By The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board:
We’ll leave it to history to sort out President Donald Trump’s legacy, but Tuesday was an infamous afternoon.
Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of eight counts of fraud in a Virginia courthouse, while his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts in New York. Cohen’s plea includes a claim that he paid hush money to two women “at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” That candidate was Trump.
Two of Trump’s trusted advisers, different members of his team, exposed as criminals in a single day. What rings in the ears is the boast Trump made during the campaign that “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people.”
What sticks in the craw is the unseemly edge to Trump’s personality: his vicious Twitter attacks of political foes, his angry rants to campaign crowds and the 2005 recording of his ugly talk about assaulting women. Now there is Cohen’s salacious tale, acknowledged in his guilty plea, that he violated campaign laws by paying money to two women to keep stories of alleged affairs with Trump out of the news before the 2016 election. The two women were identified in news reports as adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
In the 19 months of Trump’s presidency, a parade of administration members has left under a cloud. Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with a Russian diplomat. Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, resigned amid numerous ethics investigations. These things shouldn’t happen, but they do, during every administration. We get the link between power and corruption. We live in Chicago.
For Trump and more of his “best people,” the story is still unfolding in the guise of the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump committed obstruction by trying to shut down the probe. We await Mueller’s conclusions. Other developments have come from Mueller’s investigation, including Manafort’s conviction on fraud charges related to his business activities in Ukraine and Cohen’s case, which was handed off to federal prosecutors in New York.
Two cases against Trump advisers in one afternoon, while Mueller’s independent investigation continues. Tuesday was not the final word on Trump’s presidency. But it spoke volumes.