There is a very good chance that August 21, 2018, will forever be known as the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.
On Tuesday afternoon in New York, Michael Cohen (the other one) — Trump’s former lawyer, fixer and consigliore — pleaded guilty to a litany of criminal offenses, including bank and tax fraud. But the most troubling piece of news for President Trump is that Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance law violation, in which he admitted in open court to acting “in coordination with and at the direction of” a federal candidate in ensuring the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal. Who is that federal candidate? Donald Trump.
But all of this news — as well as the probable indictments and plea deals to come — should not allow us to miss the most important takeaway from what happened today: The president of the United States has been implicated in the commission of a federal crime. Cohen’s plea agreement was clear in naming Trump as a co-conspirator in at least some of criminal endeavors.
There is no precedent for a legal bombshell like this being dropped: not even during Watergate. One might even surmise that the only reason Trump wasn’t indicted and charged with a crime Tuesday is because of the Justice Department’s prohibition on the indictment of a sitting president.
Instead, the only mechanism for dealing with a president who is implicated in a federal crime is to impeach him, which means that the ball is now in Congress’s court.
The time has clearly come — and is, in fact, long overdue — for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Bret Stephens, Donald Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors :
For all of my opposition to Donald Trump, I have long been skeptical of the political wisdom or evidentiary basis of efforts to impeach him.
My reasons: First, being a terrible president and a wretched person are not impeachable offenses. Second, Robert Mueller’s investigation has so far produced evidence that can be interpreted as obstruction of justice, but not as clear proof. Third, impeachment in the House would be unlikely to translate into conviction in the Senate, even if Democrats win both chambers in the fall. Fourth, impeachment without conviction could strengthen Trump politically, much as it did for Bill Clinton after his own 1998 impeachment.
And, like it or not, Trump remains popular with tens of millions of Americans. To overturn the results of an election for anything less than unambiguous evidence of criminal behavior is a danger to democracy itself.
At least that was my view until this week. Michael Cohen’s guilty plea changes this. The Constitution’s standard for impeachment is “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The standard is now met.