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The Russia Probe Becomes a Banal Sex Scandal (UPDATED)

Now that Robert Mueller and his merry band of wannabe Inspector Javerts have revealed much of their hand, we can see more clearly what their investigation is all about. Aside from the nauseatingly familiar Washington corruption of the Manafort/Podesta stripe, the Great Russia Probe of 2016-2018 (and onwards) has morphed into the even more nauseatingly familiar Washington sex scandal.

If we are to believe legal-eagle Jonathan Turley--and why not; he seems pretty competent--Donald Trump's most serious problem (possibly rising to obstruction) is not Russia collusion, whatever that is, but the hush money payoffs he evidently ordered for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

Before going further, it's worth reviewing just how humdrum this is, especially at the presidential level.  We can't know for sure, but as many as half (possibly more) of our presidents have had extramarital affairs, seamy and otherwise. And, yes, there were payoffs -= some of which we know about and some of which we undoubtedly don't.

Just from WWII until now: FDR (a lifetime affair with Lucy Mercer), Dwight Eisenhower (his chauffeur Kay Summersby), JFK (too many to count, notably Judith Exner and the Mob, not to mention Marilyn), LBJ (also multiple, including possible child out of wedlock), and--needless to say--Bill Clinton. There are plenty of rumors about others, most sensationally that Kennedy and Gerald Ford bedded the same East German spy. I'm not prepared to say it's untrue. (Talk about Russia collusion!)

And, of course, it didn't begin at World War II.  Jefferson's longtime affair with Sally Hemmings is legendary and resulted in as many as five children.  But he wasn't the only one.  Rumors exist that William Henry Harrison also fathered a slave. Later, Warren G. Harding's mistress Nan Britton also gave birth to a child out of wedlock while Harding was in the White House. From Wikipedia:

Following Harding's death, Britton wrote what is considered to be the first kiss-and-tell book. In The President's Daughter, published in 1927, she claimed she had been Harding's mistress all during his presidency, naming him as the father of her daughter, Elizabeth Ann (1919–2005). One famous passage told of their having sex in a coat closet in the executive office of the White House. [bold mine]

Shades of Bill Clinton.  And speaking of Clinton, he isn't the only president to have been accused of rape.  From an article by Charles Lachman, author of A Secret Life:

What happened next, according to Halpin's affidavit, would in another era be classified as date rape. [Grover] Cleveland sexually assaulted her "[b]y use of force and violence and without my consent," Halpin reported, adding that when she threatened to notify the authorities, Cleveland "told me he was determined to ruin me if it cost him $10,000, if he was hanged by the neck for it. I then and there told him that I never wanted to see him again [and] commanded him to leave my room, which he did."

Six weeks later, Maria became aware that she was pregnant.

The boy was born on September 14, 1874, in a hospital for unwed mothers in Buffalo. He was named Oscar Folsom Cleveland, after Cleveland's best friend (Cleveland would later marry Folsom's daughter despite a 27-year difference in age, and she became America's youngest first lady. But that's another story.)

What happened to Maria Halpin next was a cruel injustice straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. Cleveland arranged to have the child forcibly removed from his mother and placed in the Buffalo Orphan Asylum.

So now we have Donald Trump trying to cover up a couple of consensual liaisons, one with a porn star and one with a former Playboy model.  Tacky, for sure, even creepy and morally repellent, but, as I said, humdrum.

Nevertheless, they are trying to get Trump impeached (the obvious goal of the investigation, not anything to do with Russia) for using campaign funds for these payoffs.  They do this in full knowledge of the obvious -- that the businessman himself had put millions of his own money into his campaign, so the funds were originally his in the first place.  Indeed the sums he donated to his campaign undoubtedly dwarfed the payments to the two women.

Still, the implication of the investigators, I suppose, is Donald never would have paid off these ladies if he hadn't been running for office. I imagine Melania Trump would have something to say about that.

UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy--no one more qualified--has an interesting article on Fox News this morning detailing how Trump is in legal jeopardy, is actually likely to be indicted, on this matter.  If Andy is correct, and it seems reasonable, then I predict this will devolve into one of the most bloody (figuratively and perhaps literally) fights in American political history.  It's hard to see Trump supporters seeing this selective prosecution--Obama and many others have skated on misuse of campaign fund charges (far greater numbers too) with no more than a fine, not even a slap on the wrist--as anything but the most extreme partisan hack job. Ironically, much like the Kavanaugh hearing may have saved the Senate for the Republicans, it could be the rallying cry that pushes Trump over the top in 2020.

Roger L. Simon - co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media - is a prize winning author and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.