- The reckoning has arrived for Donald Trump. The trouble for him and fellow Republicans will only get worse from here.
- Trump and his allies sought comfort asserting that none of Tuesday's legal proceedings involved collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election. That is true.
- But all the president's men under prosecutorial scrutiny have important Russian connections that are problematic for Trump.
The reckoning has arrived for President Donald Trump. The trouble for him and fellow Republicans — legal and political — will only get worse from here.
Two different federal courtrooms, one in New York and one outside Washington, demonstrated starkly on Tuesday that the 45th president has operated within a circle of criminality. One produced eight guilty verdicts against former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort; the other eight guilty pleas from former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.
That makes Trump's 2016 campaign chairman, his White House national security advisor and longtime personal lawyer all convicted or admitted felons. Cohen, the personal lawyer, said he committed campaign finance crimes at Trump's direction in the form of hush-money payments to conceal extramarital affairs.
Cohen and former national security advisor Michael Flynn are already assisting the federal prosecutors investigating Trump. Manafort, facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison with another trial coming in weeks, has heightened incentive to cooperate as well.
Trump and his allies sought comfort by asserting that none of Tuesday's legal proceedings involved collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election. That is true.
But all the president's men under prosecutorial scrutiny have important Russian connections that are problematic for Trump. Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has only shown a fraction of the evidence he has amassed.
The New York Times has reported that Cohen's longstanding ties to Russian interests include an ownership interest in an uncle's catering hall frequented by Russian organized crime figures. During the 2016 campaign, Cohen sought on Trump's behalf to develop real estate in Moscow.
Manafort received tens of millions of dollars from allies of Vladimir Putin for political consulting in Ukraine. Manafort attempted to use his job as Trump's unpaid campaign chairman to alleviate financial pressure after his Ukrainian patrons lost power. Along with the president's son and son-in-law, he participated in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting arranged to receive Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton. With Trump openly urging them on, Russian intelligence subsequently dumped dirt publicly via WikiLeaks.
Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying about conversations with a Russian diplomat concerning sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama, lies then repeated publicly by Vice President Mike Pence. Mueller has not revealed what Flynn has told him about Trump's role, if any, in those conversations as a cooperating witness seeking to lighten his punishment.
All this tightens the vise not only on Trump but on Republican candidates on the ballot in midterm elections only three months away. Democrats already hold the upper hand in the race for control of the House; their chances in capturing the Senate are much smaller, but improving.
The felony indictments of Trump's first two allies in Congress — Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California — underscore the emptiness of GOP claims that their new president would "drain the swamp." Corruption will be a significant theme for Democratic campaigns this fall.
Trump's weak public standing remains above the 40 percent level mainly because of the strong economy. But his reliance on crude demagoguery about immigration before friendly campaign audiences — including Tuesday night in West Virginia — demonstrates that his principal economic arguments lack punch with the electorate. Average workers have gained little from Trump's tax cuts, and his trade wars threaten to cost more jobs than they save.
Republican lawmakers will not suddenly abandon Trump any more than Republican lawmakers suddenly abandoned Richard Nixon 45 years as the flames of Watergate grew higher. Their survival instincts won't permit it, given the allegiance of Trump's diminished but still fervent base among GOP voters.
But concrete legal developments erode political defenses. There will soon be fewer Republican members of Congress than hold office today. A Democratic-controlled House is almost certain to impeach him.
As Cohen's unindicted co-conspirator, Trump, retains a personal legal shield from the longstanding Justice Department policy that sitting presidents cannot face prosecution. The immediate relevance of the accusation from his long-time fixer concerns how long Trump remains the sitting president.