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Trump world: Imploding or weathering a storm?

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Aug 28, 2018 - 2:16:46 PM

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President Donald Trump pauses as he walks down the stairs of Air Force One in the rain as he arrives at Piedmont Triad International Airport, Oct. 7, 2017, in Greensboro, N.C., enroute to a Republican National Committee fundraiser. Photo: AP/Wide World photos
WASHINGTON—Guilty. Guilty.

In separate federal courtrooms, 200 miles apart, at almost the same hour Aug. 21, two former close associates of President Donald J. Trump were declared guilty of bank fraud, campaign finance crimes, and tax evasion, and as the investigation continues, the president himself is now publicly implicated in the crimes.

In Virginia, a jury found Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty of seven charges related to tax and bank fraud and one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts. One juror held out preventing his conviction on 10 other counts. In New York, the president’s longtime personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, pled guilty to eight criminal charges, including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

Mr. Cohen admitted in court that Mr. Trump directed him to pay off two women to keep them quiet in order to influence the 2016 election. The president at first denied knowledge of the payments then denied they were illegal because he personally repaid Mr. Cohen.

Legal experts insist however, that regardless of the final source, campaign finance violations occurred because money well in excess of the $2,700 legal contribution limit was paid in order to aid Mr. Trump’s electoral victory, by burying negative stories about him.

The president is already a virtual “unindicted co-conspirator” in Mr. Cohen’s crimes just based on what is known publicly, even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller digs deeper in his year-old investigation of Russian interference on behalf of, and in cooperation with, the Trump 2016 campaign and possible obstruction of justice by the president.

The president condemns Mr. Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.” But since November 2016, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, his deputy campaign manager, his national security adviser, his personal lawyer and a foreign policy aide have all admitted crimes or been convicted as a result of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

In addition to the conviction of Mr. Manafort, the investigation has garnered guilty pleas from former Trump National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn; guilty pleas by former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and two of his associates; an indictment of Mr. Manafort’s associate Rick Gates; the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee; and charges against several other Russian operatives, totaling more than 100 criminal counts so far.

“You can’t dismiss it as a witch hunt,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told CNBC, referring to the Mueller probe, and to the eight counts on which Mr. Manafort was found guilty. “Yesterday was a pretty sobering day,” he continued. “The Mueller probe needs to be allowed to proceed.

“Where there’s smoke, and there’s a lot of smoke, there may well be fire. Anybody who says this is not disturbing is not being honest,” Rep. Cole said.

What should be shocking in the public discourse, but is not, about these allegations concerning this sitting president of the United States, is that his potential guilt or innocence concerns illegal payments—“hush money”—paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels and to Playboy model Karen McDougal. Strippers.

But Mr. Trump’s lifetime of tawdry behavior, bankruptcies, divorces, and marital infidelities apparently does not cost him any political support, even among so-called “Christian evangelical, values voters.” His growing list of scandals would have paralyzed any president before him.

“Under ordinary conditions, this would be an impeachable offense,” Dr. Gerald Horne, Moores professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston told The Final Call, “because, what Mr. Trump did during the campaign was use corrupt means to keep relevant information away from the electorate and that’s a textbook example of what the U.S. Constitution suggested, with regard to an impeachable offense. And even if the Justice Department takes the point of view that they will not indict a sitting president, if he is turned out of office in 2020, he will be fighting court cases for the rest of his life,” Dr. Horne said.

The latest scandal involves another hushed story, involving Dino Sajudin, a former doorman at the Trump World Tower. “I can confirm that while working at Trump World Tower I was instructed not to criticize President Trump’s former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child,” Mr. Sajudin said in a statement after details of his “hush payment” from the National Enquirer were made public. The payment and agreement with Mr. Sajudin were reportedly made in November 2015. The housekeeper and her child have not been named in news reports, and Mr. Sajudin’s claim remains unverified.

“I’ve been here 11 and a half years and I’ve never witnessed anything like what I’ve seen over the last year and a half,” Sen. Bob Corker, (R-Tenn.) told “Talking Points Memo.”

“I have a lot of faith in the legal process and hope the legal process will continue and that justice that needs to be done will be done,” he said.

A majority vote is required in the House of Representatives to impeach the president. Then, a two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove him from office. Even if Democrats have a chance to win back the House majority, most of the Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate are cautious about impeachment talk now.

Despite this latest “implosion of Trump world,” bringing the president to account seems “a bridge too far” for most of the so-called “establishment” leaders in both the House and Senate.

Mr. Trump’s supporters like former White House adviser Steve Bannon are trying to use such talk as a rallying cry. Mr. Bannon “is out there, trying to create the narrative that the 2018 midterm elections are all about impeachment,” Dr. Wilmer Leon, political scientist and host of “Inside the Issues” on Sirius-XM Radio told The Final Call. “And when you start having that conversation, then that is just galvanizing Trump votes.”

“It’s clear now that the Republicans in Congress are not going to ever go along with an impeachment, no matter what Robert Mueller and the special counsel find,” James Risen, “The Intercept’s” senior national security correspondent and former New York Times reporter told “Democracy Now!”

“Even if the Democrats retake the House, and even if they retook the Senate, it’s highly unlikely they would have the votes in the Senate for a conviction on an impeachment. And so, the only real avenue, I believe, to deal with the criminality of Donald Trump is to indict him and prosecute him in a federal court. And I think that the prosecutors, both in New York, who have dealt with the Cohen matter, and Mueller’s special counsel office, should both consider indicting him for what are very obviously criminal activity, criminal matters,” Mr. Risen said.

What the Trump scandal has shown is the abundance of corruption running throughout the U.S. political system, possibly even exposing the “myth of the American presidency.”

“Just based upon current convictions, current pleas, and admissions of guilt in terms of illegality, this is even more corrupt than the Nixon administration,” said Dr. Leon. “This is more corrupt than Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra scandal. This really seems to be the new direction of American politics.”

Some of those involved in the Trump scandals have roots which go way back with racist and ultra-right wing causes. Mr. Manafort according to Dr. Horne, for example, was one of the architects of Mr. Nixon’s so-called “Southern Strategy,” which appealed to racist sentiments of Whites in Dixie, angry that the long-dominant Southern Democrats led by President Lyndon Johnson of Texas, were responsible for the sweeping Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. In addition, he said, Mr. Manafort founded a lobbying firm that represented Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Zaire from 1965-1997; and UNITA rebels in Angola in the 1970s.

These and Mr. Trump’s own ties to ultra-rightwing figures should sound the alarm, Dr. Horne continued. Mr. Trump’s repeated use of racially coded language “obviously sheds new light on the assertion made by Hillary Rodham Clinton a couple of years ago that a good deal of Mr. Trump’s supporters were in fact ‘deplorable.’ And if they’re being excited by cries of racism, they are in fact deplorable.

“What this tells us, is that there is this international chain that links White reactionaries from the Atlantic, across the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Australia, and that likewise, if we are going to combat these elements who have these fascist tendencies, we need to be linking arms internationally as well,” Dr. Horne concluded.