Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America recoil at the Trump world sleaze revealed by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in his testimony to Congress, but also realize he’s the least credible witness Congress could have called on the subject. They also worry about escalating tension between nuclear powers India and Pakistan after Pakistan claims to shoot down two Indian military planes. And they get a kick out of the House Democrats having to adjourn their own hearing on climate change denial because not enough of them attended.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see some liberals embracing the conclusion that the executive branch – and the presidency in particular – has accumulated far more power than our founders intended. They just wonder whether lefties will still have these concerns once one of their own is in the White House. They also regret the news that the “Weekly Standard” will soon cease publication. And they’re a bit bewildered as President Trump’s personal attorney-turned-adversary, Michael Cohen, tells ABC News that he hopes his legacy will be that he helped to unify the nation.
It’s a very busy day on the Three Martini Lunch. We begin by thanking Townhall.com for highlighting our podcast and close by discussing the sentencing of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the most popular Christmas movies in various states (three states get it right and Nevada, of course, is very wrong). In between, we tackle three big martinis. We applaud President Trump for keeping the cameras rolling in Tuesday’s border wall discussions with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and plead for more transparency in our government. We groan as a no confidence vote for British Prime Minister Theresa May unfolds after her failure to get a Brexit plan approved. And we shake our heads as a judge orders Stormy Daniels to reimburse President Trump nearly $300,000 in legal fees, but attorney Michael Avenatti says it’s not a win for Trump because he’s really sure he’ll win his other case against Trump.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer up as they see new Senate polls showing Rick Scott with a healthy lead in Florida and Republicans within striking distance in Wisconsin. They also shake their heads as Sen. Elizabeth Warren issues perfunctory condolences to the family of Mollie Tibbetts but says we need to focus on our real immigration problems. And they marvel at Senate Democrats, who now insist that the consideration of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh must wait because Michael Cohen has accused President Trump of a campaign finance violation.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on eight federal counts on Tuesday and accused President Trump of conspiring with him to violate campaign finance laws to buy the silence of two former mistresses in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.
According to Cohen, Trump authorized him to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, known more commonly as Stormy Daniels, as part of non-disclosure agreements with them with the explicit intent to benefit the Trump campaign. Cohen says Trump later paid him back.
Mainstream and social media immediately exploded, with many liberals talking impeachment and many Trump defenders wondering how campaign finance law could be broken when none of the funds came from the campaign.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy says both sides need to come to grips with reality, starting with Trump defenders who think there can’t be a crime resulting from the payments. He says it depends upon why the money was spent.
“It’s the kind of thing you would expend campaign money on if somebody else didn’t pay it by other means. That’s why it’s an in-kind contribution.
“If you’re doing an expenditure, the purpose of which is designed in part to lighten the burden of the campaign, which would otherwise pay the same money, then it’s a campaign contribution. I really don’t get the argument that it’s not,” said McCarthy.
What does strike McCarthy as unusual is prosecutors lodging a felony charge over the payments. He says campaigns often make mistakes and usually the problems get resolved without litigation. He says the Obama campaign is a well-known example.
“The one we typically talk about is the 2008 Obama campaign, which had about two million dollars worth of illegal contributions, which obviously dwarf the amount of money that we’re talking about in connection with these hush money agreements. Yet, that was settled with a $375,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy also has some bad news for liberals getting their pitchforks and impeachment campaigns ready/
“What we’re talking about here is not really the crime of the century, even if they could prove it against President Trump, which I think they probably couldn’t,” said McCarthy.
He says something like this might get thrown into the mix if far more serious issues arise, but is a non-starter for impeachment on its own.
“As a standalone matter, no one’s getting impeached over a campaign finance violation. At least they shouldn’t,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy offers that last caveat because the House of Representatives can impeach a president for whatever they believe is appropriate and the same goes for a Senate conviction.
McCarthy is also skeptical of suggestions from Cohen attorney Lanny Davis that Cohen has proof of Trump collaborating with Russia to hack Democratic National Committee emails.
“(Special Counsel Robert Mueller) transferred this case to the Southern District of New York. It’s very hard for me to believe that Mueller, who has a lot more information than anyone else does about what proof he has of collusion – if he thought that Cohen was helpful to that case, I don’t see him letting that case walk to the Southern District of New York,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says Trump’s biggest problem in the weeks ahead may be himself. He says Trump’s consistent haranguing of Mueller and his team on Twitter and in public statements is only making the special counsel more determined to hammer him.
“If I were the prosecutor and my honor was being attacked every single day, I would be motivated when my time finally came to file a report, to write the report to end all reports.
“I’m not saying that you make up information. But there’s a way of writing things when you want to soft sell them and there’s a way of writing things when you want to be very aggressive,” said McCarthy.
That said, McCarthy says it seems clear that the collusion investigation is sputtering out and does not expect Paul Manafort to reinvigorate the probe even if he were to cooperate with Mueller.
McCarthy says anything of value from Manafort would already be known by prosecutors through Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner who became the government’s chief witness against Trump’s one-time campaign manager.
“Think about what Mueller’s done in the six months since Mueller became a cooperator. He’s filed two indictments against groups of Russians, which don’t come close to hinting that there’s any complicity by the Trump campaign with Russia’s perfidy in connection with the election,” said McCarthy, who thinks Mueller went after Manafort solely over crimes committed long before there was ever an affiliation with Trump.
“I think he’s interested in Manafort for Manafort. I don’t think he’s interested in Manafort to try to make a case against Trump because I don’t think he thinks there is one on collusion. Obstruction’s a different story, but I just don’t see this collusion with Russia thing happening,” said McCarthy.
Listen to “Cohen Accuses Trump, Rep. Hunter Indicted, Media & Mollie Tibbetts” on Spreaker.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America serve up three bad martinis. They begin by discussing Michael Cohen accusing President Trump of conspiring with him to break federal campaign finance laws and discuss how this is likely to play out. They also recoil at the indictment of Republican California Rep. Duncan Hunter for fleecing his campaign accounts to fund lavish personal vacations and other expenditures. And they slam the media for showing immediate disinterest in the Mollie Tibbetts story once they learned the man charged with her murder came to the U.S. illegally.
David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer new poll numbers showing that voters in many states with incumbent Democratic senators overwhelmingly want someone new. David explains his concern that evangelicals are showing themselves to be hypocrites and damaging their efforts to share the gospel by defending President Trump in every situation. And they discuss the closing ad from Republican West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship, who uses his 30 seconds to accuse Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of creating jobs for “China people” and labels McConnell himself as “Cocaine Mitch.”
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see reports that North Korea is prepared to release three U.S. prisoners, but they’re still cautious about why Kim Jong-Un is suddenly so eager to find common ground. They also shake their heads as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani reveals that President Trump did reimburse Michael Cohen for his $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, although he claims Trump didn’t know what the reimbursement was for. And they react to the New York Times story alleging the Washington Redskins took passports away from cheerleaders on a trip to Costa Rica, allowed male sponsors and suite holders to watch the cheerleaders in various states of undress on the photo shoot, and assigned some of them to serve as escorts for the sponsors.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are encouraged that six months before the midterms, DNC Vice Chairman Keith Ellison is promising that people will die if Democrats don’t win. It’s an indication that Democrats don’t have much of an agenda to run on other than fear and opposing President Trump. They also throw up their hands as congressional Republicans reportedly have no plans to try to pass a budget this year because it will be really hard to pass in the Senate. They react to Sean Hannity being named as one of Michael Cohen’s clients, and while there may be no legal scandal, Hannity is definitely wrong to have not disclosed this connection. And Jim has some theories about the man in the sketch released by Stormy Daniels.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see China made some minor concessions on auto tariffs and intellectual property issues in the wake of tariff battles with the U.S. They also discuss the FBI raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and what it means, if anything, for the larger Mueller probe. And Jim discusses his new column, which reveals that former FBI personnel who once thought well of former director James Comey are now very critical of Comey’s embrace of a political role that casts him as a hero and a martyr.