White House elections are fun: Could Donald J. Trump get re-elected next year?
Actually, yes—he could. That doesn't mean that he actually will. But actually, yes, he could.
That said, our somewhat dreamy tribe is dreaming of more thrilling outcomes. We're dreaming of seeing Trump frog-marched away. Wednesday night, after Michael Cohen spoke, Lawrence was dreaming that for us:
O'DONNELL (2/27/19): The Democrats now have the smoking gun. Today, Michael Cohen wrote the first article of impeachment against President Trump in his testimony in the House of Representatives, the place where impeachment of a president begins.Lawrence, an excitable man, was very excited this day. To watch this full segment, click here.
Democrats believe Michael Cohen gave them the smoking gun today. That's what Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna called this exhibit that Michael Cohen introduced in the all-day hearing in the House Committee on Oversight.
This check, made payable to Michael Cohen, carries the now recognizable signature of Donald Trump and was signed by the president six months into his presidency. It marks the first time in American history that we have seen a check signed by a president for an illegal purpose.
The crime, as described by federal prosecutors and in Michael Cohen's guilty plea testimony, took place weeks before the presidential election when Michael Cohen used his own funds to arrange a payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels to buy her silence.
What America learned from Michael Cohen today is that that criminal scheme extended forward in time into the presidency of Donald Trump because President Trump arranged a reimbursement schedule for Michael Cohen that included 11 checks delivered to him during the first year of the Trump presidency.
Some of those checks were signed by President Trump. Some of them were signed by Donald Trump Jr. and by Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump businesses.
The smoking-gun check, the one with Donald Trump's bold signature, will now take its place in popular culture. You will be seeing it in tweets forever. You will be seeing it on T-shirts. It will be imprinted on toilet paper, on coffee mugs, and it will take its place in history as the most important check Donald Trump has ever written because it is the check that could end his presidency.
(He's been this excited before. We recall the time he went on the widely-viewed McLaughlin Report, in October 2000 no less, to trash Candidate Gore as a liar once again. He misstated an accurate statement by Gore to establish his well-scripted point. Then too, there was the time he adopted his working-class Dorchester accent to challenge Mitt Romney's son to a fight, right there on the cable TV. Let's not forget his various rants about Mormonism, for which he agreed to apologize several times. His meltdown during Campaign 2004, for which he was suspended for several months, is still his greatest, of course.)
At any rate, Lawrence was highly excited this night. He said Democrats now had "the smoking gun"—rather, "the smoking-gun check."
According to Lawrence, we're going to see that smoking-gun check on the toilet paper of the future! When Cohen presented that check, he "wrote the first article of impeachment against President Trump."
Or so Lawrence now said. As he did, we less than fully rational liberals were being led, by a top entertainer, seductively close to the southern frontiers of our tribe's rational impulse.
Will Donald J. Trump be frog-marched away because pf that smoking-gun check? Because he submitted to an apparent act of extortion by a money-grubbing hustler who has now been adopted, by our somewhat pre-rational tribe, as a "feminist heroine," even "a feminist hero?"
Everything is possible! That said, we hadn't seen Lawrence this excited since the night he went on TV and helped elect George W. Bush by repeating the sound of his master's voice.
Obedient players like Lawrence will serve you the latest script. In Wednesday's script, Trump would soon be frog-marched away. It's an image which mightily pleases certain cable viewers.
Will Donald Trump be frog-marched away? We're going to guess that he won't be—or at least, that he won't be frog-marched away on the basis of that check.
Lawrence kept saying that the check was part of a "crime" and a "criminal scheme." He based his Maddovian statement on the authority of prosecutors in the Southern District of New York—and on the authority of Michael Cohen himself.
To Lawrence, the check was part of a crime. But Cohen's behavior became a "crime" only because he copped a plea to the crime with which he'd been charged.
Cohen agreed to cop a plea to the alleged crime in question. But on CNN, that very same night, one observer offered an analysis of that transaction, an analysis to which we liberals will never be exposed on MSNBC.
Rick Rantorum said the behavior in question wasn't a crime. In our view, it isn't clear that he's wrong:
SANTORUM (2/27/19): The only reason the Southern District got that conviction— They could have gotten him to plead guilty to far worse things than a campaign finance reporting violation. But the only reason they got him to do that is so they could bring in Trump. Let's just be honest about this. That's the only reason they wanted to do this.Before we consider what Santorum said, let's consider the foolishness of Anderson Cooper, who rolled over for Trump several times during the "cable news" ratings grabs of Campaign 2016.
TOOBIN: Not because he was guilty of a crime?
SANTORUM: Because can I tell you, every campaign finance violation that I've ever heard of, and I've been aware of a lot of them, get fines. You don't get indicted for a campaign finance violation. You get a little fine.
COOPER: But isn't this a kind of a special kind of campaign finance violation?
SANTORUM: Well, they're making it a special kind of campaign finance violation, when in fact I don't believe there is one. If you look at the [John] Edwards case, there isn't—
COOPER: But, I mean, how many times is it a candidate paying off a porn star to be president of the United States?
SANTORUM: Well, at least one other— Well, not a porn star but, you know, somebody else. It does— But here—
BERNSTEIN: Well, I mean, it takes place several days before the election, the most crucial period.
SANTORUM: OK, but what is the most important requirement? It did take—and that's very important. Why? Because according to campaign finance laws, they would not have had to disclose that payment until after the campaign. That's the time frame they had to disclose it. So it would not have had any impact, even if they did file [on time].
COOPER: All right, we've got to take a break.
Man [sic] is the rational animal? According to Cooper, Trump's alleged campaign finance violation is "kind of special"—it stands out from the pack—because "how many times is it a candidate paying off a porn star?" To Cooper, any other alleged love connection would be a lesser deal!
Carl Bernstein chipped in with some piffle of his own. We could have learned about the porn star's allegation right before we voted, he said. To Bernstein, this seems to have made this violation especially egregious!
Let's summarize. According to Cooper and Bernstein, we could have heard an allegation from a porn star! Even better, we could have heard from the porn star right before a White House election! What could be cooler than that?
In such ways, we rational animals are handed our frameworks by our cable thought leaders. As voters, we need to know if a candidate has ever (allegedly) had sex with a porn star on one occasion ten years before! It's the very last thing we voters should hear before we cast our votes!
Having noted this foolishness, let's turn to what Santorum said. Conservatives will hear this interpretation on Fox. This will affect the way this matter is viewed by the public as a whole. Over here in our liberal tents, Lawrence will shield us from it.
According to Santorum, it isn't clear that those "hush money" payments to "silence" Daniels were some big-deal violation at all.
According to Santorum, the prosecutors forced Cohen to cop to that charge because it let them go after their actual target, Trump. Instead of charging Cohen with more serious crimes, they charged him with an alleged crime with which they could pursue Trump.
Did the SDNY really do that? We have no way of knowing. But if you say that our federal gumshoes would never do such a thing, we can only answer with this:
"Who's being naive now, Kay?"
Santorum's larger point is simple. Cohen wasn't convicted, by a jury, for the alleged crime in question. And it isn't clear that Donald J. Trump would ever be convicted either.
Santorum repeatedly noted the fact that John Edwards wasn't convicted by his jury when he was was tried on a similar charge in 2012. That's the only precedent, Santorum said, and it didn't produce a conviction.
(Carrie Cordero largely agreed. See below.)
Cooper quickly went to break; the point was discussed no further. On programs hosted by Lawrence and Rachel, you'll never hear this point of view expressed or debated at all. That's the way we liberals get served on Our Own Cable Channel
Soon after Cohen's appearance, up jumped MSNBC legal analyst Barbara McQuade, offering a ridiculous legal analysis in The Daily Beast.
"If if if if if if if," McQuade kept saying, dreaming of ways in which various people could be charged with various crimes. The pleasing pablum carried these headlines:
The Legal Case Against Trump Has Never Been Stronger After Cohen TestimonyThe headlines were tribally pleasing. Unfortunately, "If if if if if if if," McQuade repeatedly said in her actual essay. (Note the key words in those headlines: "pending more evidence.")
The president’s ex-fixer credibly accuses him of felonies that, pending more evidence, should result in impeachment and indictment.
Alas! This is the way we liberals now dream, especially since we aren't permitted to understand the ways we've lost past White House elections. That includes the election in which Lawrence worked to elect George Bush. We liberals aren't encouraged to know that any such thing ever happened.
Should Donald J. Trump get frog-marched away because he paid a bribe to Daniels, submitting to an extortion? Should he be impeached for that, as Lawrence now dreams? Should he be linked to Cohen's unadjudicated "crime?"
We'd be disinclined to say so. But our tribe now dreams of losing elections, then sending the winners to jail!
Trump is disordered, and has been forever, but so are key players all over our "press corps." Beyond that, Trump is dangerous.
That said, who knows what the future might bring? But Rachel and Lawrence will continue to please us liberals as we stumble and fumble about, ignoring the way the world has worked over the past thirty years.
That smoking-gun check in response to extortion? According to Lawrence, we'll see that smoking gun check on future toilet paper! So said an entertaining man, not too far from the southern frontiers of our tribe's rational impulse.
Bring on the porn stars, Cooper said. White House elections are fun!
What Carrie Cordero said: Earlier, CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero agreed with Santorum's broad point:
CORDERO (2/27/19): So just to pick up on that point. So I think Rick is correct in that there is not a wide body of settled law that the particular payments in question are campaign finance violations."Is it the right thing to do?" So asked Gloria Borger, getting the kids back on track.
The Justice Department is clearly taking the position that it is, because they charged and Michael Cohen pled guilty to that.
SANTORUM: The Edwards case says it wasn't.
CORDERO: But the Edwards case had different facts.
SANTORUM: Similar facts.
BORGER: Is it the right thing to do?
No one asked if Trump was extorted. Only on Fox are viewers allowed to hear that question asked.