Patterico's Pontifications


Rudy: Hey, Nobody Got Killed or Robbed with This Campaign Finance Violation Stuff

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:15 am

You tell ’em, Rudy.

Trump insists he is innocent of any related crimes because he never explicitly asked for Cohen or AMI to violate campaign finance law by sitting on stories of his extra-marital affairs. And the president’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, contends that the scandal is overblown entirely.

“Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed… This was not a big crime,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. He added, sardonically, “I think in two weeks they’ll start with parking tickets that haven’t been paid.”

I know, right? Next thing they’ll target urinating in public.

Here’s what I would say to Rudy:

This is what broken windows theory is all about. I mean, if some guy is urinating in public, we got a problem. Now, you can do one of two things. You can ignore the problem and say: “Gee, I’m such a big fuzzy-headed liberal that I’m gonna walk away from it and we’re gonna make believe there’s no problem.” … You’ve got to pay attention to somebody urinating on the street. It may be a minor thing, it may be a serious thing, but you cannot ignore it. You have to deal with it. It is against the law to urinate in public.

That’s what I would say.

Oh wait.

Someone already said that.

Good old Rudy.

Ken White and Josh Barro have a weekly podcast titled “All the President’s Lawyers” — which I listen to religiously, and you should too — and they have this sound clip as part of their opening. I can’t hear any story about Rudy without wanting to share it, I love it so:

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Oh, I See

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:19 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Cross-posted on The Jury Talks Back.


Trump Campaign Finance Case Starting to Look Worse for Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:16 am

With the official cooperation of AMI (the owner of the National Enquirer) with federal prosecutors, the potential campaign finance violations case against Donald Trump is looking stronger and stronger all the time. Stronger, in fact, than the John Edwards case.

There are many details that go into that conclusion, but let’s review two. Yesterday an agreement was made public between the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and AMI. The agreement contains this passage:

In or about August 2015, David Pecker, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AMI, met with Michael Cohen, an attorney for a presidential candidate, and at least one other member of the campaign. At the meeting, Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided. Pecker agreed to keep Cohen apprised of any such negative stories.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because the Wall Street Journal reported it on November 9 (credit to Justin Miller for catching this):

As a presidential candidate in August 2015, Donald Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, in his cluttered 26th floor Trump Tower office and made a request.

What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.

Now, most of the details of that WSJ story have been corroborated by federal prosecutors in their agreement with AMI. The one key detail federal prosecutors did not yet say explicitly is who the “other member of the campaign” was. If the WSJ is correct, that member was Donald Trump.

Following the age-old wisdom of keeping your mouth shut when under the scrutiny of law enforcement, Trump took to Twitter this morning. He blames the lawyer:

The charges were indeed crimes, Trump’s whinging notwithstanding. And the above evidence (as well as the timing, as I have discussed before) shows it was done for the benefit of his campaign, rather to protect his marriage — which was John Edwards’s argument.

Now, Trump has a potential defense: I didn’t know it was illegal to secretly pay money to cover up a story about a mistress for the benefit of my campaign. His ignorance and stupidity would be a bonus here. What’s the problem with that defense? And that brings me to the second piece of evidence I want to mention. You know how they say “there’s a Trump tweet for everything”? Yeah.

Trump tweeted about the John Edwards case.

He knew making this payment was for the benefit of his campaign, and he knew it was illegal. He directed his lawyer to make the payment, and now his lawyer is going to prison for it.

Increasingly, it looks like Donald Trump belongs in prison as well.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Michael Cohen Sentenced To Three Years

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:45 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Calling the charges that Cohen pled guilty to a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct,” and stating that Cohen had “lost his moral compass,” U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley sentenced Michael Cohen to three years this morning:

Michael Cohen, who as President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer once vowed he would “take a bullet” for his boss, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for an array of crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to two women that he says was done at the direction of Trump.

The sentence was in line with what federal prosecutors asked for. Sentencing guidelines called for around four to five years behind bars, and prosecutors asked in court papers that Cohen be given only a slight break. He is ordered to surrender March 6.

Cohen read a statement at the sentencing hearing today:

“Today is the day that I am getting my freedom back.”

“I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired.”

“I stand before your honor humbly and painfully aware that we are here for one reason.”

“I take full responsibility for each act that I pleaded guilty to,” including those implicating the “President of the United States of America.”

“Today is one of the most meaning days of my life.”

My “weakness was a blind loyalty to Donald Trump.”

“I have chosen this unorthodox path because the sooner that I am sentenced,” the sooner I can return to my family.

“I do not need a cooperation agreement in place to do the right thing.”

He then mentions his family members, by name, and says he brought pain and shame on his family. Mentions his mom, dad, and children, and says to them “I’m sorry.” Long pause.

“The president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world,” Cohen said mockingly, “calling me a rat.”

He said Trump tried to influence the proceedings that “implicate” him.

He apologized again to his family before wrapping up. His voice cracked with apparent emotion, as he apologizes to “the people of the United States” for lying to us.

“You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.”

Cohen also made a point to respond to President Trump’s accusation that he was weak:

“Recently the President tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”

Cohen had pleaded guilty to a total of nine federal charges, including several counts of tax fraud and campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress and banks.

Cohen has been ordered to voluntarily surrender on March 6, and has been ordered to pay financial penalties (forfeiture of $500,000, restitution of $1.4 million and two separate fines of $50,000 — one for Mueller’s case and another for the SDNY one).

Court reporter Adam Klasfeld, who was in the courtroom, tweeted the hearing as it happened. Read here for those details.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


French Officials: Strasbourg Shooting Was Terrorism

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:43 am

Had this happened in the U.S. under Obama, officials would probably still be calling the motive a mystery:

The shooting at a crowded street market in Strasbourg, France, was an act of terrorism, officials said Wednesday, as the police continued an intensive search for the gunman who killed at least two people and wounded 12 others.

Rémy Heitz, the Paris prosecutor, who handles terrorism investigations nationwide, said at a news conference in Strasbourg on Wednesday that witnesses had heard the attacker yell “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, and that the targets and the suspect’s profile justified the opening of a terrorism investigation.

Officials said the man suspected of carrying out the shooting had a criminal record and had served time in prison. More than 700 members of the security forces are now searching for the suspect in Strasbourg, the French interior minister said.

. . . .

The shooting recalled other attacks in recent years by Islamist extremists in France, Belgium and other parts of Europe. Benjamin Griveaux, the French government spokesman, said after a cabinet meeting in Paris on Wednesday that President Emmanuel Macron had warned that “the terrorist threat is still at the heart of our nation’s life.”

I can’t see how the wave of unchecked immigration of Muslims into Europe has had any effect, can you?

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Trump, Pelosi, Schumer And Their Public Spat Over Border Security

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:59 pm

[guest post by Dana]

President Trump met with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer today to discuss border security and a possible government shutdown if the President doesn’t get the wall funding he wants. And what Trump wants is $5 billion, and what the Democrats are offering 1.3 billion. Also in attendance was Vice President Mike Pence, who looked like he was deep in prayer, petitioning God to keep the long knives from coming out. As you can see from the video below – and you must watch the whole rancorous mess – Pelosi and Schumer worked hard to remain polite in spite of their obvious disdain for Trump. He is the tone-deaf Goofus to their self-righteous Gallant. Things became increasingly heated as Pelosi and Schumer lost sight of Trump’s ability to dig in when challenged about something he believes is right. And he doesn’t care who is watching. In fact, the more people watching, the better. And although Pelosi suggested that they take the discussion behind closed doors, the meeting continued until Trump decided it was enough. The frustrated look on Pelosi’s face at the end is really priceless:

The Washington Post reported on the skirmish:

President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer clashed Tuesday over funding for the border wall, an explosive Oval Office encounter that ended with Trump declaring he’d be proud to shut down the government to get what he wants.

The stunning public spat, during which Schumer accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum,” ended with no resolution and appeared to increase the chances of a partial government shutdown at the end of next week, just before Christmas.

The three leaders pointed fingers, raised their voices and interrupted each other repeatedly as they fought over policy and politics, laying bare their differences for all to see.

Schumer lectured Trump that “Elections have consequences, Mr. President.”

Trump claimed that, because she is working to nail down the votes to become speaker, “Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”

Pelosi retorted: “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.”

Amusingly, after the parties went to their separate corners, Pelosi demonstrated her political skills as she cleverly targeted Trump’s Achilles heel: his masculinity:

“It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” said the California congresswoman.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) made the remarks in a Democratic caucus committee meeting, which were recounted by an aide present who was not authorized to comment publicly.

Allahpundit lays out a likely strategy by Pelosi :

I think, it’s to bait Trump into digging in on the shutdown, which Dems think will be a winner for them politically. (Notice in the excerpt what Pelosi considers her “accomplishment” today to have been.) They’re probably right about that, too — not because the polling favors them, necessarily, but because congressional Republicans won’t want a protracted shutdown which they know going in will be blamed on the president. This is “Trump vs. Democrats” right now but soon enough it’ll be a “Trump vs. RINOs” thing. Insulting him personally is Pelosi’s way of making it harder for him to cave, at least early on, thus ensuring that intra-GOP squabble later.

Pelosi also told colleagues that she was ““trying to be the mom” in the room while Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) bickered about the coming funding showdown.” Ugh. Stop it, Nancy. These men don’t need a mommy to corral them. Neither party is the civilized group of noblemen they pretend to be when in public. We know better. Personally, I’m all for seeing the warts fully exposed. Debate these vexing issues in a public setting more often, and let the Americans for whom they work, see how elected officials really conduct themselves, and let us hear specifically what claims they make, and the veracity of them. Exactly whose best interest is at heart?

Pelosi considered it a political victory that the president said he said he would be “…proud to shut down the government for border security . . . I will be the one to shut it down, I’m not going to blame you for it,” telling committee members:

“The fact is, we did get him to say, to fully own, that the shutdown was his,” she said, according to the aide. “That was an accomplishment.”

First, is it really a victory when you consider that Trump has no problem saying HUGE things when necessary and double-dog daring anyone as well. Anytime, anywhere. He is always willing to up the ante. But more importantly, to his base (and Americans) who want to see the border more secure, an effective wall in place, and the government doing its job to stem the flow of illegal immigration into our country, I suspect there was more cheering going on than Pelosi realized.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


TIME Person of the Year: The Fake News Media

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:18 am

That’s not how they phrase it, of course, but it’s how You Know Who will phrase it:

The choice is getting roundly derided for being breast-beating “look at me!” journalism. That’s both fair and unfair, depending on which parts of the article you read.

There are inspiring stories in there, having nothing really to do with Trump, about brave journalists who have suffered outrageous governmental retribution for their truthful reporting. Most followers of the news know the Khashoggi story, but do you know these stories?

And in prison in Myanmar, two young Reuters reporters remain separated from their wives and children, serving a sentence for defying the ethnic divisions that rend that country. For documenting the deaths of 10 minority Rohingya Muslims, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone got seven years. The killers they exposed were sentenced to 10.

This year brought no shortage of other examples. Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was jailed for more than 100 days for making “false” and “provocative” statements after criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in an interview about mass protests in Dhaka. In Sudan, freelance journalist Amal Habani was arrested while covering economic protests, detained for 34 days and beaten with electric rods. In Brazil, reporter Patricia Campos Mello was targeted with threats after reporting that supporters of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro had funded a campaign to spread false news stories on WhatsApp. And Victor Mallet, Asia news editor for the Financial Times, was forced out of Hong Kong after inviting an activist to speak at a press club event against the wishes of the Chinese government. Worldwide, a record number of journalists—262 in total—were imprisoned in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which expects the total to be high again this year.

How well do you know this one?

“I can tell you this,” declared Chase Cook, a reporter for the Capital Gazette. “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

Cook’s promise, shared with the world on Twitter, came just a few hours after five of his colleagues were killed. The man charged with their murders had been obsessed with the paper since it wrote about his harassment of a high school classmate—part of its routine coverage of local legal proceedings. He made the office a crime scene. To put the damn paper out, staffers set up laptops in the bed of a pickup in a parking garage across the street.

When the next edition arrived—on schedule—the opinion page was blank but for the names of the dead. Gerald Fischman. Rob Hiaasen. John McNamara. Rebecca Smith. Wendi Winters. Beneath their names was a coda that might have been written with a goose quill: “Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens.”

These stories merit further publicity. But, of course, TIME can’t be satisfied with that. As anyone would predict, they also have to administer the mandatory dose of Trump-centric lecturing.

A month after taking office, President Trump sat for an interview with Breitbart, the right-wing online news site that had been run by his then chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “The fake media is the opposition party,” the President declared. “The fake media is the enemy of the American people.”

The “enemy” line had been floated 10 days earlier, in a tweet that named the offending news organizations: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

The President may not have known the history of the phrase. It was used in the Soviet Union, to condemn subordinates at the 1930s show trials Joseph Stalin ordered before executing those who had fallen out of favor. “The people” were peasants who had starved after Stalin confiscated grain harvests. The officials were the dictator’s scapegoats.

It’s not that they don’t have a point. It’s that the point is out of place in an article designed to showcase brave truthtellers. The president’s attitude towards the news media is ridiculous. Sometimes they deserve the derision, but often they don’t. But the difference here is that nobody in Donald Trump’s America is getting imprisoned or killed by Donald Trump for Bravely Standing Up to Him. In short, Jim Acosta (briefly lost his press pass) is not Kyaw Soe Oo, or Wa Lone (imprisoned for telling the truth about genocide) or even Jamal Khashoggi (murdered for criticizing the Saudi regime). So why is Acosta mentioned in the same article?

For once, couldn’t they just let the brave and lesser-known reporters be the true focus of attention?

And of course the answer is no.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Lawsuit Claims NYPD Forced Woman To Give Birth While Shackled To Bed

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:54 am

[guest post by Dana]

A 27-year old woman who went into labor while in police custody has filed a lawsuit against NYPD claiming that she was forced to go through her labor while in restraints:

When a woman who was 40 weeks pregnant went into labor last February inside a police holding cell in the Bronx, officers took her to a hospital. Once inside, they handcuffed her wrists to the bed and shackled her ankles.

Doctors at Montefiore Medical Center warned that the restraints were illegal in New York and posed serious risks for a woman in labor, but the officers said the department’s Patrol Guide required them to restrain her, superseding state law, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

The woman, then 27, struggled for nearly an hour in excruciating labor on Feb. 8 before the officers yielded and removed some of the restraints [10 minutes before she delivered her daughter], according to the complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan. She delivered the baby with her right hand still cuffed to the hospital bed.

The woman, who asked the court for anonymity, saying the experience had humiliated and traumatized her and had left her unable to tell her family, was identified only as Jane Doe in court papers.

According to ABC News:

“Against the vehement protests of medical staff, the NYPD refused to remove the shackles, compelling Ms. Doe to labor in excruciating pain and forcing doctors to examine Ms. Doe with her feet and hands bound,” the lawsuit states[.]

The report also notes that the woman claims she:

…heard doctors at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx “express concern” both that the baby was “in some distress” during the delivery, and that she “experienced heavy bleeding” after the delivery[.]

Police officers present were allegedly following the directive of their supervisor :

When medical staff at Montefiore informed Officer John Stalikas of the New York’s law, he responded that they were “following procedures” laid out in the Patrol Guide, according to the suit. Stalikas then called his supervisor, Sergeant John Coca, who allegedly confirmed that NYPD rules dictated the woman be restrained. These conversations are backed up by medical records, the suit claims.

Also, according to the lawsuit:

[The plaintiff] seeks damages for a violation of the woman’s civil rights and asks that the Police Department change its policies to ensure that its officers never shackle a pregnant woman in custody again. “Shackling is a dehumanizing, cruel and pointless practice that has no place in New York City in 2018,” the suit said.

Medical professionals are in agreement that the practice of using such restraints on women during labor and delivery can endanger both the mother and baby:

The woman’s complaint, which names several officers and the Police Department itself, said the shackling of Ms. Doe violated a 2015 state law that bars the use of restraints on a woman during pregnancy or delivery and during the eight-week postpartum recovery period.

Her treatment by the officers defied a consensus among professional groups like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that using restraints like handcuffs, shackles and belly chains on pregnant women can cause complications and may interfere with doctors’ efforts to treat them, according to the complaint.

While there are women in prison specifically because of the hideous, unspeakable things they have done to their own offspring, and that there is every reason for law enforcement to be concerned about any prisoner attempting an escape while out of their cell, and possibly harming others, the 27-year old in this case was charged with a (non-violent) misdemeanor concerning a family dispute with her ex-partner. A dispute that happened five months prior to her arrest (which took place two days before her due date) and saw her go into active labor while still in the holding cell. It is a question of how to best protect the both health and welfare of the prisoner and her soon-to-arrive baby, as well as that of law enforcement, medical professionals, and the public at large.

Geraldine Doetzer’s report, Hard Labor: The Legal Implications of Shackling Female Inmates During Pregnancy and Childbirth, which was published in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, “analyzes both states’ justifications for shackling policies as well as the Constitutional and human rights arguments that have been posed by inmates and their advocates for eliminating the use of physical restraints during pregnancy and childbirth.” In part:

The shackling policies themselves hearken back to an era when convicted women were considered morally subhuman and evidence of sexual activity was especially condemned. Many jurisdictions fail to modify restraint policies to accommodate pregnancy, suggesting an indifference to the special needs of female inmates that dates back to a custodial era. Beyond the fact that shackling policies do not fully accommodate the uniquely female experiences involved with childbearing, they also fail to take into account other differences between male and female inmates that would seem to make shackling female inmates generally less necessary. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “women are substantially more likely than men to be serving time for a drug offense and less likely to have been sentenced for a violent crime.” Female inmates also generally have shorter, less violent criminal histories than male inmates: men are twice as likely as women to be violent recidivists and more than half of male prisoners have committed two or fewer offenses, compared to two-thirds of female prisoners. Furthermore, many of the violent crimes committed by women are perpetrated against current or former partners who had sexually or physically abused them.

Based on these facts, the average woman inmate seems to represent a reduced security risk. In addition, women are typically sentenced to shorter prison terms,64 which correlates to a reduced overall risk of flight. This, combined with the reality that pregnant women – not to mention those in active labor – are physically much less able to mount an attack or escape attempt, suggests that the proffered justifications for shackling pregnant inmates are based on a correctional model that was designed for men.

Dr. Carolyn Sufrin, an OB-GYN at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who has delivered the babies of incarcerated women was asked during an interview whether there was any rationale for shackling these women:

From a medical perspective, no. There are very clear medical risks involved, which have to do with the need of women to move about freely, both for pain control but also if there’s an emergency. Then there is the common-sense perspective: What is the risk that a woman is a threat to society or a flight risk in between painful contractions? But from the custody side, they see everything as a potential risk that she is going to run off or a risk to public safety. But that’s all laced with the punitive aspect of chains as well—there’s that subtle, “Well, look what she did to deserve this.” It speaks to the way the system is set up to view incarcerated people as less than human, and to apply the same logic to a pregnant female prisoner that they might to a male prisoner.

The bi-partisan, criminal justice reform bill known as the First Step Act, which is backed by President Trump, would ban the shackling of women at all federal facilities during pregnancy, labor and postpartum recovery.

One of the planks of the pro-life community’s argument against abortion is that when pregnancy occurs, the issue is no longer just about one life. It now involves another life. The most vulnerable and innocent of lives. Therefore, to have an abortion is to willfully take that innocent life. The pro-life community fights for that innocent life to be protected from enduring an agonizing death, and to be given the opportunity to be born as fully intact as possible. The very sanctity of life. Thus, if a pregnant inmate is shackled, especially with feet bound during her labor and delivery, that does anything but ensure that the baby is being given the optimum opportunity to be born safely, with the least amount of problems. In fact, the very practice endangers and threatens the safety of the most vulnerable among us. Given that both parties are obviously inextricably linked, if the mother is endangered, so too is her baby waiting to be born. Shouldn’t the call then be to protect all life? The treatment of the incarcerated woman during labor and delivery directly impacts whether or not her baby will be ushered safely into the world. And why should an innocent life once again be put in such jeopardy, only to face the real possibility of paying the price for that which they had no control?

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


A Vacation from White People

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:16 am

This is sad. It is a story about a group of black women who have paid to go on a vacation in Costa Rica billed as an escape from having to be around white people.

I watched the whole thing, expecting it to make me angry, but instead I was alternately interested, amused, and saddened. I was interested because there was a mixture of valid complaints (white people calling these women articulate and touching their hair) and invalid ones (assuming that all Trump supporters are racist). The amusement stemmed from a retreat in which the participants engage in yoga, meditation, eating vegan, and enjoying nature. I can just hear some comedian saying that these people are escaping from white people by doing the whitest activities possible. But, of course, such a joke is based on a stereotype of white people, and the experience of these black people shows that they too can defy the stereotype about “white” activities just as they would defy stereotypes whites might hold about them. That’s interesting too. But the sad part is seeing how willing they are to engage in stereotypes about whites, and how eager they are to retreat from whites, even as they smash other stereotypes.

Obviously, I think such retreats are a bad idea. But it’s more complicated and subtle — and sad — than simply taking a position “what if white people did this?” That’s the easy (and somewhat lazy) reaction. The harder reaction is to take these folks seriously, and yet not to give in to their stereotyping. To refuse to stereotype them, but forgive them for stereotyping us, and try to understand why they do.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


Andrew C. McCarthy: Trump Is “Very Likely” to Be Indicted

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:22 pm

Andrew C. Carthy has issued a very surprising opinion: that Donald Trump is “very likely to be indicted” on a campaign finance violation:

The major takeaway from the 40-page sentencing memorandum filed by federal prosecutors Friday for Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, is this: The president is very likely to be indicted on a charge of violating federal campaign finance laws.

It has been obvious for some time that President Trump is the principal subject of the investigation still being conducted by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Cohen earlier pleaded guilty to multiple counts of business and tax fraud, violating campaign finance law, and making false statements to Congress regarding unsuccessful efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Yes, Cohen has stated he did the hands-on work in orchestrating hush-money payments to two women who claim to have had sexual liaisons with Trump many years ago (liaisons Trump denies).

But when Cohen pleaded guilty in August, prosecutors induced him to make an extraordinary statement in open court: the payments to the women were made “in coordination with and at the direction of” the candidate for federal office – Donald Trump.

Prosecutors would not have done this if the president was not on their radar screen.

I can’t say I agree, especially given the guidance that the Justice Department still follows on the question of indicting a sitting president:

The indictment or cnminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.



In the .pdf, the DoJ circa 2000 takes another look at the DoJ’s 1973 opinion concluding that DoJ should not indict a sitting president, and agrees with it. Here is what McCarthy says about that:

Justice Department guidance holds that a sitting president may not be indicted. If prosecutors in the Southern District of New York believe they have a case against the president, must they hold off until after he is out of office?

If President Trump were to win re-election, he would not be out of office until 2024, when the five-year statute of limitations on a 2016 offense would have lapsed.

More importantly, do campaign finance violations qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which is the constitutional standard for impeachment? It is hard to imagine an infraction that the Justice Department often elects not to prosecute is sufficiently egregious to rise to that level, but the debate on this point between partisans would be intense.

Those are all questions for another day. The point for this day is that the Cohen case in New York City is not about Cohen. The president is in peril of being charged.

I don’t see how this set of questions takes guidance that no indictment should be pursued, and turns it into a “very likely” event.

If McCarthy is going to maintain this position, he needs to explain this better.

P.S. To me, one of the major takeaways of the past few days is to emphasize the national security risk that Trump’s presidency represents. Think about it: Michael Cohen and the Russian government have now confirmed that Cohen lied to Congress about the extent and duration of Cohen’s contacts with the Kremlin on behalf of the Trump Organization to pursue Trump Tower Moscow, during the Trump/Hillary general election season. What this means is that, when Cohen lied to Congress on behalf of Donald Trump, not only did Trump know Cohen had lied, but the Kremlin did as well — even as the public was kept in the dark.

This is almost the definition of a national security risk. And, together with the Russians’ knowledge of earlier public lies by Michael Flynn, it could help to explain Donald Trump’s curious, persistent, and almost pathological refusal to criticize Vladimir Putin, for anything.

P.P.S. But does any of this matter to Trump superfans? Trump is betting it doesn’t:

That’s a pretty good bet, as the comments from Trump superfans in the comments below will likely demonstrate.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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