It doesn’t matter what Mueller didn’t find.
Since Robert Mueller and his revanchist inquisitors filed their sentencing memoranda on the President’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, the Democrats and their friends in the legacy media have been squealing with undisguised glee. They clearly believe that it marks the beginning of the end for an “illegitimate” presidency. Never mind that the filings contain no evidence of criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and any foreign entity, an odd omission for a “Russia Probe.” Forget that payments of hush money to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal aren’t in and of themselves illegal. Trump’s enemies believe that impeachment is now inevitable.
And they’re right.
But this has nothing to do with the ridiculous Mueller probe. That farcical “investigation” is, and always has been, nothing but a stalking horse. The event that guaranteed Trump’s impeachment was the November election in which the Democrats “harvested” a majority in the House. Nancy Pelosi discouraged the use of the “I” word by her accomplices during the final months of the midterms, but there was never any doubt that it would be the number one item on the Democrat agenda if she managed to get her hands on the Speaker’s gavel again. Nor does Pelosi much care that Mueller hasn’t uncovered anything resembling “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
How can anyone claim that the Special Counsel hasn’t uncovered anything when his sentencing memorandum refers to contacts with Russian nationals during early 2016 involving a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow? On this abortive project, Mueller makes no claim that these contacts were illegal, and the deal fell through before Trump ran for President. Well then, how is it possible to deny that there was collusion when the memo cites overtures by other Russians who wanted to meet the candidate and establish “political synergy”? Cohen didn’t follow up with the “trusted person” who made this cryptic offer, and this character never got near Trump.
Alright, is it really plausible that the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were somehow within the bounds of the law? Yep. To begin with, such payments aren’t a crime at all — and they certainly don’t reach the level of a “high crime.” According to the law, they are just as legal as paying these two people to be quiet about Trump’s affinity for fast food. Nor does it rise to that level even if candidate Trump directed Cohen to make the payments and the cash came out of campaign funds. This is not, of course, what we are hearing from bloviating political hacks like New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, who claims that such actions are impeachable:
They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they’re important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question.… Certainly, they’re impeachable offenses, because, even though they were committed before the President became President, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.
Fraudulently obtaining office? What is Nadler talking about? This novel legal concept has no basis in statutory or constitutional law. Nor is there any such offense mentioned in the Mueller sentencing memo. Even the New York Times seems a little befuddled by the charge, which it discusses in a piece titled: “Prosecutors Effectively Accuse Trump of Defrauding Voters. What Does It Mean?” Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff suggests, “It may mean that the prosecutors haven’t found a crime, but are still pissed off that Trump won the election.” This is how the 40-page sentencing memorandum from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York phrases it:
Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1 [Trump]. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.
If it isn’t a crime to make such payments to these women, why does the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo explicitly refer to them as “illegal”? This is where the perversity of campaign finance law rears its exceedingly ugly head. If Cohen made these payments from his own funds without the knowledge or approval of the candidate, and then failed to report the outlays as campaign contributions, then he (but not Trump) is guilty of violating campaign finance laws. But don’t take my word for it. Alan Dershowitz, a famously liberal defense attorney who is by no means a supporter of the GOP or President Trump, has been making this very point for months:
The president doesn’t break the law if, as a candidate, he contributes to his own campaign. So if he gave $1 million to two women as hush money, there would be no crime.… So it is a catch-22 for the prosecution. If they claim that the president authorized him to do it or directed him to do it, it’s not a crime for anybody. If Cohen did it on his own, then it is a crime for Cohen but not the president.
This is why, after seeing the Cohen sentencing memoranda, President Trump tweeted: “Totally clears the President. Thank you!” But impeachment is a political process. It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that “high crimes and misdemeanors” are what Congress says they are, and House Democrats will be under tremendous pressure to “get Trump.” Many of their constituents agree with representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed impeachment thus: “I mean, yeah. To me, it’s a no-brainer.” House Democrats will probably go down the no-brainer path. Trump should still be safe because actual removal from office requires conviction in the Senate.
Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds super majority. The Republicans will begin this process with a majority of 53-47. That means a minimum of twenty Republicans would have to defect to the other side of the aisle, assuming the Democrats sustain the kind of solidarity they maintained during the 1999 Clinton trial. This would be an excellent opportunity to identify the remaining RINOs still lurking in the Republican ranks, but impeachment would be incredibly disruptive to the orderly operation of the government and conclusively demonstrate that the Democrats have no agenda at all — beyond resisting President Trump and thwarting the will of the voters.
Inauguration Day 2017 (Mark Dixon from Pittsburgh, PA/Creative Commons)