Things are going almost unimaginably badly for both President Trump and the Republican Party.
The president's former personal attorney and "fixer" has pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including campaign finance violations. What's worse, he claims he committed those violations at the behest of then-candidate Trump. Right on the heels of his guilty plea, jurors in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman, Russian stooge, and renowned Ostrich jacket collector Paul Manafort returned a verdict of guilty on eight out of 18 counts. Prosecutors also announced the indictment of GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, who occupies a previously safe California seat the GOP can hardly afford to lose.
All of this happened in a single 24 hours, and it was almost certainly the worst political day of Trump's presidency. Trump, and the Republican Party, should be very worried.
Cohen, a longtime Trump associate who once fancied himself the next mayor of New York, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax fraud, one count of false statements to a bank, and two campaign finance violations. Many of Cohen's crimes appear not to involve the president, but two certainly do. The first is count seven, the conspiracy to purchase the silence, together with the National Enquirer, of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who allegedly had an affair with Trump in 2006. The second is count eight, which involves the $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who also claims to have had a brief fling with the president around the same time.
Amazingly, Cohen's guilty pleas weren't the bombshell. Only people with a highly developed sense of misplaced trust and naivete could have believed, as of yesterday morning, that Cohen had never committed crimes, either on his own or for the president. More important was Cohen's contention that Trump knowingly instructed him to violate federal law. "I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election," Cohen stated. His attorney, Lanny Davis, later went on The Rachel Maddow Show and claimed that Cohen has information about both collusion and Trump's knowledge of Russian email hacking.
The import of this allegation was not lost on anyone: This is the first time a member of the president's goon squad has been willing to go on record to say that Trump broke the law. And it seems likely that Cohen has more — and more extensive — damaging information about the president. Yikes.
Cohen sort of stole the spotlight from Manafort's conviction on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. While there had been hope in Trumpworld that Manafort would skate, he definitely did not. Yet despite Tuesday's explosive developments, much remains unknown. Manafort is due for another trial for money laundering and illicit lobbying next month. In a broader sense, we still don't know what, if any, information Manafort and Cohen have about the investigation into Russian tampering with the 2016 presidential election, or where Mueller will take the investigation from here.
What seems increasingly undeniable is this: Trump, along with his coterie of comically inept henchmen, intentionally committed serious crimes while running for president. Mueller is closing in on Trump's conduct in office, which he seems likely to characterize as obstruction of justice. While the president remains insulated from impeachment for the moment, he is deeply vulnerable to Mueller's findings, especially if the GOP experiences a catastrophe in November that can plausibly be blamed on Trump's conduct.
For the average congressional Republican, this should all feel very unfair. The good times should be rolling right now! Unemployment is at its lowest point in years. Anyone with a stake in the stock market is better off than they were two years ago. Is it fair that President Trump should get credit for an economy that was on an upward trajectory when he took office? Probably not, but Bill Clinton never complained about benefitting from a long economic expansion that started under his predecessor. And it's not just that economic conditions are favorable — the Trump administration has also overseen the vanquishing of ISIS in the Middle East, and despite roiling relations with allies and adversaries over trade and alliance policy, has not committed a politically toxic blunder like the Iraq War or experienced a disaster like Benghazi.
But the good times are decidedly not rolling. Not only are Republicans looking more and more likely to kick away control of the House in November, there are multiple signs that the shellacking may be bigger and more comprehensive than expected. Democrats keep releasing favorable internal polls of races that Republicans should be winning handily, with no response from their opponents. The president's relentlessly churlish and worrisome behavior in office, which shows no sign of abating, repels the public. Yet he and the GOP are stuck with each other, at least through November. And if Republicans lose this election as badly as it looks like they might, they'll all have plenty of time to think about how things might have gone differently.
Unfortunately for Trump, this is one situation he can't threaten or pay anyone off to fix.