White House

Imperial Me

Michael Cohen departs a court house in Manhattan, August 21, 2018. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
Trump prizes loyalty over intelligence, honesty, and even the law.

An avid fan of President Trump, she carried a red Make America Great Again hat in the backseat of her car. But when she was asked to render a verdict on Paul Manafort, she voted guilty. Juror Paula Duncan told Fox News that “finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me. I wanted him to be innocent, I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t. That’s the part of a juror; you have to have due diligence and deliberate and look at the evidence and come up with an informed and intelligent decision, which I did.” Duncan also revealed that eleven members of the jury were convinced that Manafort was guilty of all 18 counts, but one holdout forced a hung jury on ten counts.

Duncan is a rare spirit in our polarized age. She adhered to a value higher than partisanship, namely, the truth. Duncan believes that Manafort’s criminality would never have been prosecuted had he not been connected to the Trump campaign (which is probably true, but irrelevant to guilt or innocence). She goes even further and echoes Trump in labeling the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.” And yet, she would not discount the evidence before her eyes.

Not so the president. He saw the Manafort verdict (and the Cohen plea) as he sees everything — purely as a reflection of his own interests. So Manafort, who did not cooperate with the prosecution — perhaps in hopes of receiving a pardon — was “a good man . . . such respect for a brave man” who did not “break.”

It’s possible to imagine a different reaction. “I am disappointed to learn that my former associate was dishonest. Everyone has a duty to obey the law, whether those laws involve immigration, street crime, or white-collar crime. I’m thinking of his family at this difficult time.”

But Trump is indifferent to guilt. That Manafort flagrantly evaded paying taxes on millions in income the better to indulge his lavish lifestyle, hid income in overseas accounts, committed bank fraud, and specialized in serving a “torturers lobby” of foreign despots including Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, and Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych (a Putin stooge) apparently doesn’t factor into Trump’s evaluation of his character. Trump has one standard, and one standard only: How loyal are you to Trump?

Because that is the only yardstick by which Trump judges others, it’s possible to swing from hero to goat in no time. Reflecting for the thousandth time on Jeff Sessions, Trump whined to Fox News that the “only reason” he chose him for attorney general was because he “felt loyalty.” Not because he agreed on policy. Not because he thought him honorable or capable. Rinse and repeat for Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Joe Scarborough, Steve Bannon, etc., etc.

Omarosa Manigault Newman was a “star” and a “fine person” in September 2016. When John Kelly approached the president about letting her go due to erratic behavior, the president resisted. Why? Because “she says great things about me.” The imperial, sovereign, all-conquering ME. Now that she is peddling dirt on Trump, which is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east, she’s a “dog” and “vicious, but not smart.”

Note the “but.” Viciousness has its place apparently.

Which brings us to Michael Cohen, the lawyer who watched too many Mafia movies but whose tactics apparently didn’t faze his employer. Having heard that a reporter might write a story concerning a rape allegation in Trump’s first divorce (later rescinded), Cohen phoned the man: “So I’m warning you, tread very f***ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting. You understand me? You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word rape, and I’m going to mess your life up . . . for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet . . . you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it.”

Cohen, facing years in prison for a variety of crimes, has now violated omerta and earned Trump’s contempt. Some, like the taxi-medallion frauds, don’t involve the president. Others do. Still others are hinted at. Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, is presenting his client as a latter-day Oskar Schindler, beset by conscience, and suggests that Cohen may have evidence of the one thing Trump most vociferously denies — collusion with the Russians.

Maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t. But nothing we’ve so far discovered about Donald Trump’s moral compass suggests that he would scruple to accept help from any dubious source. He might even praise Vladimir Putin as “fine” — oh, wait.

© 2018 Creators.com

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