If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now: President Donald Trump is in an impeachment fight.
It hasn’t fully ripened yet. That won’t happen unless Democrats take the House and do so with a healthy margin in the fall. But Michael Cohen’s statement that he committed campaign-finance violations at the behest of Trump makes it that much more likely Democrats will impeach him once they have the power and the votes to do it.
The campaign-finance charges give the Democrats one article of impeachment—they will find others—and surely will intensify the desire of the Democratic base for the sternest rebuke the House can make of a president. Even if Nancy Pelosi, assuming she’s still the leader of her caucus, wants to avoid impeachment as pointless and politically counter-productive, she will be hard-pressed to resist the #Resistance on the question.
This means Trump is in a political fight more than a legal one. His concern shouldn’t be the Southern District of New York—current Justice Department guidance says a sitting president can’t be indicted—but the House Judiciary Committee. His strategy shouldn’t be aimed at convincing prosecutors that he stayed on the right side of the law, but the broader public that he deserves to stay in office.
The most powerful tool that he has in that effort is telling the truth, exactly the approach most uncongenial to him.
The American public has a nearly boundless ability to forgive. Wayward politicians have fallen back on it throughout our history, whether it was Alexander Hamilton pouring out his guts over his sordid affair with Maria Reynolds, or John F. Kennedy admitting error in the Bay of Pigs, or Bill Clinton (after a season of extravagant and increasingly tinny denials) ’fessing up to his fling with Monica Lewinsky.
It is in this spirit that Donald Trump should confess his affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, admit he wanted to keep them quiet for a variety of reasons (sheer embarrassment, the potential political fallout, and the emotional effect on his wife and youngest son), and apologize to the public for his deception. Then, he should say he’s directing his lawyer to approach the Federal Election Commission to negotiate a large payment for any violation of its rules.