Earlier in the Week, Trump May Have Looked Presidential; on Friday, He Looked Like a Criminal Suspect


Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out this image last night, stating,

Last night the President put our adversaries on notice: when he draws a red line he enforces it. (Inside the Situation Room as President is briefed on Syria – Official WH photos by Shealah Craighead)

While she didn’t actually make the claim but implied it, the photo couldn’t have been taken “last night” (that is, Friday, just before the decision to bomb Syria), because Mike Pence was in Peru on Friday. My guess, given that Mike Pompeo is not in the frame, is it may have been taken on Thursday during the CIA Director’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In any case, the significance of Sanders using this dated photo to show Trump looking presidential has little to do with Pence. Rather, it has to do with Trump.

The White House, presumably, doesn’t have a picture of Trump looking presidential on Friday to offer (Sanders would have been better tweeting out Trump’s Friday speech).

And there’s a likely reason for that. Rather than acting presidential on Friday, Trump was acting like a criminal suspect, calling his consigliere, Michael Cohen, while he was blowing off a court hearing to hang out with mobbed up friends, to try to understand the full impact of a FBI raid on the two of them.

As his lawyers went to court in New York on Friday to try to block prosecutors from reading files that were seized from the personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, this week, Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated in mounting a response. He continued to struggle to hire a new criminal lawyer, and some of his own aides were reluctant to advise him about a response for fear of being dragged into a criminal investigation themselves.

The raids on Mr. Cohen came as part of a monthslong federal investigation based in New York, court records show, and were sweeping in their breadth. In addition to searching his home, office and hotel room, F.B.I. agents seized material from Mr. Cohen’s cellphones, tablet, laptop and safe deposit box, according to people briefed on the warrants. Prosecutors revealed in court documents that they had already secretly obtained many of Mr. Cohen’s emails.

Mr. Trump called Mr. Cohen on Friday to “check in,” according to two people briefed on the call. Depending on what else was discussed, the call could be problematic, as lawyers typically advise their clients against discussing investigations.

Reports are that Trump sees more risk from this investigation than he does from the Mueller one (I’ll post later why I think that’s not quite right, but a lot depends on what happens tomorrow in court). Whichever investigation will end up getting Trump, I agree with Adam Davidson (though he, like virtually all journalists, gets NYT’s self-appointed red line wrong) that if the FBI is able to go through Cohen’s files thoroughly, it will bring Trump’s presidency to an end.

There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded. Last week, federal investigators raided the offices of Michael Cohen, the man who has been closer than anybody to Trump’s most problematic business and personal relationships. This week, we learned that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months—his e-mails have been read, presumably his phones have been tapped, and his meetings have been monitored. Trump has long declared a red line: Robert Mueller must not investigate his businesses, and must only look at any possible collusion with Russia. That red line is now crossed and, for Trump, in the most troubling of ways. Even if he were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and then had Mueller and his investigation put on ice, and even if—as is disturbingly possible—Congress did nothing, the Cohen prosecution would continue. Even if Trump pardons Cohen, the information the Feds have on him can become the basis for charges against others in the Trump Organization.

This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth. I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.

However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality.

As well as Davidson describes this moment, I think the photo does so even better. A White House concerned first and foremost about the president’s image has no photo of him looking presidential before “he” made the decision to make an illegal military strike. And the reason for that may well be that he was far more occupied with his legal jeopardy than with doing his job.

48 replies
  1. Frank Probst says:

    “Earlier in the week, Trump may have looked Presidential…”

     

    On Thursday, maybe.  On Monday, not so much.

  2. Frank Probst says:

    Honest question:  How likely is it that Cohen’s phone is tapped?  You can see him holding it in the video of him hanging out smoking cigars when he should have been in court.  It doesn’t surprise me that Trump called Cohen on Friday, or that Cohen (apparently) took the call.  What DOES surprise me is that the only way that would leak is if Trump or Cohen told other people about the call, which is even more foolish.  Or, worse, if they had the call in front of other people, which could potentially negate any attorney-client privilege.  If there wasn’t enough evidence to justify a wiretap before (and it seems like there probably was), there’s definitely enough evidence now.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Once Cohen learned he was the target of a federal investigation that might include his principal client, he had an unwaivable conflict of interest.  Trump could no longer be his client.

      As always, it was stupid of Trump to call Cohen (or the reverse) and just as stupid of Cohen to take it.  He was Trump’s longtime lawyer because, allegedly backed by mob muscle, he relies on threats and intimidation more than lawyering.

      I should think that all of the identified phones Cohen has might be tapped and all his known passports tagged.  Cohen has enough experience with alleged organized crime figures to assume it.

      • Avattoir says:

        bmaz & any other criminal case attorneys reading this thread can attest to how common it is among those who either reasonably surmise or even actually know their calls are under surveillance to not only continue on talking on their phones as before, or even to do so while just having overtly, plainly acknowledging they’re aware their calls are being live monitored by law enforcement.

        I’ve been involved in not merely a few cases in which, once this observation was dropped into the conversation, one of the speakers said, Then we better be careful here, yet continue to talk as openly as before; or, Then we should make up a code, whereupon they promptly proceed to do just that IN THE SAME MONITORED CALL; or there’s the classic, the one that happens so often it’s weird when it doesn’t show up, where one or both speakers will COMMENCE TO SPEAK MORE CLOSELY or even to WHISPER – a “ploy” that’s only slightly less common than the related, I can’t hear you, you’re whispering too low, whereupon the whisperer repeats what’s just been whispered VERY LOUDLY AND SLOWLY.

        This sort of communication behavior is so typical of career criminal behavior that it’s surely guaranteed to feature bigly in any calls out of Trump World that have been – or even currently are being – covertly scooped up by the feds. ‘These people are not very bright’ is fated to be historical dismissive of the Trump administration, because they’ve  brought only the commonest mob collective hive-think into the White House.

        • Ed Walker says:

          I use Signal for calls and texts with friends and I’m not a criminal suspect. Either Signal isn’t secure from the Feds, or these guys are dumb as rocks.

          • bmaz says:

            Nothing. And I mean nothing, is perfectly secure these days. But, then, it never was. People just get blinded by the purported tech. Is some, like Signal, WAY better than nothing? Sure. But do not mistake better for perfect.

          • Mark says:

            Ed, I seriously doubt ANY form of communication is secure from the Feds if the Feds want it.  That was already true prior to the opening of the Utah Data Center, a place so advanced that scientists had to make up new terms for the amount of processing power the computers have in the facility.   It uses more electricity than Moline.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I’m afraid I have to agree.  I’ve been in meetings overseas where the other side paraded back to us translated comments from private discussions we’d had the night before, and then sat through the same “confidential” discussions in the same bugged rooms the next night.  As they say, common sense is neither.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I’ve also read about more than a few cases where criminals go to lengths to protect themselves in some ways, but then completely expose themselves because they think they’re secure in other ways. So they’ll be religiously careful not to talk about anything criminal over their regular phones, but then blab completely unguardedly over a burner cell phone they bought for cash at a 7-11.

          I suspect a similar situation was playing out in the White House last year. Politico reported on how commonly staff, including Kushner, were conducting business over their private cell phones. Best case scenario is the FBI has direct evidence of crimes. At a minimum, I suspect there will be cases that can be brought of failure to comply with document requests, failure to report information on clearance applications and financial disclosures, and/or destruction of evidence.

  3. TheraP says:

    Who am I to know about police work, let alone the FBI, but if they’ve been collecting Cohen’s emails for some time, how is possible they would neglect to tap his phone(s)?

    This does begin to have the feeling of an endgame. And while I’m pretty sure Cohen won’t flip, by taking that call (maybe others?) from Trump, he may have all but handed Trump over anyway. Plus, all those lucious recorded conversations with Trump and others …. over the years. And Stormy weather forecast in the courtroom tomorrow afternoon.

    I have the feeling of being backstage to a performance that has gone ok in the past. But is headed for disaster – for the players being forced onto this stage. What a Nutcracker Suite/Sweet(!) is about to take place. In s l o w motion.

    And may this nation recover.

  4. jayedcoins says:

    @Frank

    Popehat answered part of the question on Twitter the other night:

    If you are in the courtroom, the judge can tell your lawyer to ask you a question to get information. If you’re not, the judge can’t. [snip] He’s in the courtroom, he’s either got to provide information that will be attributed to him, or openly refuse to do so. Both are potentially worse than being absent.

    The part still unanswered in my head is… okay, it made sense for him not to be in court… but why was a clearly staged public display of palling with mobsters considered the ideal thing to do?

    • TheraP says:

      Trump wants complete loyalty. But doesn’t Cohen’s (taunting via mob brotherhood) show a *higher* loyalty?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bmaz commented on an earlier thread on the stupidity of pissing off a judge at the start of a case, when you’re asking her for special favors at an expedited hearing.  A typical solution is to have the client with a cellphone a short walk away.  If it helps your client, you can then give the judge what she wants when she wants it.

      Making her wait while you plead ignorance is not usually helpful.  Making her wait while your client grandstands with alleged mob figures, smoking high-end cigars on the sidewalks of New York is distinctly unhelpful.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, no, he did not. Popehat, which is Ken White, is a friend. I love him and respect his opinion, but very much disagree here. With a regular client, sure, that may be the general way to go, assuming you have the client close by. But in this case, where your client is a freaking member of the local bar, and seeking attorney/client extraordinary relief, on less than solid grounds, you have your client right there in front of the judge looking like a real lawyer, not out smoking cigars like a thug on a sidewalk with the Russian mafiosa. You just CANNOT risk pissing off the court, as exactly happened. And, yes, you can anticipate that easily.

      • jayedcoins says:

        Thanks, seems a more than reasonable rebuttal to White.

        That said… anybody have any inkling why Cohen did this? “He’s stupid” just seems unlikely. I mean, maybe he has failed up a lot, but he knows something about dirty business.

        • Avattoir says:

          Ingrained behavior patterns. Under stress, that’s exactly where animals, human animals no less, always go.

          • matt says:

            That’s scientifically valid… the fear response raises cortisol, activates the sympathetic nervous system, and triggers the “base” levels of the brain stem.  It’s all about survival now…

          • pseudonymous in nc says:

            This is a man who has operated with impunity for years showing off where his loyalties and authority lies.

            As Josh Marshall put it, to these people the law is like the weather: you deal with it, work around it, sometimes use it against others, but it’s secondary to the structures of family and personal power. I hope the judge assigned this case has good protection.

        • orionATL says:

          yeah. i’m very wary of calling people “stupid” who are doing what they have successfully done for years. there are plenty of stupid appearing cowherds who aren’t.

          sometimes “stupids” just ignore lots of steps we think necessary and move onmto operate on a plane, less rational but effective, than we would choose.

      • Lennonist says:

        I agree completely, but given how mobbed up Cohen has virtually always been, and how incredibly stupid both he and his client have behaved as this investigation has unfolded, could it be that there is a strange logic to this sidewalk theater? Granted it was a beautiful day (and many people have made the mistake of applying logic to the actions of these utterly corrupt people) but still, why meet outside, where people can zoom in on bracelets to identify your smoking partners? Could it be that this was not only a signal to Cohen’s famous client but also to his unidentified, potentially numerous infamous ones?

        In other words, if you are completely caught off guard by an FBI raid and pretty sure you’re facing a federal indictment with it’s accompanying incentive to cooperate to not only help Mueller but also go after all the mobsters you’ve fixed things for over the years, might your first instinct be to let your lawyers go to court while you send a signal to those that might get at you before the trial or even in prison that you’re still loyal, even loyal enough to slap their relatives backs on the sidewalk while a judge complains about your absence? I’m not saying it’s smart but if you’re caught between the horns of, on one hand, a fed indictment that’s easy to prove using your own tapes and, on the other, the fear of getting taken out (or having your family taken out) by people not bound by the prohibition against cruel punishment (and even known for it) I can see why you choose to demonstrate your bold loyalty to the organization, especially when your Fixee has the pardon power.

        I realize Cohen would still have big problems in state court even if he were pardoned, and agree that it’s colossally stupid to skip fed court when your lawyer’s already out on a limb, but my point is Cohen has always risen, gotten rich and stayed out of jail by, ironically, being loyal to criminal organizations. This may be his instinctual adherence to that “principle” and the also beginning of his descent into another place where criminals are housed. And he may greatly minimize his time if he isolated his “exposure” to state rather than fed court by showing loyalty to the Criminal in Chief.

        Then again perhaps he’s just a cross between Fat Tony and Lionel Hutz who thinks Alphas smoke Cubans on the sidewalk while their beta lawyers go to court to argue about that minor nuisance called the law.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          Speaking of mob parallels, remember the example of John Gotti, who was famous for his open flouting of smart behavior that his elders had practiced.

          To a certain extent there is a generational divide on display. Cohen grew up in the Gotti era, as well as the era of the Godfather movies, King of New York, Pacino’s Scarface, and the Sopranos. Even though those movies and shows often went to great lengths to argue crime didn’t pay, they also bred an image of flamboyant mobster chic that many criminals bought into.

          By the way I’m not putting this out there in opposition to other theories, but I think it is a complementary way of looking at things.

    • Ed Walker says:

      If Cohen had been in the Courtroom he could have named some innocuous clients that might have satisfied the Judge. Now he’s been ordered to produce the whole list in public. Bad lawyering.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’ve begun to wonder whether Cohen intended to end up hanging with the mob buddies all day, or whether they arranged it to make him squirm.

      He’s stuck between a rock (a shitty criminal case) and a hard place (the mob), and it’s not clear a presidential pardon gets him out of either problem.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        He could ask Paul Manafort for advice.

        Or maybe Mikey’s old friends were reminiscing about Frank Pentageli.  They might have shared that story about how the emperor allowed failed senatorial class plotters against him to protect their families.  I think those were the same cigars that Frank and Tom smoked.

        • aubrey mcfate says:

          They smoke them outdoors, too, in that scene. German Khan sees “The Godfather” as a manual for life. I’m sure others do, too, or at least want to imitate it.

      • jayedcoins says:

        Ah, good point — totally skipped my mind that it may have been more important than court! Seems obvious now… :-)

  5. harpie says:

    A few days ago, I posted this comment to Marcy’s Bannon Aims to Best Jared Kushner …”  Maybe it is possible that Trump’s team released the Access Hollywood tape themselves, as a kind of sacrifice, in order to deflect from other news that was coming out that day. What if this latest seeming-stupidity is again their way of drawing attention from whatever they are most frightened of? I don’t think any of these players is stupid…they may just be playing their end-game for all it’s worth. 
    What else was reported on 4/13/18?
    1] EXCLUSIVE: TWO TOP TRUMP OFFICIALS ARE EX-LOBBYISTS FOR A BILLIONAIRE WITH DEEP TIES TO RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS; VICE; Apr 13, 2018 “Two senior Trump administration officials were once registered as lobbyists for an investment company controlled by a Soviet-born industrialist who made billions doing business with newly sanctioned Russian oligarchs. […]”
    2] Democrats renew push for records of controversial Kushner loans; ABC News; Apr 13, 2018, 12:17 PM ET

    OK, now I’m gonna duck and run….

  6. Lamsmy says:

    About those fellows Cohen was chatting with. One person lurking uncomfortably in the background has been identified as Jerry Rotonda the former CFO Deutsche Bank (Wealth Management Americas) who is now in business with the rather dodgy Rotem Rosen (who was also present.) https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210494103

    What’s the story on Rotonda? How does one go from being CFO of a major bank to hanging out with the goon squad?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Deutsche Bank?  Lions and tigers and bears…. I wonder if he told Michael C. that he would be loyal forever but that he couldn’t make him a loan just now.  Strictly business, you understand.

      DB has apparently been the Don’s only banking source for decades. Supposition has it that it makes Trump Org loans because it keeps its Russian clients so happily pouring their money through it. DB has paid over a billion in fines the past few years, suggesting that it may not be the clean, well-oiled machine of German mythology.

    • harpie says:

      Wendy Siegelman  has more about Rotunda at this thread:

      […] Rotem Rosen started working with Indian billionaire Anand Mahindra as well as Jerry Rotonda who was previously CFO for Deutsche Bank’s Americas wealth management branch /7  Both Donald Trump and Jared Kushner did business with Rosemary Vrablic at Deutsche Bank, who worked in the wealth management group /8 There’s no indication that Rotem Rosen’s new business partner Jerry Rotonda and Rosemary Vrablic, who counted Trump & Kushner as clients, worked together at Deutsche Bank, but it’s an interesting coincidence /END

       

  7. scribe says:

    Responding to Probst upthread: Probability that Cohen’s phone is tapped = 1.

    Probably tapped by the US for counterintelligence purposes at least since Trump became a serious candidate, if and when Trump and he communicated.

    That, because it’s almost certain the US was tapping Trump’s phone for counterintelligence purposes from the time he became a serious candidate. Definitely since Election Day, also for CI purposes and, collaterally, to help Trump and the admin keep straight their dealings and what was said or not on the phone. Everything any president says, does, doesn’t say or doesn’t do has counterintelligence significance. The same goes for presidents-elect and serious presidential candidates.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Terms of Service for getting Secret Service protection of presidential candidates include “we will monitor and record all your communications by wire or other electronic means”. Remember the difficulties the Secret Service had with Obama, a noted Crackberry addict, when he came into office and all his comms had to be “secure”. Same would obtain with Tweetmeister Trump.

    Cohen was probably tapped by the US/FBI for criminal purposes since Trump was inaugurated.
    I would not be surprised if the CI monitoring of Trump/Cohen included, from jump, traffic analysis (easier to get orders allowing that, than of content) and that the results of traffic monitoring were passed along to the criminal folks once it became clear he’d hang up with Trump and then turn around and be in communication with some gangster[-related] guy.

    In reality, the “hard” part of using the wiretapping would be moving it from the CI folks to the criminal folks. In this case any parallel construction will be getting a serious going over simply because it is the president we’re talking about. But I think it certain the CI folks know most if not all of what is going on, at least in the electronic spectrum.

  8. Bob Conyers says:

    I liked the callout to Davidson. His article in March last year about the Azerbaijan Trump Tower was a great primer about how crooked Trump is and how significant his legal exposure is.

    I simply cannot see how anyone looking at him objectively could write off the depths of his risk. The question has never been whether he was a criminal, just how much and whether he would beat the rap.

    I think it has been a huge failing of journaism in how many refuse to treat him the same way as John Gotti or Mobuto Sese Seko. And that goes for the writers Davidson refers to who doubt Trump was colluding with Russia. The question should not be whether, but how. You don’t need to be a genius to be corrupt, and you don’t need to be a genius to conspire.

  9. Trip says:

    <em>And while it took a bit of time (Cohen can be forgiven for the delay because he apparently has very urgent business hanging with his homies smoking cigars)</em>

    Marcy, this had me guffawing. It was so ridiculous.  I know someone put out the “Woke up this morning” Sopranos theme song to this entire scene, but IMHO that gives Cohen too much gravitas.

    This scene more aptly captures the “social club” of Cohen. You even get a fed introducing his new partner and a discussion about the Nets. (Maybe the car crash is Trump :)

  10. tatere says:

    “it will bring Trump’s presidency to an end”

    How? Impeachment and conviction? Certainly not by a Republican Congress. Even if Democrats took both houses and started the day they took over, the process would run into the 2020 Presidential election. I’m dubious. Do you think he’d resign? That seems very unDonald. I could maybe see him decide not to run for another term. Probably he’s small time enough to not know anything worth direct action by his associates.

    • JD12 says:

      Trump took control of the GOP in a hostile takeover and he’s doing incredible damage to the party. Pundits, voters, and a few Congressmen like Nunes may protect him, but those never Trumpers haven’t changed their minds, they’re just following Reagan’s 11th commandment. The Koch network and other establishment Republicans will enthusiastically impeach him and go with Pence, they just won’t go public until it’s a certainty.

      One thing about Republicans is they are shrewd political operators. Congressmen are retiring because they know it’s coming. They’ll do their best to spin it in their favor. They can say it proves they’re the law and order party, and neutral in investigations. Trump was able to win over Evangelicals and working class by pretending that he’s like them, which is what most Republican politicians do actually, but since the campaign he’s been exposed as a fraud. It won’t be that hard to get those voters to turn on him.

      • Dev Null says:

        I dunno.

        Smearing Comey from the central party apparatus seems like a short-term tactic that – whatever its short-term benefits – will cause the GOP problems down the road. (And no, I am not a Comey fan.) Plus Republicans who aren’t retiring might find themselves too deeply committed to find their way out of the hole. Look at Rounds’ comments about Pruitt’s ethical violations – no biggie! Maybe Rounds will abandon Trump if there’s solid evidence of Trump wrong-doing … but maybe not. There’s a reason the acronym “IOKIYAR” exists.

        Weird to see the party of law-and-order attacking the premier Federal law enforcement agency… an agency which has always had Republican directors. I defer to those here who have first-hand knowledge of the FBI, but everything I read makes the FBI sounds somewhat like a Republican club. The cognitive dissonance inside the FBI has to be intense.

        As for the claim that “[i]t won’t be that hard to get those voters to turn on [Trump]”, I must not be living in the same reality you live in. In my reality Trump’s approval numbers have ticked up lately.

        • JD12 says:

          Based on what we already know about the investigations and also the fact that so many Republicans are  fleeing Congress, I think impeachment looks unavoidable. I don’t think it’s what they want, but they can spin it into a positive.

          I don’t think attacking Comey will hurt them too much. Comey won’t be much of a factor in the election, plus it’s the RNC doing it instead of a candidate saying something that can be used against them later. It’s better for them to talk about that instead of the scandals going on.

          Republicans don’t seem to care about the long run, they treat voters like they’re herds of cattle. They know they can just redirect their voters with a good PR campaign. So while Trump is still popular now, all it would take is for a scathing Mueller report and a coordinated message calling him a RINO New Yorker, fake Christian adulterer who’s friends cover up abortions. They just need Pence to look better by comparison.

          I think you’re right about the FBI leaning conservative. Attacking it is reckless and stupid. Party leaders haven’t really done it. For Trump and Nunes it’s legal strategy. When one of the Koch brothers ran for president in the 80’s, he ran on abolishing the FBI so it could be part of their strategy too. But it was FBI agents who forced the Comey letter, essentially winning the election for Trump, so it’s crazy they can convince people that the bureau is biased against Trump. That’s why I think they can be turned on him.

          • Dev Null says:

            @JD12: This seems questionable:

            The first problem is that a large fraction of the Republican base is authoritarian / white nationalist. They’re cult members. Tribal.

            Cult members are notoriously unpersuaded by rational arguments, even criminal indictments.

            The second problem is that the cult fraction of the Republican base has disproportionate influence within the GOP. GOP apparatchiks tend to be either cultists or afraid of the cultists.

            The third problem is that the rot in the upper echelon of the GOP has gone so deep (cultists and not-yet-convicted criminals and Russian $) that you might be forgiven for viewing the GOP as a messianic criminal conspiracy.

            Shorter: the GOP apparatus and the GOP base are locked into supporting Trump. I don’t think that changes unless&until Trump fires Mueller – possibly not even then – and/or the midterms are a disaster for the GOP.

            As regards “the GOP isn’t attacking the FBI”, Comey has been seen by G-men and much of the public as something of an avatar for the FBI. When the GOP attacks Comey, they’re attacking the FBI. (Also too, McCabe, “Deep State” cabal blah blah blah.)

            I defer to branding experts here (should any be present), but I’m guessing attacks on the FBI are potentially dangerous for the GOP because those attacks are so at odds with the GOP’s branding as “the law and order party”. How this plays out depends on what happens with the Cohen investigation and the SC probe, but at a minimum, the GOP message is at risk of becoming internally inconsistent.

            • JD12 says:

              The first problem is that a large fraction of the Republican base is authoritarian / white nationalist. They’re cult members. Tribal.
              Cult members are notoriously unpersuaded by rational arguments, even criminal indictments.

              That’s exactly why they will turn on him in a second once they realize that he’s not really part of the tribe. The message just has to come from the chiefs of Fox or Breitbart. It doesn’t take much to become a RINO, because it’s not rational. There have been glimpses of it already. Like when he reached an agreement with “Chuck and Nancy” that didn’t include the wall, and then backed out of it. And when Breitbart called him a “Gun Grabber” after Parkland. They didn’t sustain the attack, but a lot of people turned on him briefly. If they have to impeach him and contrast him with Mike Pence, he could look like the biggest RINO ever.

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