Two–decades–ago,–liberals–argued–that–Bill Clinton–should not be–impeached for his tawdry affair with–Monica Lewinsky–because, well, his lies were–just about sex.
Today, some–liberals–are arguing that–Donald Trump should be–impeached–because–of Stormy Daniels and–Karen–McDougal–because, well, it’s–not the–sex, it’s the hush money.
For well–over–a–year, Trump’s–critics–have–been–banking–on–Robert–Mueller–to–come–up–with–evidence of Russian–collusion, and there–have–been only disconnected–fragments. So–now —never–mind! — it’s about–women and money.
The–old–argument from–the–left: Trump has–committed crimes–and should be impeached!
The new argument–from the–left: Trump has–committed crimes–and should be indicted!
I’m in no way–excusing what went on–with the two–women from–his past. But here’s some–perspective.
To be–sure, Mueller’s–sentencing memos–last week provided–some leads on the Russia matter. Michael–Cohen, for–instance, admitted lying to–Congress about the time period that the–president’s company was pursuing–a real estate–deal in Moscow, and the memo–says Cohen discussed his–testimony with–people in the White House.
But in the–blink of an–eye, the media focus–seems to be switching–to the Stormy narrative — the case being–pursued–not by–Mueller but–by the U.S.–attorney’s office in–Manhattan.
Here’s a–key difference between–Trump and–Clinton. The 42nd–president–had his dalliance with–Lewinsky–while he was in–office, in the–White House–itself, with a subordinate–who was a–lowly–intern. Trump’s alleged–affairs with a–porn–star–and a Playboy model–took–place–12–years–ago–when–he–was–a–celebrity–businessman.
That’s why most–people don’t care about what–Trump did as a–private–citizen, and I get it. I got a lot–of flak when–I started–reporting on the–Stormy–case — first broken by the Wall–Street Journal days before the–election — and always–stressed that it was the–financial paper trail that might–come back to haunt the–president.
And that’s why–the Southern District’s–probe of Cohen — who was–reimbursed–for making the–$130,000–payment to–Daniels and–brokered the–National–Enquirer’s $150,000–payment–to–McDougal — is–troublesome–for–Cohen’s former boss.
Yes, it’s a campaign finance–violation, and yes, those are–usually punished by fines or even a slap of the wrist.
But the argument that–prosecutors could make–is that it was an attempt to subvert the–election.
National–Review contributor Andrew McCarthy, who–worked in the–Manhattan U.S. attorney’s–office–and is–a sharp–critic of the–Mueller–probe, doesn’t mince words in a piece for–Fox:
“The–president is very likely to be indicted on a–charge of violating federal campaign finance laws.”
McCarthy’s argument–is that–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. Indeed, if the president was not implicated, I–suspect they would not have prosecuted Cohen for campaign finance violations at–all. Those–charges–had a negligible impact–on–the jail–time Cohen–faces, which is driven by the–more–serious offenses–of–tax and financial–institution–fraud, involving–millions of dollars.”
There is, of course, the–not-insignificant–mattervof–the Justice–Department–practice that a sitting–president can’t be–indicted. That’s why–Democrats–like Adam Schiff are–now–saying Trump–could face–jail time–after he–leaves–office (if he’s not reelected).–And MSNBC’s Joe–Scarborough says the–Supreme–Court–will have to decide–whether–the–president–can–be–indicted for–a–crime “which–helped him get elected.”
Trump — proving–that–no one proofreads–his tweets — said: “Democrats–can’t–find a Smocking–Gun–tying–the–Trump–campaign–to–Russia.” So–now, he–says, “the Dems go to–a simple private–transaction, wrongly–call it a–campaign–contribution which it was not (but even if–it was, it is only–a–CIVIL–CASE, like–Obama’s–––but it was done correctly by a lawyer–and there would not even be–a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he–made–a–mistake, not me). Cohen–just–trying to–get his–sentence reduced. WITCH–HUNT!”
All Michael–Cohen’s fault, according–to the–president.
I don’t minimize the–importance of the–payments to Daniels–and–McDougal to suppress their–stories before the election. If a Democrat had–done–that, the right would be up in–arms.
But I still–think it’s a stretch–that it leads to indictment or–impeachment, especially if the much-ballyho–ed Russian–collusion probe–comes up–dry.
And the reason is that–the underlying–offense (if there is one) was–to–keep embarrassing–sexual–disclosures–from–coming out. The–point–was–to–win an election, of–course — and the president’s pal–at the–Enquirer’s–parent–company rolled–over–for him — but also–spare–Trump–pain–in–his–marriage.
My–assumption is that much–of the public won’t see–that as sufficient–grounds–to overturn an–election or–imprison a–president — just as they–didn’t–when–Bill–Clinton–repeatedly lied–about a similar–subject.