Trump. Cohen. What’s Next?

You’re out of your element, Donnie.

The news is the news, you’re probably all aware of it but if not: former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has publicly admitted that Donald Trump ordered him to lie to Congress.

That is a major thing; in both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment cases, the first article of impeachment was related to the suborning of perjury.

You can pinpoint the moment Trump knew he was in the soup. Remember a few months ago, you heard a quick burst of conversation in the media about the Trump administration floating the notion that they had the right to pardon those convicted by state courts? It was quickly shot down by legal scholars, I don’t remember offhand if there was even a court case involved.

A quick google search seems to put this conversation in general happening from around June to August of 2018.

When I went to find the Cohen arrest and other key dates just to kind of verify my hunch here, and sure enough, there’s this story: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen expects to be arrested any day now. That’s dated June 12th.

Then there’s this:

As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2018

I’m going to say at some point between June 1st and 5:38am June 4th, Michael Cohen had a long, serious talk with his client and let him know that there was a very good possibility that he was in a serious mess. More serious than impeachment or even jail. State charges – discussion of which was in the air immediately after the series of tweets that included the one above, such as in this City & State NY article from later that day.

I Beg Your Pardon?

The power of the president to pardon himself is questionable, but there’s a case to be made that it’s within the power of the office.

What is explicitly not within the power of the Presidency is the ability to pardon or commute state convictions. Trump is looking at the very real possibility of prison time. If you watch the timeline of events, it’s a safe bet that he was on the phone with Cohen or someone else about an hour before those tweets went out.

This is important, because it shows that Trump knew what he did was illegal. Innocent people don’t start looking for ways to pardon themselves.

This goes to intent and awareness of the law, two key arguments that one might suggest as viable in front of a Congressional impeachment hearing…or a Senate sentencing that could include removal from office, if the House convicts.

With Cohen’s public admission a couple of days ago that Trump suborned him to perjure himself in front of Congress, there is no question that impeachment is very much on the table and indeed is quite probable at this point. That doesn’t mean a conviction is guaranteed, nor that he’ll be removed from office by Congress if he’s convicted. I still think Mueller & team, along with Democratic leadership, are keen to avoid having Pence take over; they’d like to nail both and then the line of succession goes to Nancy Pelosi.

At present, I don’t know of any part of the investigation that’s getting close to having a charge against Pence, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

Also important: note again the use of mass media for Trump to float “trial balloons” to see if he has public support as well as to conveniently crowd-source research on his possible options. In June, not many people were seriously convinced that Trump could be convicted of a crime at all, let alone one that rose to the level of being impeachable. But he was worried about it, and tipped his hand publicly to that effect.

When you start paying attention to how this guy operates, you start understanding that every time there’s some seemingly inexplicable tweet storm about some semi-random thing, it’s because he’s trying to find ways to cover his ass.

It’s not quite enough yet to be sure we’ll see a conviction on impeachment, or removal on conviction. But I think it’s safe to say now that we will see impeachment.

A friend pointed out that the Republican Party will likely pressure him to resign. I suspect that won’t happen – indeed, I suspect he’ll have to be dragged out of the White House literally kicking and screaming if Congress convicts him and removes him from office. He doesn’t care if he’s making the GOP look bad – to his mind it’ll be fair play because they failed to protect him from himself.

Trump-ty’s Great Fall?

In the end, the key takeaway from this for me is, again: pay attention. Watch what’s happening. When something seems off, don’t just assume you’re being paranoid or thinking too hard about it. Look closer, play things out in your head a little, see where it takes you. You don’t have to be psychic to see this stuff coming, you just have to be paying attention.

Trump knew he was in serious trouble no later than June 4th, and he immediately began publicly searching for ways to obstruct justice when he’s convicted. This tells us three things:

  1. Donald Trump thinks that he can not only obstruct justice but that he can do so openly without sanction
  2. Donald Trump is in serious trouble, and he knows it.
  3. Donald Trump remains a buffoon.

Right now I’d say it’s a 50-50 chance we’ll have a new President by my birthday in August. Certainly there’s now one known federal charge that is impeachable. I suspect there will be more, soon.