Where is Emily Litella when you need her?
After months of headlines promising that an investigation into “hush money” payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels would result in Trump’s impeachment, the prosecutor for the Southern District of New York has quietly dropped the investigation.
In fact, it was so quiet that a federal judge had to force the prosecutor to release materials that were under seal that showed the investigation into the “hush money” scheme was over.
Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to Trump who is serving a three-year prison term in part for breaking campaign finance law. Trump himself was implicated in Cohen’s crimes, which involved hush money payments to women that federal prosecutors have said were designed to sway the presidential election.
Cohen cooperated with federal prosecutors as part of his plea deal with the government, but their wider effort is now over, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley wrote in a three-page order.
“The Government now represents that it has concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations,” Pauley wrote.
The judge, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, made the disclosure in a ruling on a related matter dealing with the release of sealed information contained in already-public search warrants tied to the Cohen case. Pauley rejected the government’s request to keep some of the search warrant materials in the Cohen case sealed and instead ordered it publicly released by 11 a.m. Thursday.
The government’s case against Trump was worse than flimsy; it was dishonest. The prosecutor was contending that the hush money payments constituted a campaign contribution because by keeping Trump’s extramarital affairs quiet, it aided his campaign.
Instead, the government concluded that whatever Trump did to assist his lawyer, it was not illegal.
Significantly, special counsel Robert Mueller referred a criminal case to the SDNY involving Michael Cohen’s role in the hush-money affair. The fact that Cohen was the lone target in the matter should have been a tip-off that Trump was not in much danger.
But what fun would that have been?
Could Trump get impeached over this?
Yes — or, more likely, this and other matters together. A president can get impeached for anything members of Congress believe is an impeachable offence.
The Constitution says impeachment can be used in response to treason, bribery, and “other high crimes and misdemeanours.” It does not define what qualifies as a high crime or misdemeanour. Many experts believe a high crime does not even have to be a criminal offence. University of North Carolina constitutional law professor Michael Gerhardt told the Star last year: “Impeachment is not limited to what we call indictable crimes. It focuses on abuse of power, breach of trust.”
Jack Goldsmith, an assistant attorney general under George W. Bush, argued in the conservative Weekly Standard that “the Cohen accusation alone, combined with the president’s lies and obstructions related to Russia, suffice to justify impeachment proceedings.”
Oh well…”Never mind.”