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I Lived Through Watergate. I Lived Through the Saturday Night Massacre. There Never Was Anything Like This

The Cohen and Manafort developments could be a mortal blow to the Trump presidency—and Brett Kavanaugh's nomination

"This is a mortal blow to the administration*, which may stagger around for a year or so before it falls over and crushes people, but there is no way I can see that this gets any better for the president* or the people around him." (Photo:Getty)

"This is a mortal blow to the administration*, which may stagger around for a year or so before it falls over and crushes people, but there is no way I can see that this gets any better for the president* or the people around him." (Photo:Getty)

Nobody can deny that this already is the single most awesome infrastructure week ever.

For a long moment on Tuesday afternoon, the Deputy Finance Director of the Republican National Committee, and the president*'s longtime fixer, was copping a plea; the president*'s former campaign manager was getting slugged for bank fraud; the president* himself was off to another wankfest, this time in West Virginia; and the folks at Hardball went to the electric Twitter machine and told us that Omarosa has another secret audiotape to reveal on that show Tuesday night.

I lived through Watergate. I lived through the Saturday Night Massacre, when it looked like the Constitution was being barbecued over an open flame. There never was anything like this.

The bare facts are that Paul Manafort was convicted of eight of the 18 charges that were brought against him and, at virtually the same hour, Michael Cohen signed a plea deal in which he brought at least the payoff-to-porn-stars element of this scandal right into the president*'s lap. Let's look at the last one first. This is the money shot right here. From The New York Times:

He made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic actress “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Mr. Trump, to secure her silence about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payment was “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.

Just fcking wow.

The guilty plea could represent a pivotal moment in the investigation into the president: a once-loyal aide acknowledging that he made payments to at least one woman who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, in violation of federal campaign finance law. Mr. Cohen had been the president’s longtime fixer, handling his most sensitive business and personal matters. He once said he would take a bullet for Mr. Trump. The investigation of Mr. Cohen had focused in part on his role helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump, including Stephanie Clifford, an adult film actress better known as Stormy Daniels.

(Not for nothing, but Michael Avenatti's fee schedule just went to seven figures an hour.)

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This is a mortal blow to the administration*, which may stagger around for a year or so before it falls over and crushes people, but there is no way I can see that this gets any better for the president* or the people around him. The president* and his fixer paid off Stormy Daniels, and also paid off a tabloid media company, in order to bury stories about the president*'s wandering Donald, and did so in direct violation of even those campaign finance laws that Anthony Kennedy left in place. That's an open admission of a crime involving the President* of the United States and, as CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, that's something that never happened even during Watergate. In the immortal words of Micheal Ray Richardson, the ship be sinking.

And it doesn't end there. The long tendrils of corruption reached from the federal court in New York to the federal court in Virginia, where a jury handed Manafort his head. True, the jury deadlocked on 10 of the 18 charges, but the eight on which he was convicted are enough to send him away for most of the rest of his life. And he now has to go start another trial, this one in Washington, D.C. It's difficult to imagine that Manafort won't cut some sort of arrangement with Robert Mueller's team.

More to our purposes, though, it is now plain that the Trump campaign in 2016 was merely a vehicle for various grifters and opportunists to get rich. I still believe none of these people had the foggiest notion that Trump would become president*. But if your primary goal in life is to grab enough loot from enough places, a political campaign is a nice fat turkey to be sliced up. So I think they all had their own agendas, including the president*, and all of them were sort of in business for themselves, but under the Trump flag, as the Gambinos used to put it. Most of them had been working in a corrupt business enterprise for decades before it turned itself into a political campaign and then a presidency*.

Then, my god, he gets elected. Who's stupid fcking idea was that? He's president*, and we're all in trouble now.

It is a corrupt enterprise, both the campaign and the administration*. In any other circumstances, an ambitious prosecutor—like, say, the young Rudolph Giuliani—could make a RICO case against these guys in his sleep. And, suddenly, all the bills are coming due, all the fiddlers and pipers are at the gates, demanding to be paid, and there isn't a roost anywhere that isn't filled with chickens.

Brett Kavanaugh's nomination took a huge hit in two federal courthouses yesterday, and hardly anybody noticed. (His, shall we say, evolving opinion of special prosecutors will now be the object of even more thickly barbed questioning in a couple of weeks.) Is this even an administration* that has the moral credibility to be selecting Supreme Court justices at all, especially since we know that there will be fresh hell coming down upon it weekly from now until whenever this nightmare finally ends? And Robert Mueller, with no expression on his face, reaches across his desk for another document.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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