'Trump's Worst Day, Ever': Conservative Writer Breaks Down How Everything Is Falling Apart for the President
On Tuesday, the political world exploded as President Donald Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud relating to his covert work for Russian oligarchs, just as his former attorney and fixed Michael Cohen was accepting a plea bargain for campaign finance violations related to his hush payments to help the Trump campaign.
At a rally in West Virginia soon after, Trump tried to downplay the Manafort convictions, which were obtained as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. "Paul Manafort's a good man. It doesn't involve me," he said, adding, "It has nothing to do with Russia collusion.
By all accounts, it was a disastrous day for Trump, as conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin laid out in an article for the Washington Post:
In the short run, this may not change much. Manafort is scheduled to begin another trial in September on matters hitting rather close to home — the White House — for Trump. Whereas the judge in Virginia essentially barred any mention of Russia or the Trump campaign, Mueller’s attachments and work for Russian-connected Ukranian oligarchs will be front and center in the next trial. The notion that no one on the campaign had connections to any Russia-related figures likely will be thoroughly debunked.
The question that now must vex Trump is whether Manafort will “flip,” and hence if Trump should pardon him before he gets a chance. There are many reasons why pardoning Manafort would be a disaster. For one thing, he could still be subpoenaed to testify and be subject to perjury charges if he lies under oath. (You cannot pardon someone prospectively.) Once pardoned, Manafort would lose the Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify on the grounds it would incriminate him. Moreover, a Manafort pardon would cement in the minds of many Americans — including the prosecutors — that Trump is bent on covering up something relating to Russia. If Trump tried to do this before the midterms, a firestorm would ensue, putting at risk many more congressional Republican (who have never stood up to the president).
Rubin's diagnosis is grimly accurate: Trump is in a no-win situation. The convictions are incredibly damning, especially given that Manafort's shady dealings were well known at the time Trump chose to hire him, if not in scope than certainly in gist. And Trump has no way of making this go away, because the consequences of trying to pardon Manafort would only make things worse.
All things considered, Trump is very wrong. Manafort's legal troubles have everything to do with him. And with another trial on the horizon, things might only just be getting started.