ANALYSIS | Democratic hands in Washington spent the 2017 holiday season musing at cocktail parties about how little they would miss Donald Trump's first year in office, only to be shocked by an even more chaotic 2018.
Just wait until they see 2019.
When it comes to all things Trump, the year ahead will tell its predecessors to “hold my beer.” The pop culture site Urban Dictionary defines that phrase as one “used to express an individual’s boastful intent to outdo another person as an act of sport or competitiveness, expressed immediately after hearing about their achievement.”
With Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in New York moving their investigations of Trump, his 2016 campaign and businesses closer to the president and his family — and with House Democrats poised to launch a number of investigations of Trump World — the last six days alone offer a preview of just how Trump’s legal situation and Democratic control of the House are signs of a likely even more wild year ahead.
On Wednesday, Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for campaign finance violations he says his former client ordered. Later in the day, prosecutors signaled that the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., had flipped, meaning the company and its executives are cooperating with federal officials.
Consider the president’s made-for-television argument Tuesday with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer: It showed just how much Trump wants to make his expected re-election bid about immigration — he even seemed excited about a government shutdown over the issue.
“I am proud to shutdown the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,’ he told Schumer. “So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Elaine Kamarck, a former Clinton White House official now with the Brookings Institution, called Trump’s immigration confab performance “his comfort zone” because “it worked in 2016 and when he thinks things aren’t going well, he goes back to it again and again.” She also predicts more of the same next year — and a return of the campaigner in chief.
“As his troubles mount, I expect we’ll see the president back on the road doing political rallies,” Kamarck said. “He’s not shown that he’s much of a political negotiator … so why would he need to be in Washington? When he perceives things are looking bad for him, he lashes out and his base loves it — but Democrats don’t and he’s only alienating independents. He doesn’t do a thing to try to expand that base, which is all he seems to care about.”
Then there are the revelations in federal investigators’ court documents filed Friday about campaign finance violations stemming from orders given by Trump, offers by Russians of “political synergy” during the 2016 campaign, and new details about possible conflict-creating talks with officials in Moscow about a Trump Tower in the Russian capital that went on well into the last presidential race.
On Wednesday, the president’s former personal attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for those campaign finance violations — a development that was soon topped when federal prosecutors revealed the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., is cooperating with federal officials about its dealings with Trump World.
The president lashed out a Cohen and federal prosecutors in a midday Thursday tweet, calling Mueller’s probe a “WITCH HUNT!”
They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated - the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI. They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2018
WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2018
But Pelosi, during a Thursday news conference, noted the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pleaded guilty, which some legal analysts say could be most troubling for the president, were not filed by Mueller.
“It’s interesting that these allegations against the president are coming from his own Justice Department,” she said.
With their coming investigative powers, House Democrats are using the I-word (impeachment) and mulling just which parts of the Trump campaign, business and presidency to most aggressively pursue.
“They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they’re important enough to justify impeachment is a different question,” incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a television interview earlier this week. “But, certainly, they’d be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.”
As Democrats mull that, Mueller’s team and the New York prosecutors will continue their work. All evidence are Trump will grow increasingly angry with all three, casting doubts on his ability to strike bipartisan deals with Democrats investigating him.
“I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time,” Lawrence Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said late last month. “He knows how to negotiate.” But during the same session with a small group of reporters, Kudlow heaped praise on Trump for his penchant to “not back down.”
The day after Republicans lost control of the House, Trump promised to take up a “war-like posture” if he decided Democrats’ probes are going too far. Pelosi touched on an issue that will be an early indication of how 2019 will play out.
“I think it’s a little more challenging than you might think. I think they’ll take the first steps,” she said when asked about the House Ways and Means Committee trying to force the president to release his tax returns. “I’m sure the White House will resist. The question is where will we go from there.”
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.Watch: Border Wall Meeting Gets Hectic Between Trump, Schumer, Pelosi