Last Friday’s sentencing memos for Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort hit with a bang, and interested press – who have watched the twists and turns of the investigation like a tennis match – wasted no time dissecting the content. However, the engaged public is also watching, and many are ready to take action.
The rallies that occurred in hundreds of locations across the US when President Trump chose the inappropriate and biased Matthew Whitaker to be his acting attorney general demonstrated the constant attention many Americans are giving to the president’s rule-of-law abuses. Their outrage is only magnified by the revelations of last week.
The activated network of Americans watching this most closely is organized at TrumpIsNotAboveTheLaw.org, a multi-organization site. They continue to be alerted if Trump crosses more “red lines” in reaction to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s successes. Activists are poised to hold protests in every state and Washington, DC, and have vowed to mobilize if Trump: 1.) pardons Manafort (or any other witness), as Trump has hinted he may; 2.) fires Mueller; or 3.) tries to hold back or undercut the findings of Mueller’s final report.
Most agree that the public deserves to see Mueller’s report in whole or part. A new NPR/Marist/PBS poll shows that 76 percent of Americans think the report detailing Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election should be released to the public in its entirety.
The fear that the president might obstruct the investigation was heightened by his aggressive lashing out on Twitter last weekend, and the fact that on the same day as Mueller issued his sentencing memos for Manafort and Cohen, Trump named his new attorney general nominee, William Barr, who has been hostile to the Mueller investigation. The unhappiness inside the White House about Trump’s apparent inability to find someone willing to be the next chief of staff isn’t helping the president temper matters either.
Trump’s anger is significant, and the reason is obvious. The Cohen data dump was astounding, and the Manafort revelations were no less so.
From Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress and his sentencing memo as well as Manafort’s, we learned that Trump was working with the Russian government to secure a Moscow real estate deal long past the point Trump’s team said the project had ended, and that throughout the process, Cohen was in close communication with Trump and his family about the business deal. We also learned that prosecutors believe that Trump personally directed Cohen to commit a felony, directing the payments of hush money to hide affairs. From Manafort’s sentencing, we also learned that he repeatedly communicated with the Trump White House post-indictment, as well as spoke with his Russian national business partner who has ties to the Kremlin intelligence agency that hacked the Democratic National Committee.
The facts are infuriating to Trump, and even though he claimed ridiculously that last Friday’s information “totally cleared him,” his denials are increasingly absurd. The public just isn’t buying it.
In fact, a just-released CNN survey found that 54 percent of respondents think the things Trump has said about the investigation are mostly false, compared to only 36 percent who say they’re mostly true. And only 29 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation, down from 33 percent in October.
In good news, the public’s outrage will soon be complimented with the major role that incoming House majority Democrats can play. US Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, commented that the committee sees its role as “protect[ing] the investigation from the president – whether it’s firing Mueller, intimidating witnesses or obstructing the investigation,” and others on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have shared similar sentiments.
As Mueller uncovers more damning evidence, the public (and Congress) will be needed to protect the endgame. If Trump crosses yet another red line in his attempt to stymie Mueller’s findings or skew public perception, he will again face mobilization and outrage.
The public stands ready to act.