What does it all mean?
The case against: It doesn’t mean very much.
Paul Manafort: His crimes are bad, but so far have little to do with Trump or Russia. Just another white-collar criminal. The important phase is the next trial, which directly relates to his relationship with Russia. He used his position as campaign manager to (try to) clear his debts with Russia. He’s a traitor to the country, and that will come out.
Michael Cohen and campaign law: Yes, he unquestionably broke the law. Also, so what. Does it really matter? The actual harm is… let’s see… what was it again… that America didn’t know he had an affair with Stormy Daniels during the campaign. But is there anyone who didn’t already believe Trump wasn’t faithful? That he had affairs with multiple women already? That he wasn’t a piece of disgusting trash with women and his marriage(s). We knew all that going in.
The affair isn’t germane. Politicians and rich people having affairs, mercy me! Kennedy had affairs while in office. Clinton had an affair while in office. Trump had affairs before he was in office. Most of the country resisted Clintons impeachment because the blowjob had nothing to do with his professional role as President and the rest was legal ‘gotcha’. In the same way, most of the country will see that Trumps affairs have nothing do with his professional role as President, and the rest is legal ‘gotcha.
Let’s remember the end goal here.
First, Trump is manifestly unfit for office, and should be removed for any number of reasons. But most of those reasons are within the normal prerogatives of the duly elected President. If he is removed, it must be done for reasons that don’t set such awful precedents for successors that it ends up harming more than helping.
Second, America and the Western World was and is under attack by Russia. Understanding, publicizing, and resisting that is vital. To whatever degree Trump allowed a foreign power to influence our country, he is a traitor, and should be removed from office and hung in the middle of Time Square. But neither of these convictions come close to that level.
The case for: It’s a big deal.
It will convince some that Trump really is a liar. Some might think, if he bald-faced lied about this and changed his story continually as new evidence was revealed, I wonder if his continually changing story on Russia might indicate lying there?
It makes it harder to shut down Muellers investigation, the Witch Hunt excuse got much thinner.
New York will not indict a sitting President, but Trump is also unable to pardon himself from New York sentences. Given his personality and history, Trump is likely act in more outrageous ways to defend himself and punish/reward his confederates, and these will add to the impeachment fire.
It gives Republicans more cover and reason to speak their mind. This is the truly key dynamic. Trump is enabled by a partisan Congress. To effect real change in this presidency, Congress needs to change.
It will convince some that Trump truly is corrupt. He has surrounded himself with criminals, and has done criminal acts.
It gives Democrats a potent campaign issue. They can reasonably paint a portrait of Trump as lethally corrupt, and that anyone who enabled that corruption is corrupt themselves.
What’s the conclusion? Your humble blogger author thinks that in the end it doesn’t mean much. The next trial of Paul Manafort will mean something. Whatever else Cohen spills might mean something. Allen Weisselberg (Trump Organization CFO, granted immunity and talking) probably means something. Whatever Mueller knows that hasn’t been made public means something.
Keep your eye on the ball. It will take something very big to get Congress to resist and/or impeach Trump, and these aren’t enough.