Is it dangerous to be friends with Donald Trump?
If yesterday didn’t prove to you my theory that Everything Trump Touches Dies, I have to presume you were locked somewhere deep in an underground bunker, submerged in a warm-water sensory deprivation tank while tripping balls on some high-quality hallucinogens. You certainly weren’t watching now-wrecked lives of two of Trump’s former confidants, fixers, business associates, wives, girlfriends (compensated and otherwise), and political allies join the long, long line of people who have learned that it’s dangerous to be friends with Donald Trump.
The associative property of Trump’s reality-TV glamour, his crude fame, his various blandishments, and his seductive promises of fame, wealth, and empowerment have long lured in suckers. Don’t be ashamed if you’re one of them; from major international banks to the thousands of people who bought into his low-rent, ersatz “university” multilevel vitamin-marketing schemes, shoe-leather prison-meat steaks, jug-wine, assorted dead-on-arrival real-estate branding projects, and of course, his objectively ludicrous presidency, Trump is the alpha con man.
Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, will stand as one of the more terrible days in a catalog of terrible days in the era of this terrible president. All cons fall in the end, and there are always marks, victims, and collateral damage left holding the fecal end of the stick. Yesterday, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen felt the cruel, hot pain of reality’s hardest bitch-slap; both men are going to prison either because of crimes in service to Donald Trump or because their association with him drew their malfeasance into the baleful glare of the law.
Trump watched as his former personal attorney stood in a Manhattan courtroom and began the process that will amount to a beautiful, brutal, and richly deserved betrayal of his former friend and client, the president of the United States. Cohen, as I’ve written before, has the keys to the Trump Kingdom.
He was the keeper of a gigantic pyramid of evidence, experience, and inside-the-Tower knowledge. He’s the sticky-fingered archivist of emails, text messages, documents, contemporaneous notes, recordings, NDAs, contracts, medical records, and who knows what kind of sketchy bank paperwork, used pregnancy test kits, DNA swabs, and Hefty trash bags full of crusty hotel sheets that would glow vividly under UV light.
For outside observers, it was a thing of karmic beauty. For years, victims of Trump’s utter lack of loyalty to anything but his monstrous ego, rapacious greed, and whatever caused his last erection felt almost entirely powerless. They were victims of a man with a corporate organization designed from the ground up to fuck over his latest partners, contractors, wives, and hoochies du jour.
Now, no matter how many snide tweets Trump throws to further humiliate and demean Cohen, his ex-fixer is in a position to rip the veneer off of Trump’s finances, business practices, personal life, and taxes. Cohen has testified that he acted to violate the law on Trump’s direction and can point to the greasy financial snail-trail of Trump’s payoffs to Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and others. (Over at the professional evangelical headquarters, they’ve laid on a second shift for the mulligan machine.)
No matter how much Trump’s media enablers want to downplay Cohen’s admission of guilt, the facts stand. He is now drawing a direct implication that the president of the United States, while still a candidate for office, used Cohen to illegally silence two of the candidate’s most recent sexual conquests.
The fear emanating from the Trump tweets about Paul Manafort is an entirely different flavor. Manafort has direct, personal ties back to the Home Office in Moscow and its oligarch friends. Pasha isn’t just a witness to Russia conspiracy and Trump’s ties thereto; he’s an architect. The Trump-Manafort relationship goes back well before 2016, and while Manafort may be praying for a presidential pardon, that pardon would leave him forced to testify to things for which the Russians will gladly kill him. Hell, they’d likely kill him “pour encourager les autres,” so flipping and selling Trump down the river is his best bet, as long as witness protection gets thrown in on the term sheet.
For professional frenemy Omarosa, she’s out of legal jeopardy (despite Trump’s reported wish for Jeff Sessions to arrest her) and grinding away without mercy. She’s going to drag out her revenge in the way only a reality star born in the same table-flipping, cat-fighting culture can; publicly, painfully, and in the hot lights of every TV studio that will have her.
Even those under his own roof aren’t displaying the kind of blind, self-sacrificing loyalty Trump irrationally expects. White House Counsel Don McGahn (or, if you’re reading this Mr. President, “Councel”), clearly mindful of the Trump death touch, spent 30 hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and something tells me they’re not having sleepovers and painting one another’s toenails.
Trump’s long, long train wreck of a life is full of broken, victimized, and traumatized people. His loyalty is conditional, transactional, and expedient on a good day. After so many long years of escaping consequences for his failures, his reprobate behavior, and his lack of any sense of honor or honesty, the con man in chief is facing people who can tell his story outside the power of his tweeted and televised narrative. He doesn’t like it, and it’s not going to get easier from here.
The most significant misread of yesterday’s news came from Trump’s media cheer section. They raced for their keyboards, declaring breathlessly that this had nothing to do with Russia, whew! The glorious era of Trump is safe! Witch hunt! Phoney! Mueller and Soros are BFFs! Many of them see themselves as serious people mounting an intellectual defense of Trump, but the gymnastics needed to mount what one wag called “the Titanic only hit part of the iceberg” defense are hilariously weak. Yesterday didn’t end the Russia probe, as many of the Foxentariat declared.
The fall of Cohen and Manafort is the first at-bat of the first inning of the first game of the World Series, and Bobby Three Sticks is next in the batting order.