trump directed Cohen to pay women off but was not aware of the campaign finance implications, he may not be criminally liable, although conspiracy to defraud the United States, which does not require willfulness, might also be in play.”

The Professor could well be right on this point – but the President directing his attorney to pay hush money to women supposedly in affairs with him doesn’t have to break criminal law to become part of the calculus here – moreover the Professor ignores that both Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump repeatedly lied about the hush money.

Moreover as the Washington Post points out: “One of the defenses that might have been offered by Trump is that he regularly had his attorney pay off women to keep their stories quiet.”  The key here is that the President and Mr. Cohen apparently began discussing making such payoffs as early as 2014 and also the key is that the payment were made “at the direction” of the candidate.

Writes the Post: “Given that Cohen indicated that the payments were meant to influence the election and that they came at the direction of Trump, Lawrence Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, told The Post, “there is little question Cohen, the campaign and the candidate are liable for the campaign finance violations.””

At the same time Professor Eliason calls the hush-money payments something of a side show.

He writes, “The key is Russia, and Cohen has joined the ranks of other cooperators providing Mueller with extensive information on those issues. We now know Trump was secretly negotiating a deal with Russia worth hundreds of millions of dollars while running for president and while Russia was actively working to help him get elected. There is mounting evidence of substantial connections among Russia, the Trump campaign, and Trump’s business interests, and of a possible criminal conspiracy to conceal those connections.”

As early as November 2015, Mr. Cohen made contact with a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation “who could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.””  Mr. Mueller writes: “The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well,” referring to the Moscow Project, because there is “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of [the President of Russia].” Cohen, however, did not follow up on this invitation.”

Furthermore, Mr. Mueller writes, “Cohen provided the SCO with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with [The Trump Organization] executives during the campaign.”

The key here is that Mr. Mueller seems focused on Russian ties to Trump’s business including a Moscow Project: “If the project was completed, the Company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues. The fact that Cohen continued to work on the project and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and SCO investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.”

The Washington Post notes: “This is Mueller laying out a rationale for why it would be fair game to look into Trump’s attempt to do business in Russia, and why it matters in the collusion investigation.”

The filings raise many more questions than answer.  But what is clear is that the President is now implicated in some of this – there appears to be evidence of Russian involvement, Trump-circle collusion, and an active effort to cover things up.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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62 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: If This Was A Normal President He Would Be Done For”

  1. Keith O

    Pfffft!  Everyone already knew that Trump paid off the two women unless they were a complete idiot.  There’s no Russian collusion on Trump’s part.  This just goes to show how much of a witch hunt this whole investigation turned out to be.  All you Dems need to get over it and see someone about your TDS.

    Another thing, why do you think Trump hasn’t released the FISA docs report yet?  I’ll bet he’s keeping them on hold in order to use them as a hammer over the Dems.  You know they that report will be damning.

    1. Keith O

      It was discovered that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million.  That amount dwarfs the $280,000 paid by Cohen.   Back then the Obama Justice Department didn’t prosecute. Obama ended up paying a $375,000 Federal Election Commission fine and it was all swept under the rug.

      Where was the outrage from the left back then?

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      First of all, I don’t know how you conclude that there was no collusion on Trump’s part.  It’s pretty clear that his guys engaged with the Russians, and the problem you have is there is no plausible deniability with Trump because he’s his a micromanager.

      The worse problem though is that while the administration has tried to focus this on “collusion” which is a vague and non-legal category, the bigger threat is obstruction of justice and I think they have him dead to rites there.

      1. Keith O

        Obstruction of justice because he had Cohen pay off a blackmailing stripper?

        Sorry, not going to fly.  He can always use the defense that was applied to Hillary, that she didn’t’t know she was committing a crime.

        BTW, your website is very slow today.

        1. David Greenwald

          Should be fixed.

          Here you go

          “While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” the prosecutors wrote.

          “He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1,” they continued. “In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”

          And then Cohen lied about it to congress and the prosecutor in an effort to cover it.  And he did so as part of a strategy developed by the WH to get past the scandal.

          That’s obstruction.

          There are basically three big planks to this – one is the hush money, two is the obstruction, three is voter fraud.  All three of these are serious and if proven, impeachable offenses.

        2. David Greenwald

          Paying hush money and then lying about it is a bit more than skeletons.  You’re focused on plank one though. The stuff in Russia is probably more concerning at this point.

      2. David Greenwald Post author

        The site is slow – trying to get in touch with the server folks.

        Obstruction of justice because at three people lied to investigators and congress about their involvement in a variety of things.

    3. Howard P

      You know they that report will be damning.

      Very articulately expressed.

      Heck, Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns (not even a summary) going back to prior to his election. Not even an equivalent to Form 700 (CA) that I am required to file each year…  for an unpaid govt position.  Of course, I’m not routinely audited as he claims he is.  He is absolutely noble for standing up for non-disclosure.

      Why hasn’t he release his tax or “interests” documents?  He knows they would be ‘damning’, but he shouldn’t worry… they all would be fraudulent, anyhow…

      Surely we should trust a guy who has had three marriages (to date), and has the good sense to only deal with women (in the context of marriage, or other) who have a minimum of C or D bra cup sizes.  Very Republican.

       

    4. Eric Gelber

      There’s no Russian collusion on Trump’s part.  This just goes to show how much of a witch hunt this whole investigation turned out to be.

      Keith is lucky plagiarism doesn’t include parroting Twitter talking points.

      Clinton was impeached for lying about sex. If Individual-1 gets away with the felonious actions that we’ve already learned about—before issuance of the Mueller report—it will only be because the GOP-controlled Senate has no shame and places political expediency above morality and the rule of law.
       

      1. Keith O

        Coming from the guy who often parrots Democrat talking points.

        Oh well, got some errands to run.  Have fun Trump hating.  Soon you won’t have to worry about any alternative views on here.

        1. Eric Gelber

          Soon you won’t have to worry about any alternative views on here.

          No problem. I prefer primary to secondary sources, anyway: I’ll still have Sean Hannity.

  2. John Hobbs

    What baffles me is the “conservatives” and I use that term in the bastardized sense it appears here, being so willing to accept the illegal, irrational and immoral behavior of their maniacal messiah.

  3. John Hobbs

    “If This Was A Normal President”

    we wouldn’t be worrying about his treasonous intentions. There is nothing “normal” about this guy. He is a sack full of serious symptoms of megalomania and narcissism. His inability to tell the truth and his licentious lifestyle are legendary, and on their own are enough to make him a prime candidate for Russian kompromat and according to multiple sources, Putin has plenty on him.

  4. Alan Miller

    I thought the Vanguard doesn’t do national politics, and erases the comments of people who engage in it.  I must have missed the memo that wasn’t sent.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Editor’s response: The Vanguard does not have any rules prohibiting articles from being on National Politics. The rule on commenting is: ” a comment on a national issue may be removed if it does not make a clear connection to the local issue.” In other words, if it is off-topic.

  5. Dave Hart

    Winston Churchill, I believe, was quoted as saying something like ‘you can trust the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else’.  I can only hope the current president qualifies as “everything else”.  He’s probably more transparent than any President we’ve endured before simply because he operates in the White House the way he operated in the real estate world.  No surprise he collaborated with Russians because he wants to build big glitzy stuff there and has long standing business contacts there.  He doesn’t distinguish between his own private life and business interests and his elected position.  The government apparatus is just another means to achieve his own private goals.  Heck, he’ll even look the other way when a business associate (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) murders a critical journalist.  Not that different from working with mobsters on real estate transactions in Manhattan, New Jersey or wherever.  With this guy, WYSIWYG.

    1. Dave Hart

      Often those who cast generalizations on others are, in fact, saying much more about themselves.  School age children often develop slogans regarding playground behavior that endure because they ring true over time, one of which goes like this: “What you say is what you are!”

      I don’t wear panties, but I do wear boxer briefs and they are comfortable and not bunched up. A majority of the U.S. population shares the hope that something, most likely an illegality, will rid us of the current resident of the White house sooner than later. That isn’t a liberal thing at all.

  6. John Hobbs

    The only ones with their “panties in a bunch,” an idiomatic expression I find quite repulsive, btw, seem to be the Trump sycophants. The “liberals” have taken a measured, steady pace, gathering and considering the substantial pile of evidence and are now making steady progress toward impeachment (Manafort, Cohen, Flynn)or better, forcing Trump to resign. (which if he had a normal degree of shame would have happened weeks ago.) Trump jr. is almost certainly to be indicted as are Ivanka and Jared. I know that Keith doesn’t give it a thiought, but the fact that true believers like him are willing to follow such a deviant into Hell says a great deal about their moral fiber and lack there of.

  7. Don Shor

    The payments to Daniels and the other woman are being prosecuted by the SDNY. That is misuse of campaign funds, and then lying about it. If the lying was coordinated, that is conspiracy. If they lied to Congress or the prosecutors, that is perjury. And of course, Trump has lied repeatedly to the public about this. The ‘affairs’ are kind of a sideshow, but they do illustrate how far Republicans and conservatives have debased their ethics and morals in support of this presidency. 

    It is the conspiracy with agents of the Russian government to influence the outcome of the election, subsequently lying about that, and conspiring to commit perjury about that, that Mueller is pursuing as his original mandate. Trump’s written answers will be key, but it is notable how many of his top aides were clearly lying repeatedly about it. If that was coordinated, that is conspiracy. Mueller has tapes.
    Pursuing self-enrichment in Moscow during the campaign, during the transition, and after taking office should concern anyone. Trump clearly lied to the public about that. His aides lied to investigators. If they coordinated those lies, that is conspiracy.
    The connections to WikiLeaks are an interesting side story, since it appears the Trump campaign was directly coordinating with Assange about the release of documents. Assange is a criminal at many levels. Another likely case of conspiracy.

    The question of whether Trump has committed Obstruction of Justice may be a technical discussion among lawyers, but he’s clearly called for obstruction in the generic sense in his public utterances. Firing Comey for the purpose of suppressing the FBI investigation of his Russia involvement looks like obstruction, because he said that is why he did it. His comments about Sessions, offhand suggestions about pardons, and the appointment of the current caretaker at DOJ certainly look like attempts at obstruction. His written statements to Mueller will be important as to his motives, assuming Mueller asked him about those.

    Dozens of indictments, plenty of convictions already. Many of Trump’s personal inner circle likely to face charges. Not to mention what this all says about Trump’s judgment in people. Family members and the Vice President also implicated.

    There is no comparison whatsoever with anything done by any president since Nixon. And the attempted self-enrichment during the transition and early presidency takes it to a level of graft that Nixon never reached. If there was any quid pro quo with respect to Russian sanctions or Ukraine policy implied in the Trump building dealings, that is a major level of criminality.

    This is serious stuff that should concern every American. We already knew Trump was a grifter in his business dealings. He appears to have taken personal corruption to a much higher level now. And as usual, it’s how they react to the inquiry that usually results in the first criminal charges. Lying to investigators and talking to others about that isn’t very bright. If he ever read a book of history or listened to any outside advisers, he would know that.

    The “TDS” assertion is just nonsense, almost a form of willful ignorance at this point. For those who keep supporting Trump no matter what he does, I just remind myself that Nixon still had about 25% public support the day he resigned.

    1. Keith O

      The ‘affairs’ are kind of a sideshow, but they do illustrate how far Republicans and conservatives have debased their ethics and morals in support of this presidency. 

      LOL, I remember during the Clinton scandal Democrats kept saying it was only sex.  Now have Democrats all of a sudden found ethics and morals?

  8. John Hobbs

    I’m with a couple of friends who walked south Texas registering voters with me a few years ago. One works as an analyst at Pro-Publica and the other works at The Center for American Progress. We, like much of the nation are pondering possible outcomes of the current chaos in the White House. We all agreed that Pence needs to be indicted and removed before any formal proceedings against Trump begin. This lead to speculation that we could end up with Nancy Pelosi in the presidency and Dianne Feinstein as her VP. The resulting “Old Rich White Guys’ Lives Matter” riots could be hilarious.

    ;>)/

  9. Howard P

    POTUS has another success!  S&P 12% down since early Oct.   Dow down 11.3% in same period.

    Great news for private sector folk relying on their 401’s, etc.  Tariffs, China “deals” (or, NOT), have nothing to do with that!  Would have been much worse without the ‘Make America Great’ dude.  He took so much pride in the run up right after he was elected… took full credit for it… had nothing to do with Obama… current “adjustment” is fully due to Obama!

    Yeah, right….

    1. Keith O

      LOL, I’ve heard Obama out recently on several occasions taking credit for the current economy and stock market.  Or does he only take credit when things are up?

        1. Jeff M

          You need to expand your reading on the topic.  Beginning about 2012 many of the expats living in China in support of American business because to see a shift in China’s treatment of them. They were being forced out of business unless they turned over information etc… and then they were forced out of business later.

          Obama did not start the trade war, he effectively ignore these things… put his head in the sand.  Failed to do what a good American POTUS leader should have done.

          And now Trump is doing it.  And you claim it is causing problems.  No, the problems existed and they were only masked by prior feckless politicians.

        1. Keith O

          I remember many commenters on here predicting a market crash the night Trump was elected and stock futures were way down.  The market turned around the next morning.  Boy were they wrong and they have been mostly silent since.  Funny how during the current market correction period a few rear view armchair quarterbacks popped their heads out from under the bridge.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I never predicted a market crash, but we might get one now with his trade policies.

        2. Keith O

          Market was down 500 points yesterday morning and bounced back to end up green on the day.  This morning dow futures are up 300 points.  If U.S. and Russia work out a trade deal it’s off to the races.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The people I talk to (most are not lefties btw) are not optimistic. The trade war is a huge problem. China is growing at its slowest rate in a decade. Japan and Germany both contracted. So the US has been an outlier – can that continue especially with the protectionist nonsense?

            If you read the economy news there are concerns – borrowing costs, declining home sales, rising interest rates, plateauing auto sales, jobs cuts at General Motors and Ford. You and Trump seem the only two bullish on the economy.

        3. Jeff M

          The people I talk to (most are not lefties btw) are not optimistic.

          Money literacy and economic literacy is extremely low in general for most Americans, and even lower per capita in Davis.  Contrasted to victim group oppression and grievance theory, money and economic literacy is almost non-existent to liberals.

          And for some that understand, they are just worried about their short-term returns.

          However, it is clear that the economic trajectory was/is not sustainable for the US.  Here is s president attempting to fix what is broken and he is relentlessly attacked by all forces that only care about either their politics, or their short-term gains.

          Too bad Davis did not have a leader like Trump to halt its unsustainable economic practices.   Or maybe you would prefer a leader like Macron?

  10. Jeff M

    Without double standards, Trump-haters would have no standards.

    The stuff in Russia is probably more concerning at this point.

    Sure, to someone with TDS.  From a perspective of rational and informed people, everyone fixated on this junk is in need of therapy.

    Trump is an international developer.  Two wives are eastern European.  His business dealing with Russia was from before he was a candidate.  The projects stopped when he became president.   All that is left is smoke.

    The establishment Democrat machine fakes a dossier, lies within the web of political attorney sand-box malfeasance laws, and uses this to hire a special investigator on the basis of collusion. Maybe we could learn about that except that Comey conveniently cannot remember any of the details after remembering enough to write his book. Maybe he should ask his brother who works as a lawyer for the Clinton Foundation (media fails to report that).  Over two years and many tens of millions spent by Mueller and his band of Democrat Hillary-supporter lawyers, and all we have is cases against two third-string players in the Trump campaign, and one loyal war hero.  No collusion.  No nothing.  Only smoke… and the desperation of all Trump haters to amplify it into something more than it is… the media is complicit in this because the media is tabloid trash and/or a propaganda arm of the Trump hating establishment looters and political chattering class.  And all you rear-hurt loser lefties eat it up and regurgitate it like gospel.

    Here is something to put in your pipe and smoke other than your left-biased fake news… If Trump was guilty of only 10% of the illegal and immoral actions of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Obama Justice Department and their hold-overs, those on the right would be calling for his head.

    That is because those on the right have actual standards and actual morals… they don’t slime, shift and slide to adopt only that which benefits their politics.

    What all you Trump-haters are doing it classic looterism… forgiving, ignoring and forgetting the crimes of sitting politicians and government employees while they were their positions as so-called public servants, while attempting to destroy anyone that is a political threat of the looters for actions in his private life.

    This is the stuff that our founders feared more than anything… the politicos erecting a power-protecting defense that prevents government by the people for the people… and ensures government by the ruling class for the ruling class.

    Shame on you all.

  11. John Hobbs

    “That is because those on the right have actual standards and actual morals… they don’t slime, shift and slide to adopt only that which benefits their politics.”

    Laughing too hard to type much. Trump has shown again and again that he is a relentless if inept liar, serial philanderer, traitor and coward.

  12. Howard P

    Market was down 500 points yesterday morning and bounced back to end up green on the day.  This morning dow futures are up 300 points.

    And if the Dow goes up another 300 points, there will be zero progress from a year ago.  Gotta love what Trump has done for  to the economy…

    1. Keith O

      Yeah, the market’s only up 5000 points since Trump was elected.  Terrible!

      GDP’s of 3% now more the normal when we were told by Obama to not expect that anymore.

      edited

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        We can get bogged down in the weeds here, (A) it doesn’t really matter where the economy is right now, it matters where it is going and signs are not hopeful and (B) it doesn’t really matter where the economy is period, this has been a disastrous presidency.

        1. Jeff M

          it doesn’t really matter where the economy is right now, it matters where it is going and signs are not hopeful

          Funny… the left media and all their standard deep-thinking experts said the same thing when Trump was elected.  Look what happened to the markets.

          And now the Democrats have taken the House again and looks like Nancy Pelosi will be speaker again.  Look what happened to the markets.

          Maybe we should just ask Krugman to explain it to us.  LOL.

  13. Keith O

    What’s hilarious about all of this is Congress itself has a slush fund set up to cover payments for its members who get into sticky #metoo situations.  Now the Dems want to cry foul, you wonder how many times that fund has bailed them out?

      1. Keith O

        Totally ON TOPIC, the article goes into the payments to the two women for almost exactly what Congress has set up a slush fund for.

        The only thing predictable is your usual expected response.

        1. Howard P

          Ok… let’s go to the base (truly) matter… would you offer a payment to a woman who falsely accused you of cheating on your spouse?  Guess a “conservative” might… this moderate would go to the cops with a complaint of ‘extortion’, based on an untrue claim… because I’m an innocent…

          Trump is the ultimate “troll”… from his hair-do (reminds me of the “troll dolls”, 30+ years ago), to his tweets calling McCain, essentially a wimp, because he got imprisoned when shot down, in service to his country.  Many other tweets, excoriating those who don’t have ultimate loyalty to him and his narcissistic view of ‘reality’…

          Trump pays off women when he is thru with them… currently on ‘marriage 3’…

          Some talk of “looters”… we’ll not know about the Donald, as he does not follow precedent re: tax records… I’d be shocked if he didn’t lie in those matters,in any case.

          Guess if some are ‘womanizers’, all get a “pass” on that… the assertion of a ‘slush fund’ to protect vile folk, is vile… no question…  so, since it appears to exist, Trump is a paragon of virtue?

          I’m not Trump-hater, I actually pity him and those who have to live with him.  But those who “look the other way”, and defend him on everything?  Sycophants…

          Trump is a fraud, pure and simple… he even had the audacity to have a TV ad showing him with a Bible, during the campaign, and not respond at all in the service for Geo H.W. Bush.  Melania did… she like many First Ladies, is a class act, despite their spouses.

          Likely (50.5% probability) Trump will be impeached (articles of impeachment passed by the House)… there is a 0.01% chance that the Senate will vote (super majority of 67%) to convict him…

          Quiz question… how many presidents have technically been ‘impeached’?  If you opine none, you are way off…

          Gotta’ hand it to the Donald… no president has had more ex-wives… a new record… very “Conservative” … family values, and all that…

  14. Keith O

    So Congress has a slush fund set up to pay for their member’s harassment at taxpayer expense but Trump pays off his accusers with his own money and Congress wants to impeach him?

    You Trump haters don’t see a problem with that?

     

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