There aren't many more reliable rightwing publications than The National Review. Which is why it's worth noting when the Review throws in the towel on Donald Trump and his sidekick, Rudy Giuliani, the dynamic duo that Digby calls, "a pair of aging New York goons."
Former US prosecutor, Andrew McCarthy, writes that Trump is now neck deep in a mess of his own and Giuliani's making.
The news reports write themselves: hush money before the election, the implausible denials of the conduct, the implausible denials of knowledge about the payment, the specter of cheating on Melania right after the birth of Barron Trump, Stormy’s allegation of an extortionate threat, the laugh-out-loud details of the non-disclosure agreement (Trump as “David Dennison” and Stormy as “Peggy Peterson”), and so on. It thus seemed to me that the best course was to say as little as possible; amend the campaign-finance disclosures; try to settle the civil litigation with Ms. Clifford in California (the story is out now, so what’s the point?); hope the Trump Justice Department, relying on the Obama 2008 precedent, would agree to a modest FEC fine to settle the matter; and try to move on, drawing as little attention as possible to this tawdry tale – understanding, of course, that the media would try to keep it front and center.
Instead, Trump is fighting. The mini-mess is becoming a maxi-mess.
Rudy Giuliani (who hired me as a prosecutor in the Eighties) clearly took Sean Hannity by surprise Wednesday night. He admitted that Trump reimbursed Cohen in installments over a number of months. This blows up both Trump’s story that he did not know about Cohen’s payment to Stormy and Cohen’s story that he did not tell Trump about it.
Yes, those stories were risible on their face, and it was only a matter of time that they’d be exposed — indeed, as some commentators have noted, it is probable that federal prosecutors in Manhattan already knew that Trump had reimbursed Cohen. Rudy was trying to get out in front of bad news that was going to break anyway.
...While there are problems (which we’ll come to) with Rudy’s legalistic defense, Trump’s tweets go much further, appearing both to deny the sexual encounter and to threaten Clifford with robust enforcement of the NDA – a heavy-handed arrangement in which, in exchange for the $130K, she faces millions of dollars in penalties each time she spills the beans.
This seems crazy to me. No one believes the “affair” didn’t happen. And, because everyone knows who Trump is, no one much cared about it . . . until now. Now there will be wall-to-wall coverage to prove it happened, including coverage of Trump’s flings and interactions with women over the years (some of which are alleged to involve unwanted advances), until he admits it. If he does, he will look terrible for inducing Stormy to sign a false denial letter and for relying on it. In the meantime, he will look terrible for appearing to threaten Stormy with the punitive NDA damages, which will lend credibility to her thus far uncorroborated claim that, in 2011, an unidentified man threatened that she would be killed if she did not keep quiet. And the cherry on top: Trump’s tweet calls renewed attention to the NDA. While such agreements may be “very common” as Trump says, how “very common” is it to do them under silly pseudonyms instead of the parties’ real names? That question, as night follows day, will lead to more media discussion of the fact that Cohen used the very same pseudonyms in yet another hush-money arrangement with a major GOP donor and Trump supporter.
...None of this stuff is the crime of the century. None of it is in the same league as tales of Russian espionage and obstruction of high-profile FBI investigations. But, as legal commentators and Trump critics are quick to point out, it is a felony punishable by five years’ imprisonment to make false statements or material omissions on government disclosure forms. And the harder you fight against small stuff, the bigger it appears if your story collapses.
I already miss the quiet calm of the Mueller investigation.
Americans keep teaching themselves the same lesson and never learn it: it's the cover-up that gets you, not the crime. Even King Donald and Cardinal Rudy don't get it.