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Why Trump critics are now switching from impeachment to indictment?

Kurtz: Could porn star payoffs really sink a president?

Twodecadesago,liberalsarguedthatBill Clintonshould not beimpeached for his tawdry affair withMonica Lewinskybecause, well, his lies werejust about sex.

Today, someliberalsare arguing thatDonald Trump should beimpeachedbecauseof Stormy Daniels andKarenMcDougalbecause, well, it’snot thesex, it’s the hush money.

For welloverayear, Trump’scriticshavebeenbankingonRobertMuellertocomeupwithevidence of Russiancollusion, and therehavebeen only disconnectedfragments. Sonow —nevermind! — it’s aboutwomen and money.

Theoldargument fromtheleft: Trump hascommitted crimesand should be impeached!

The new argumentfrom theleft: Trump hascommitted crimesand should be indicted!

I’m in no wayexcusing what went onwith the twowomen fromhis past. But here’s someperspective.

To besure, Mueller’ssentencing memoslast week providedsome leads on the Russia matter. MichaelCohen, forinstance, admitted lying toCongress about the time period that thepresident’s company was pursuinga real estatedeal in Moscow, and the memosays Cohen discussed histestimony withpeople in the White House.

But in theblink of aneye, the media focusseems to be switchingto the Stormy narrative — the case beingpursuednot byMueller butby the U.S.attorney’s office inManhattan.

Here’s akey difference betweenTrump andClinton. The 42ndpresidenthad his dalliance withLewinskywhile he was inoffice, in theWhite Houseitself, with a subordinatewho was alowlyintern. Trump’s allegedaffairs with apornstarand a Playboy modeltookplace12yearsagowhenhewasacelebritybusinessman.

That’s why mostpeople don’t care about whatTrump did as aprivatecitizen, and I get it. I got a lotof flak whenI startedreporting on theStormycase — first broken by the WallStreet Journal days before theelection — and alwaysstressed that it was thefinancial paper trail that mightcome back to haunt thepresident.

And that’s whythe Southern District’sprobe of Cohen — who wasreimbursedfor making the$130,000payment toDaniels andbrokered theNationalEnquirer’s $150,000paymenttoMcDougal — istroublesomeforCohen’s former boss.

Yes, it’s a campaign financeviolation, and yes, those areusually punished by fines or even a slap of the wrist.

But the argument thatprosecutors could makeis that it was an attempt to subvert theelection.

NationalReview contributor Andrew McCarthy, whoworked in theManhattan U.S. attorney’sofficeand isa sharpcritic of theMuellerprobe, doesn’t mince words in a piece forFox:

“Thepresident is very likely to be indicted on acharge of violating federal campaign finance laws.”

McCarthy’s argumentis thatwhen Cohen pleadedguilty in August, “prosecutors induced him to make anextraordinarystatementin open court: thepayments to the women weremade ‘in coordination withandat thedirection of’the candidate for federalofficeDonaldTrump.

“Prosecutorswould not havedonethis if the presidentwas not on their radar screen. Indeed, if the president was not implicated, Isuspect they would not have prosecuted Cohen for campaign finance violations atall. Thosechargeshad a negligible impactonthe jailtime Cohenfaces, which is driven by themoreserious offensesoftax and financialinstitutionfraud, involvingmillions of dollars.”

There is, of course, thenot-insignificantmattervofthe JusticeDepartmentpractice that a sittingpresident can’t beindicted. That’s whyDemocratslike Adam Schiff arenowsaying Trumpcould facejail timeafter heleavesoffice (if he’s not reelected).And MSNBC’s JoeScarborough says theSupremeCourtwill have to decidewhetherthepresidentcanbeindicted foracrime “whichhelped him get elected.”

Trump — provingthatno one proofreadshis tweets — said: “Democratscan’tfind a SmockingGuntyingtheTrumpcampaigntoRussia.” Sonow, hesays, “the Dems go toa simple privatetransaction, wronglycall it acampaigncontribution which it was not (but even ifit was, it is onlyaCIVILCASE, likeObama’sbut it was done correctly by a lawyerand there would not even bea fine. Lawyer’s liability if hemadeamistake, not me). Cohenjusttrying toget hissentence reduced. WITCHHUNT!”

All MichaelCohen’s fault, accordingto thepresident.

I don’t minimize theimportance of thepayments to DanielsandMcDougal to suppress theirstories before the election. If a Democrat haddonethat, the right would be up inarms.

But I stillthink it’s a stretchthat it leads to indictment orimpeachment, especially if the much-ballyhoed Russiancollusion probecomes updry.

And the reason is thatthe underlyingoffense (if there is one) wastokeep embarrassingsexualdisclosuresfromcoming out. Thepointwastowin an election, ofcourse — and the president’s palat theEnquirer’sparentcompany rolledoverfor him — but alsospareTrumppaininhismarriage.

Myassumption is that muchof the public won’t seethat as sufficientgroundsto overturn anelection orimprison apresident — just as theydidn’twhenBillClintonrepeatedly liedabout a similarsubject.

What do you think?

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