From Here To November: Buckle Up

Ken AshfordElection 2018, L'Affaire Russe, Supreme Court, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Paul Waldman wrote yesterday that the next eleven weeks are going to be decisive for the Trump presidency. He notes first that Michael Cohen appears to either be on the cusp of indictment or cooperation and that could spell all kinds of new headaches for Trump both politically and legally.

He’s already been proved right about that….

But that’s not all, says Waldman, listing other things that could or, in some cases, will happen between now and the first week in November:

  • Paul Manafort will either be convicted or acquitted in his first trial, presumably this week (the jury is currently deliberating). And his second trial — which will deal more directly with his work in the former Soviet Union and the ways it may have affected his actions as Trump campaign chairman — will begin in mid-September.
  • Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III could hand down more indictments, or even release a final report on all that he has learned in his investigation.
  • Trump will likely continue to revoke the security clearances of his critics in the intelligence community, which will generate more bipartisan condemnation and comparisons to Richard Nixon.
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman will release more tapes she recorded of conversations with people in the White House.
  • A lawsuit will begin in Texas in which Republican states and the administration will be arguing for the entire Affordable Care Act to be struck down, handing Democrats a priceless campaign issue.
  • Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings will take place. Even if the process ends with a win for Trump, it will also likely generate an immediate backlash, a wave of fear and opposition from Democrats as they realize the implications of an intensely partisan, intensely conservative Supreme Court.

Then there’s McGahn, the trade war and any of a number of simmering international crises. And these are just what we know about. He continues:

The culmination of this intense period is, of course, the November elections. The wave of scandal news will only increase the likelihood that Democrats will win control of the House, and as much as we’ve talked about that possibility, we haven’t fully reckoned with how transformative it would be.

Right now Congress is all but nonexistent as a force in our political life; having passed a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, Republicans have given up on any serious legislating, and certainly aren’t exercising anything resembling oversight of the administration. But if Democrats have control, they’ll begin holding hearings and mounting investigations of all the Trump scandals. Russia will be just the beginning; they’ll use their subpoena power and ability to create news events to probe the president himself, possible misconduct committed by other members of his administration (of which there is a nearly inexhaustible supply) and various policy outrages. It will be a ceaseless drumbeat of Trump scandal for the next two years.

It’s been a drumbeat of scandal since he started running for president. But this will be different. The Democrats are going to hold public hearing and real investigations. That changes everything. 

How’s Trump taking recent developments?  Not well, according to Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman:

Since news broke of McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mueller, Trump has been lashing out on Twitter. “He’s got to frame the narrative. He thinks the media is like a shark: you’re either feeding it or it eats you,” one Republican close to the White House said. Privately, Trump blames his precarious position on the people who work for him. Trump’s fury at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, already raging, has been stoked thanks to Sessions’s refusal to resign after months of public abuse. “You can’t talk to Trump without him bringing up Sessions,” one adviser said.

Trump’s frustration with Sessions has even caused him to turn on Giuliani. Over the weekend, Trump blamed Giuliani for the entire Russia probe. According to a person to whom the conversation was described, Trump loudly said to his lawyer: “It’s your fault! I offered you attorney general, but you insisted on being secretary of state. Had I picked you none of this would be happening.” (The White House declined to comment.)

A lot of what’s driving Trump’s ire, White House advisers said, is Trump’s growing realization that his previous legal team, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, made a strategic error in waiving executive privilege to cooperate fully with Mueller. But Trump being Trump, he won’t admit to making this mistake, so he directs blame onto others. Another theory for what’s motivating Trump’s increasingly unhinged tweets is that Mueller may be closing in on his son Don Jr. “A lot of what Trump is doing is based on the fact [that] Mueller is going after Don Jr.,” a person close to the Trump family told me. “They’re squeezing Don Jr. right now.”

Don Jr.’s lawyer said, “I’m not going to comment.” Another person briefed on the investigation disputed the term “squeeze,” but said the Mueller team continues to ask for documents.