If there's one thing we've learned from the shocking double conviction of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, it's that the powerful aren't always exempt from the law. Sometimes, systems work. Sometimes, justice work and those who abuse the law and their positions of power are held to account.
For president Trump, this lesson is an extremely painful one. He has managed to avoid the ramifications of his criminal behavior his entire life, cheating, lying, stealing and scamming his way to riches, and then using the same strategy to propel himself into the annals of American political power. Trump rose to prominence in America my turning the mob against the elites, then using the elites to protect him from the law once in power.
The resilience of American institutions
But American institutions have proved themselves far more resilient than Trump predicted they would be, underestimating the men and women who take their jobs seriously, believe in the rule of law, and have faith in the concept of America. This is not the "Deep State" persecuting Trump and his cronies, it is, the system working as it is supposed to. As John Adams declared America is "a government of laws, and not of men". Unfortunately for Trump, he is learning this the hard way, and this lesson won't be his last.
Perhaps most troubling for Mr. Trump is the realization that his closest allies will turn on him to save themselves. Cohen flipped on Trump because he did not want to go to jail for him. This was no act of patriotism or personal bravery -- he made a decision that his freedom was more important than Trump's presidency, and justifiably so. Trump has shown no loyalty to anyone, ever, so it is unsurprising to any rational observer that his even his most loyal ally has turned on him.
Surrounded by lowlifes
Trump has surrounded himself with thugs, hucksters and conmen during his campaign and presidency -- lowlifes who were enticed by power and riches -- not service to their country. They are as loyal to him as he is to them, and they will all turn on him to save themselves. Many of them closest to the president are still protected by him, the Republican Party, and the mobs still baying for Hillary Clinton's blood. But the legal system in America is another bastion of power that has a large degree of autonomy, and none of them are safe from it. Everyone from Kellyanne Conway to Donald Trump Jr. can be hauled in and prosecuted for any potential crimes they have committed, and they will face jail time if the evidence stacks up against them. And there is no one in the White House, including Trump's own children, who won't turn on him to save themselves.
The turning tide
This is something the Republican Party is beginning to understand as the tide turns against the president and the attacks on Mueller's probe become less politically viable. Up until the conviction of Cohen and Manafort, public opinion was turning against the Mueller investigation, but the extraordinary turn of events coupled with Cohen's explicit accusation that he broke the law under the direction of the president, means the probe can no longer be called into question. Of course Trump and his insane supporters will claim otherwise, but the GOP will quietly tone down the attacks on Mueller as they prepare for a worse case scenario -- the impeachment of Trump and the total dissolution their party. As Axiosreported today, Michael Cohen now presents the gravest threat to Trump's presidency to date:
Impeachment proceedings against President Trump went from a theoretical danger to a vivid reality with yesterday's guilty plea by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, sources close to the White House tell Axios...
The president’s former attorney — the guy who would yell obscenities at reporters and threaten them in the obsequious, unquestioningly loyal service of his boss — is now the greatest known threat to the Trump presidency.
There will be more betrayals as Mueller's probe continues to push on, more revelations of criminal wrongdoing, more plea bargains, and more jail sentences.
Jump now, and save yourself
Every single member of the Trump campaign team and White House could be implicated in the president's criminal wrong doing, so they must take every step necessary to protect themselves. By cooperating with the investigation they may avoid spending years or potentially decades behind bars, so they should think carefully about their next steps. The president won't save them and he will turn on them if he thinks it can be used to his advantage. So it is better for everyone around Trump to understand this reality now, to jump before the ship goes under and salvage what is left of their miserable careers. They may never work in politics again, but waiting tables is a damn sight better than jumpsuits and prison food.