Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Checking Team Russia

On Tuesday morning before the Manafort verdict and the Cohen guilty plea, Carl Reiner tweeted

After Manafort and Cohen went down (at least for now), Charlie Pierce wrote

This is a mortal blow to the administration*, which may stagger around for a year or so before it falls over and crushes people, but there is no way I can see that this gets any better for the president* or the people around him. The president* and his fixer paid off Stormy Daniels, and also paid off a tabloid media company, in order to bury stories about the president*'s wandering Donald, and did so in direct violation of even those campaign finance laws that Anthony Kennedy left in place.

Pierce has proclaimed the First Law of Economics as "Fck The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money."  And although people have jobs now, they may be working two at a time and inflation is rising so real wages are not. A corollary to Pierce's Rule of Economics could be "no one cares about the deficit (except some congressional Democrats)."

However, there is another law of American politics which roughly states "no one cares about campaign finance violations." Consequently, the reliably cynical (and realistic) Steve M argues

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.

As SM understands,  people will take notice if Cohen starts to spill his guts, which is likely to occur at some point.  Nonetheless, he's overly pessimistic when contending

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.

Democrats are unlikely to gain control of the House of Representatives unless they win the national popular vote for the chamber by something north of eight percentage points.  As Steve Bannon predicts, the midterms will likely be "a referendum on the Trump presidency." With the economy perceived by Republicans, the mainstream media, and even conceded (unnecessarily) by some Democrats as strong, a Democratic takeover will not occur unless public opinion about the Russia probe does change significantly.

If that occurs and Democratic losses in the Senate are held to a minimum, the stakes in the Special Counsel probe are heightened. If Mueller issues a damning report or the investigation is severely curtailed or ended by President Trump, the reaction is likely to make the latter wish he had never heard of the presidency.

Of course, Donald Trump may be called to account even if Michael Cohen doesn't sing or the Democrats gain control over the House of Representatives. Still the majority in both chambers, the GOP could decide to put country over party. Just kidding.

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