Why the Michael Cohen investigation probably isn't 'the beginning of the end' of Trump's presidency

  • Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is under investigation by the FBI, which has seized thousands of documents from his office and home.
  • Speculation is rampant that potential criminal charges stemming from the investigation could spell "the beginning of the end" for the Trump presidency.
  • Here's why that may be just another pipe dream for #TheResistance.
Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives at Federal Court in New York, on Monday, April 16, 2018.
Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives at Federal Court in New York, on Monday, April 16, 2018.

First, Michael Cohen is obviously in significant legal jeopardy.

Second, it's not at all obvious that President Donald Trump is as well, contrary to the popular narrative that this is the "beginning of the end" for this administration. I have no such confidence.

The problem is that it's extremely difficult to imagine what "significant legal jeopardy" would even mean for Donald Trump; for the moment, his party controls both houses of Congress, and he controls his party.

Even in the event that meaningful malfeasance is brought to light, I am not entirely certain under what circumstances the party would condemn him for it. And the Cohen case, for all the hoopla surrounding it, is not clearly and directly connected with the president to the degree that I would be confident saying it could bring him down, any more than Whitewater brought down former President Bill Clinton.

No slam dunk

In other words, unless you can directly tie the president to Cohen's activities in a way that makes them politically unacceptable, nothing is going to come of this. And right now? Well, right now you just can't. Despite how clearly rattled the White House is at this point, nothing here is a slam dunk for those in #TheResistance who are waiting for something in this lothario president's checkered past to do him in. Let's think about what we've got at this point.

The biggest question is whether Cohen aided the president in criminal activity or not. But even granting the assumption that all of the charges in the Cohen case are true — granting Stormy Daniels the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the payoff was real, facilitated in Trump's name with Trump's knowledge, that he deliberately failed to sign the agreement to avoid being implicated in it — it's still hard to see a path to impeachment unless the president, like Clinton before him, perjures himself. And Mueller can't seem to get him under oath, so there's relatively little danger of that, even granting his congenital aversion to the truth.

"Why would his party prosecute him politically (which is what impeachment is) for things his base either a) doesn't believe or b) doesn't care about?"

In short, nothing we've seen here so far comes even close to proving that Trump did anything while in office to warrant removal. It shows that he is a man of few scruples, monomaniacally self-serving and self-obsessed, but these are things we already knew and which don't disqualify him from the presidency.

And while they perhaps would have had that effect on any other sitting chief magistrate, Trump has the advantage that nobody expects better of him, and he was elected despite these kinds of behaviors. Why would his party prosecute him politically (which is what impeachment is) for things his base either a) doesn't believe or b) doesn't care about?

There might be very real evidence of criminal activity in the Cohen files; the obvious reticence to let anyone else look at them on the part of this White House makes clear that there may be something in there they don't want to get out. But I simply have a hard time believing it's either enough of a smoking gun to warrant the ongoing "it's the beginning of the end for Trump" narrative or that there's the political will to impeach him over it.

Principle vs. naked self-interest

What would the red line for the GOP be that hasn't already been crossed a thousand times in the last three years? Whatever is in Cohen's files, whatever attorney-client privilege might not protect, is unlikely to tell us anything we didn't already know about the man who is likely to continue occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the foreseeable future.

Let's not forget, Trump has very successfully turned much of the public against the Mueller investigation, aided in large part by political clefts so wide it's difficult to find some semblance of common ground. Imagine, if you will, being a Republican in this climate; your political future may well appear to be dependent on how much you throw in with the president over his enemies. Does principle win out over naked self-interest? Does the country?

That's the critical thing here: Nothing anyone finds means anything without the will to do something about it.

Commentary by Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of Ericho Communications and a media, and public relations expert. He is a regular guest on Fox's Tech Take, a HuffPost contributor, and bestselling author of seven books, including PR for Dummies and Leadership Secrets of the World's Most Successful CEOs. Follow him on Twitter @RealYaverbaum.

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