Hey, T, looks like a couple of our Leavenworth Handicap horses came in.
T: I went back and checked our last Leavenworth story and it looks like we both saw the Cohen thing coming. Manafort was a festering corpse a long time ago, but I think Cohen was a pretty good call.
J: Was the last one after the raid? The timeline is starting to run together a little bit.
T: For sure. Remember when we thought Trump was innocent?
J: Yeah, I think that was back in L2.
T: What do you think the upshot is? How does this move the Rustigation needle?
J: I think Cohen’s conviction is the bigger immediate problem for the demagogue-in-chief. Cohen placed him at the scene of the crime, if you will … he said that he committed a felony campaign finance violation at Trump’s direction. That’s very, very bad. Manafort’s conviction was bad, but he was getting tried for stuff that was peripheral to the Russia thing. Mueller’s not done with him, though; he’s going on trial again next month, and that trial will feature Manafort’s Russian contacts much more prominently.
T: Did you see Trump’s response? It boils down to, “I didn’t do it, there’s nothing wrong with doing it, in fact whoever did it should get a medal for doing it, but I didn’t do it – but it would be good if I did – but I didn’t do it and whoever did it (not me) should be locked up with Hillary!”
It’s where this is headed, I think, from Trump’s angle. Trump can’t say anything without spinning it into, “I’m winning!” … so when he gets stuck with these either/or things – where he’s either guilty of one thing or guilty of another – the rubber band in his brain starts smoking like he’s an Asimov robot watching two humans having rough sex.
J: Trump can no longer credibly claim that Mueller’s investigation is a witch hunt, not after the convictions and guilty pleas. Trump doesn’t know what to do, which is why he’s been relatively quiet about this whole thing. He won’t know what defense he should use until Fox News tells him. Sure, the surrogates are trooping out there, but you can see their hearts really aren’t in it. They’re spinning like dervishes, but it’s got to be in the back of their minds that there is a whole Nike store’s worth of other shoes to drop.
T: I suppose, with Manafort ordering a prison-issue salad tosser and Cohen being hooked up to more recording equipment than Lennon’s corpse at a Beatles reunion, it might be time to update the Leavenworth race.
J: What is this one going to be called? I think the last one was, “Return of the son of the holy redundant step-nephew in the final stages of his hizzoner’s – “ … something like that. Where do we even take it from there?
T: How about we just call it L4?
J: That was easy.
T: We last visited Mueller’s Green Room in April, long before Trump saluted the Russian flag, before Mueller interviewed Roger Stone and assorted Trump lawyers. I pitched, and you caught last time – how about you pitch this time?
J: OK, sounds good. Do you want to skip over the peripheral figures and go straight to the big names?
T: No, lets hit the salad bar, scarf down the soup and rolls, and fill up on potatoes and pasta first The meat ain’t exactly fresh in this place, if you get my drift.
T: Actually, Manafort can be considered fresh meat.
J: But not to us.
T: I don’t suppose he’s –
T: Um …
J: Let’s just say he will be.
T: His kids are going to be hocking silk suits to keep him out of the exercise yard for the next 10 years to life.
J: Where were we?
T: L4, remember?
J: That’s right. Return of the son of the illegitimate step-nephew’s dog. Something like that.
T: Close enough.
J: First up is Pence. I had him at 5/1; you had him at 7/2.
T: When was the last time we heard from Pence? He could be dead, for all we know. I’ll say hold, pending Mr. Flynn’s day in court. What do you think?
J: I tend to agree – he’s been pretty quiet. They keep pushing Flynn’s sentencing back, so Flynn’s still talking; Flynn’s the one who can sink Pence.
So until that resolves, I’ll hold on Pence, but once Flynn’s case is resolved Pence will probably be a flush.
T: Yeah, Pence is 99 percent tied to Flynn. I would put him at about 10 million to 1 otherwise. Who’s next?
J: Next is Carter Page. I had him at 8/1, you had him at either 1/100 or flush.
T: Page is as tied to Roger Stone as Pence is to Flynn, I think. I suspect he’s been working for the feds for a while, but on the down-low. I doubt he’ll be indicted because of that, but to me he was a slam dunk indictment unless he cooperated. So … still 1/100 or flushed as an informant.
If he is informing, he’s still on the dead-in-a-dumpster list.
J: I think his odds are fading in the go-to-jail derby. I had him at 8/1 last time, and I think he’s probably more like 20/1 by now. He’s just too small a fish to fry, especially if he’s been cooperating.
As far as the dead-in-a-dumpster derby, he’s probably a leading contender. He (along with Papadopoulos) kicked the whole thing off, which no doubt made him some very powerful enemies.
T: The 13 indicted Russian nationals would be on the dumpster list. Has anyone verified that they are all still alive?
J: Not as far as I know. Of course, they’re safe from prison as long as they don’t come to America. Whether they might be better off in an American prison is an open question.
T: Who’s next?
J: Roger Stone is next. I had him at 3/2, you had him at 7/2. Are you holding?
T: I’d buy Stone at my 7/2, but not at your 3/2. I don’t sense he’s going to be in peril unless he was part of an actual, coordinated collusion. I see that as slightly higher than 3/2. Slightly. Last time I think I had it as 2/1 and I think it’s increased a bit. Maybe 8/5 that there actually was coordinated collusion.
J: You sell my frigging 3/2 and you buy at 8/5? What is that, a difference of a dime against a dollar?
T: You caught that, huh?
J: You weasel.
T: Ok, I’ll hold on your 3/2.
Where are you on Stone?
J: He’s popped up in the last few weeks, kinda like a Whack-a-Mole game. I think eventually he’ll get swept up, so I’ll keep him at 3/2, but the time frame is up in the air. I haven’t heard anything more about his testimony, but Mueller’s shop is tighter than the proverbial crab’s ass, which is very tight indeed, otherwise crabs would all fill up and sink.
So I don’t attach too much weight to the silence.
T: I’m pretty sure you stole that joke, but I can’t remember where I heard it. Noah?
J: Nah, Dave Barry, I think. Noah was the how long you can tread water thing.
T: Heard from Will Sim lately?
J: I thought he drowned.
T: Nobody reading this is going to know what the hell we are talking about.
J: Will Sim played a drowning guy in a play we did in high school, based on a Bill Cosby routine where God asked Noah how long he could tread water.
T: Is that a Rohypnol metaphor?
J: I hope not.
T: No kidding. I doubt I could even eat pudding now.
J: Hey, did you see that over there, just beyond the horizon?
T: Oh, right. Who’s next?
J: Next on the hit parade is Kellyanne Conway.
T: Has she been quiet lately, or is it that nobody is giving her any attention?
J: I think both. I had her at 100/1, you had her at 50/1. I haven’t seen anything to change my mind, so I’ll leave here there. What’s your take?
T: Has she testified?
J: I don’t think so. I don’t think she knows anything that they couldn’t find out from less skeevy-looking people.
T: If she ever spoke to Mueller like she speaks to the cable news shows, she’s committed perjury. I’ll leave it at 50/1, assuming Mueller won’t go after the guppies in this mess, but pejoratively speaking, she is low-hanging fruit.
J: Next is Steve “The Whitest Man In America” Bannon. We agreed on him at 20/1. I think if anything his odds are a little higher now, maybe 30/1.
T: I think I sold all my Bannon stock. If I still have some, you can use it to line a bird cage. His only exposure is the Comey firing, and I doubt anyone is going to jail over that. The Comey firing was a symptom, not the disease, so to speak.
J: Agreed. There are far bigger fish to fry.
T: Or crabs to sink.
J: How long can crabs tread water?
T: They still don’t know what we are talking about.
J: OK. Now we move on to the GOP guys. First up is Paul Ryan. I think I’d flush him. He just hasn’t done anything criminal. Criminally stupid, yes, and he’s certainly enabled criminals, but I don’t see what they would get ol’ Eddie Munster for.
T: Yeah, flush. His last act as a relevant politician was to beg Sheldon Adelson for $25 million in a wink-wink not quite in heinous violation of campaign finance laws meeting.
J: Do you still think he’s honest?
T: It’s all relative. To his right, he’s comparatively honest. To his left – compared to the center, I mean – he’s corrupt.
J: Compared to Hillary?
T: Hillary wants to be Ryan. Or wanted to be. At this point, I think she’ll settle for being Jimmy Hoffa.
J: She wants to disappear?
T: Yeah, that’s not quite right. We want her to disappear. She might not agree with us.
J: I don’t think she has a choice.
T: Yeah, no matter what happens with Trump, nothing is going to bring Hillary’s reputation back from the fiery pits of Mordor that Trump dragged it through.
J: History might be kinder to her, if Trump is impeached.
T: Yeah, that sure helped McGovern.
J: Point taken.
T: Who’s next?
J: Next up, Mitch McConnell. I think he’s also a flusher, for the same reasons. He’s a much bigger turd though, so probably a four-flusher.
T: McConnell is exposed in different ways. I doubt he was privy to any Russian stuff, but he’s put roadblocks in front of the investigation. I’d buy his potential censure, at least, for obstructing the investigation.
J: Yeah, his odds of censure are probably better than his odds of criminal liability. I’d buy that before I’d buy him getting charged with anything.
T: He hijacked the Supreme Court out of sheer ideological competitiveness. I think he should be flogged and shoved into the cell next to Manafort. But realistically, it’s a hard sell. No pun intended.
J: I don’t think that’s a pun, at least not if it’s written down.
T: Cell and sell are something.
J: He swells, she’s sore from selling seashells in her sea cell.
T: Did you really say that?
J: No, you did and blamed it on me.
J: You should be.
T: Ok, who’s next?
J: Next up are Nunes and Chaffetz, the Abbott and Costello of the Rustigation. Chaffetz to me is a flush, but Nunes could have obstruction-of-justice exposure, so I’ll put him at 20/1.
T: I agree, Chaffetz seems to have safely left the burning barn, but Nunes? I don’t know about criminal liability, but that shiftless prick has no business ever being re-elected to anything. Go hose out horse barns, asshole.
Not you, J, I mean Nunes.
J: I was wondering what I said to bring that on.
Anyway, next up is Smokin’ Jeff Sessions.
T: Flush. You?
J: I had him at 20/1, and you flushed him. I think I’ll flush him too; he seems to be keeping a low profile these days except for when the boss hauls him out for a whipping.
Last one before we get to the family: James “I Can’t Dance, but I Sure Am Tall” Comey.
T: I’d flush him. He did his book and got exposed as a glory hound. Assuming the GOP doesn’t agree to a Hillary witch hunt – put intended – I think he goes in the archives with Chaffetz.
J: I tend to agree. He’s written his book, done the book tour, and had his 15 minutes of fame. Barring something very unexpected from the GOP, he’s a flush. Now we get to the real players. First up is “The Russians Went To” Jared Kushner.
T: What were the odds?
J: We both had him at 2/5. I’ll hold him there; not much has changed in the interim, despite his low profile.
T: Yeah, he’s a hold. Call it a pause, while we wait for Mueller to get back to him.
J: Next is Ivanka. I don’t think she knows much of anything at all, but especially not anything Russia-wise. I’d put her at 10/1 just for being married to a future felon.
T: Future felon? Or past felon, future convict?
J: You are still a weasel.
T: Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
J: I’ve seen drunk nymphomaniacs in tubs, soaking in Spanish Fly, with more restraint.
T: Restraint? Why would you restrain someone who … never mind.
J: Let’s get back to Ivanka.
Wait – don’t get confused and put her in the bathtub with the Spanish Fly.
T: I’m going to need a couple of minutes.
J: Stop it.
T: Sorry. Yeah, her future isn’t in jail, but it might be in the witness protection program. She’s going to have to swap faces with Ann Coulter.
T: I know … how much Spanish Fly would it take to make that alluring?
J: I’d rather have sex with a fly.
T: Logistically speaking, that might be factually correct.
J: Yeah, a fly would be difficult, but theoretically possible.
T: And way less vomity.
J: Does Coulter get Ivanka’s face?
T: Only if there’s a bounty on it.
J: I think Ivanka should be in the mix, even if she wasn’t personally involved. She knew whatever Jared knew, so I think she’s going to have
T: Does Ivanka divorce Jared if he turns?
J: Probably. Loyalty only runs one way in that family, it seems.
T: Loyalty … I think the family is loyal to Daddy’s bank account, and all the fun toys Daddy brings home, like “Mr. Microphone” or “Mr. Mercedes” or “Mr. President.”
But has their loyalty really been tested yet? Because it’s about to be massively tested.
J: Well, we know Sr. has no loyalty. He cut all of the fall guys loose (Cohen, Manafort, Gates, Flynn). He hasn’t been tested by disloyalty from someone who he can’t cut loose yet. I wonder what he would do if Jr. flipped on him. Junior has several dozen kids, so he might be easy to turn if he’s looking at serious time.
T: That’s a good point. Trump sells loyalty as if he’s the most loyal guy in the world, but has he ever been genuinely loyal to anyone? Who has he ever stood by through rough times?
Six bankruptcies, two divorces, a safe full of non-disclosure agreements (or is that safes, plural?), a billion dollars in taxes written off, a raft of unpaid bills, an abandoned charity foundation … bad guys are often categorized as beaters or bailers. Trump is definitely a bailer, isn’t he?
J: I can’t think of any examples of Trump sticking by anyone when things got tough. Remember how he said Manafort only ran his campaign for a few weeks, and Cohen didn’t really do much work for him? He’s pretty much forgotten Gates and Flynn ever existed.
Everyone has to sign a nondisclosure agreement, so nobody can talk shit about him after leaving the White House. His loyalty runs all one way – to Trump. It doesn’t run from Trump to anyone in his circle.
T: Is Trump’s seemingly unbreakable hold on his minions a house of cards? If his empire topples, how much shit is behind that massive wall of sycophantic denial?
J: I think Trump’s political end will be a death of a thousand cuts, not one sudden collapse. There is, no doubt, a huge amount of shit behind the curtain, and it will all come out, eventually. But it’ll be a slow, cheesy dump rather than a firehose.
I may need to work on my similes.
T: That’s a metaphor.
J: Son of a bitch.
T: (he shoots, he scores! Yeahhhhhhhh!)
J: Son. Of. A. Bitch.
T: The metaphor that rings true to me might be a mix of the two. Trump’s empire is a dammed-up wall of denial. All the Rustigation paper cuts – as you described them – are weakening the dam. Mueller is systematically adding more cuts, scrapes and tiny rips to the facade.
Which straw – which final, tiny little push of negative evidence – will cause the dam to finally burst?”
J: I don’t think it’ll be any one thing, but if I had to pick something I’d say it would be if Mueller has something that definitively shows Trump colluding with the Russians.
If he’s got e-mails or phone records or something that shows beyond any doubt that Trump knew, from the beginning, that he was getting help from Moscow, I think he’d lose a lot of support, even some of the base. The hardest of the hard core will stay with him, but I think you’d see his approval ratings dip into the 20s.
T: I think it’s a burst coming, mostly because there is such a clear, obvious backup behind the base’s stubborn wall of support. Trump’s case has been steadily weakening, and Trump himself has shown steady decline in his composure. He’s gone from confident bullying to flailing accusations and denials, and yet his base support has held stubbornly.
There is no way that support is uniformly strong. It’s just uniformly stubborn. That means that the stubborn 40-42 percent number is a bubble, not a base. And bubbles burst, like dams giving way.
J: Campaign-finance violations aren’t sexy. It’s hard to explain that it is, indeed, illegal to pay a porn star to keep quiet and not report that payment as a campaign contribution. That’s why the story’s not really getting much traction among the base; they see it as a technical violation, not really that big a deal. Of course, it’s a felony, so it’s a bigger deal than they think it is, but the problem is convincing them of that.
T: I don’t think campaign finance violations are the predicate crime and it pisses me off that the mainstream media hasn’t picked up on that. It’s fraud to lie to the voters, and if it turned an election? How big of a fraud is that? It might not be jailable, but it sure as hell is impeachable.
J: He’s been covering his shit like a cat in a two-acre litter box ever since he was elected. Not just the porn-star thing, but the Russia thing, the Trump Foundation thing, the Trump University judgment… we KNEW the guy was dirty. We knew it going in, but the Democrats ran such a shitty candidate and such a shitty campaign that Trump actually looked like a viable alternative. And the country’s been paying for it ever since.
T: He bought a picture of himself with money from his own charity and hung it on his wall. Imagine getting caught doing that for a normal company. First, you’d be mercilessly ridiculed. Second, you would never be promoted, and the pressure on you to quit would be overwhelming. You would be as welcome as a rat at a picnic. And that’s if they don’t fire you for misusing company funds.
J: If the government were a business, Trump would have been fired long ago for incompetence, venality, graft, fraud, and probably a half-dozen other fireable offenses. If the government were a business, the guy who even suggested they hire him would be fired, too.
T: The rank and file members of his voting base – the middle section, not the hard core right – are going to spend the rest of their lives either bitter or embarrassed. The bitter version is too bad, but that’s how our brains work. We don’t easily admit our mistakes, even when they are obvious. A lot of people are going to go to their graves thinking Trump failed because the left wouldn’t let him succeed.
The embarrassed will react by refusing to ever mention his name, and get mad whenever anyone else points out that they voted for him. You know, like me pointing out bedwetting or the FiveThirtyEight polling percentage right before the 2016 election.
J: Hey! Hey! HEY!!!!
J: They’ll be bitter that Trump basically sold them a bill of goods; he said one thing to get elected and has been almost the polar opposite as President in a lot of ways. Or, they’ll be embarrassed that all of the horror stories they were told before the election proved to be true, and they ignored the huge red flashing warning signs.
T: They wuz had, and I suspect a lot of them are realizing it about now.
J: Yeah, they lost track of the rails, but now they might be looking for them.
T: Like us?
J: Um, yes.
T: Where were we?
J: Ivanka, I think. Will she stop going to Jared?
T: We really beat that “she went to Jared” thing to death, don’t we?
J: Well, why not? It’s not like she can’t afford to go there.
T: I don’t really know what Jared sells – never been there – but I suspect it’s a place where Ivanka would sell a line of cheap crap, not a place where she would shop with her unlimited platinum American Express card.
J: T, see this point? See it? It’s right here. That. Point.
Stick to it for five seconds. Ok?
T: Ok, Ivanka. Is that a common name in Russia, or Slovakia, or somewhere like that?
J: The. Point.
T: Sorry … I suspect Ivanka will be tempted to abdicate Mr. Kushner’s throne if he goes down. I can’t see her hiding in the Witness Protection program.
J: No, that really doesn’t seem to be her style.
She’s a stand-up person when there’s trouble; she dealt with the mini-scandal about her clothing line being made in China pretty well.
J: The other daughter?
T: I can’t even remember her name.
T: Was she the one in the car without her –
J: The point.
T: Never mind.
J: That was Brittany, anyway.
T: That’s right. She had shaved, and I have a hard time telling women apart when they are shaved.
J: What are you t- oh right, her head was shaved.
T: Who’s next?
J: Next up is Eric. I think he’s peripheral too, maybe closer than Brittany but not really in the inner circle.
T: They’ll have to keep him in a rubber jail.
Would you give odds for Eric? I think he has to be in there somewhere, just because he’s involved in the family business. I’ll keep them low, though. I’d wager a fin on 30/1.
J: I think that’s probably about right. He didn’t do much of anything with the campaign; I think he caught a lot of shit for going skiing on Super Tuesday or something like that when the family expected him to make some campaign appearance. So yeah, he’s very much a peripheral figure.
T: Who’s next?
J: I think Jr. is almost certain to get indicted at some point, so I’ll put him at 1/5 and even that might be high. He’s in this up to his Gucci collar.
T: Is Jr. the ballgame?
J: He might be, if he turns.
T: If he gets indicted, he might be the chubby, doughy little paper cut that finally bursts the dam. I can’t see him standing up to jail time – and if he starts talking, it might take the full facilities of the Secret Service to keep him alive.
J: I’m sure he’s wrapped up like a burrito already, just in case.
T: If being at the meeting with the Russian agent is indictable, he and Kushner are screwed; I’m not 100 percent convinced it is, though. It still smacks of gray area opposition stuff to me.
I’ll say 3/5 for the indictment, and if indicted about 1/10 that he turns.
J: I’d put Kushner ahead of Jr., just because there are more scandalous things attached directly to him and his father. 1/5 sounds about right to me.
T: Enough preliminaries. I’ll let you go first.
Donald Trump, Sr. Odds of indictment.
J: During his term, zero. After his term; 1/100, unless whoever is elected after him pulls a Gerald Ford and pardons him. There’s no way, at this point, that he doesn’t get indicted for obstruction of justice, financial crimes, etc.
T: So you think he’s past the tipping point?
J: Yeah, I think he’s beyond the point of no return. He’ll have his day in court, maybe. I do think it’s possible that his successor might pardon him just in the interest of not inflaming the national divide further. That would be a really, really smart political move.
T: I am sure he’ll be pardoned. And I’m sure he’ll need to be pardoned. Any odds are good odds at this point, it’s free money. Take 1/1,000,000 if you have to. You’ll have to bet a lot to make any money, though.
J: Talk about a risky bet.
T: Bridge jumper bet.
J: No shit.
T: I’d make that bet from the bridge.
J: We’ve come a long way from Leavenworth I, haven’t we?
T: Yes we have, looking back at it. Of the known players, only a few are left in doubt. Even the big fish looks to be on the hook.
J: And wriggling like crazy.