If Donald J. Trump was applying for a government job?
And his FBI check came back with the people he has been associated with?
He wouldn’t get the job…
Certainly NOT the President of the United States?
As president, Trump has enjoyed an advantage that in his days in business he could only have dreamed of: He can pardon anybody, giving him a powerful tool to induce his henchmen to avoid incriminating him. The two figures in his campaign who most directly colluded with Russia, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, both refused to cooperate with Mueller. Whatever they know about Trump’s full collusion with Russia’s campaign hacking will remain secret, probably forever.
And yet, even if he pardons Manafort and Stone, and all his other loyalists, the plain fact will remain that his inner circle is marked by endemic criminality. In addition to his close adviser Stone, his campaign manager (Manafort), his deputy campaign manager (Gates), his lawyer (Michael Cohen), and his national security adviser (Michael Flynn) have all been convicted of felonies. Trump may have persuaded his hard-core base that all these convictions represent a fraudulent witch hunt. But outside the Trump cult, which is not by itself large enough to win the election, being surrounded by criminals is not an admired quality.
In all probability, the parade of charges is probably not over. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is reportedly being investigated for a number of alleged federal crimes, including bribing foreign officials, conspiracy, violating federal campaign-finance laws, and failing to register as a foreign agent. The Wall Street Journal reports today that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Giuliani personally stood to profit from a natural-gas shakedown run by his partners, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
Parnas and Fruman, two figures linked to the Russian mob who have been arrested, were helping Giuliani run his off-the-books diplomatic work in Ukraine. The benefit to Trump, who was not paying Giuliani anything, was getting muscle on the ground who would get the Ukrainians to understand a message regular diplomats had been too squeamish to convey directly: that Trump wanted investigations of his enemies. But at the same time they were doing this work for Trump, they were allegedly working to get themselves a taste of the proceeds from the shakedown. Parnas and Fruman were pushing Ukraine to give them some natural-gas importing business as a kind of payoff, and using their connection to Trump as clout.
If Rudy himself was involved in the gas shakedown, as the Journal story suggests, it would be an even deeper form of corruption. Trump’s lawyer and personal representative would have sent gangsters to extort Ukraine for Trump’s political gain and his own profit. The false accusations Trump has hurled against Biden are pale versions of the very real crimes Trump’s cronies have tried to carry out….