Donald Trump assumed the presidency after losing the 2016 popular balloting for the post by almost 2.9 million votes. Trump was able to stake his claim on the office because of narrow victories in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Most voters in those three states opposed the Republican’s candidacy, but the minority that supported him was marginally greater than the group that supported Democrat Hillary Clinton. This narrow advantage gave Trump an uninspired Electoral College win—and, with it, the keys to the White House.
A combined total of fewer than 80,000 votes separated Trump and Clinton in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
So ask yourself this question: Do you think that 80,000 swing-state voters might have decided not to vote for Trump if they had known the details of his cover-up of his sexual relationship with a porn star? Do you think that at least 40,000 of those voters might have switched from Trump to Clinton if they had known of Trump began an affair with a Playboy model shortly after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son—and then bought the model’s silence?
If the answer to either of those questions is “yes,” then the fact that Michael Cohen says Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy to silence his former paramours raises very big issues for American democracy.
In the plea deal that has upended Trump’s defenses of himself and his presidency, Cohen has acknowledged that as Trump’s lawyer and fixer he violated federal law “in coordination with and at the direction of a federal candidate for office.” Cohen says these crimes, committed at the behest of Donald Trump, were organized with the purpose of influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
This is about much, much more than the embarrassment of Donald Trump and his family.
The 2016 contest was closely contested.
Trump prevailed by the narrowest of margins.
We now have evidence—powerful evidence coming from his personal lawyer, and fixer—that the president engaged in illegal activities that might reasonably be presumed to have influenced the results of the election.
This calls into question the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Trump obtained the nation’s highest office as a result of criminal maneuvering that the president directed.
If that is the case, then Donald Trump lacks an honest claim on the presidency.
What Cohen has revealed may place Trump in serious legal jeopardy. “What Michael Cohen pled guilty to are not just campaign finance violations, they are felonies,” says Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat who was once a military prosecutor.
But Trump is, even more surely, in constitutional jeopardy.
“Cohen’s sworn allocution in [the Southern District of New York courtroom] in support of his pleas of guilty to having feloniously manipulated the 2016 election at Trump’s direction point directly to impeachable ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ by Trump,” argues Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, who noted that the wrongdoing in question is “entirely apart from Russiagate and Obstructiongate.”
Tribe explains that “Trump’s ‘no collusion’ mantra is now ludicrous. Collusion—indeed, conspiracy—with Michael Cohen and others to defraud the American people by criminally manipulating the presidential election is now clear from Cohen’s guilty pleas—even without Russia’s involvement.”
This may not be the end of Trump’s trouble. There are many more issues that may arise, many more offenses that may be revealed. But Cohen’s admission demands an impeachment inquiry. As veteran Republican campaign aide Steve Schmidt explained after Cohen implicated the president: “This means Trump’s presidency is not only illegitimate but criminal. It means a presidential election was compromised by the most insidious criminal conspiracy in American History. It means Trump is a traitor and Putin determined the outcome. The impeachment bar has been reached.”
Schmidt is right.
Members of the House have s duty to open the impeachment inquiry immediately.
If House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the congressional cabal that continues to cover for Trump refuses to initiate that inquiry now, then voters should use this year’s midterm election to seat a new Congress that will respect the need for a constitutional intervention that checks and balances this lawless president.
John Nichols wrote the foreword to the new book by Ron Fein, John Bonifaz and Ben Clements, The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump, which has just been published by Melville House.