The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: The “Cohen-Manafort One-Two Punch” Was a Biggie

President Trump points while speaking from a podium during a political rally.
President Donald Trump speaks during a political rally at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, on Tuesday. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Today in Conservative Media is a roundup of the day’s biggest stories in the right-wing press.

Tuesday was a bad day for the president, no matter what angle you hold it at. Two of President Donald Trump’s top aides, in different areas and eras of his life, were busy getting rung up on a dozen federal crimes and that’s not a good look for any president, particularly this one, who resides in a state of perpetual legal jeopardy. The conviction of former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort by a jury on eight counts of fraud and other crimes followed by Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s guilty plea that his longtime boss directed him to break federal campaign finance laws appeared, to many media and observers, to cast the president and his administration in a new legal light. But how about the right-wing media? Convincing the Trump-aligned media, much less Trump supporters, that the president is not who they believe him to be has proved challenging, but would this finally be the moment of truth?

The day’s news prompted a sweeping change of heart from conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who tweeted he not only changed his mind but his tune about Trump and impeachment.

Others … were, shall we say, less convinced.

Michael Warren weighed in at the Weekly Standard on what he dubbed the “Cohen-Manafort one-two punch,” writing that “Manafort’s conviction may be the biggest fish Robert Mueller has landed so far,” despite the fact that his “work overseas does not directly implicate the Trump campaign regarding involvement with the Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” Warren’s takeaway is more human resources–related, writing that “[h]owever the Mueller probe and the other Trump-related legal investigations end, Tuesday’s developments underscore the poor personnel choices the president has made.”

“Trump seems to have a penchant for surrounding himself with problematic aides and advisers who are willing to lie and cheat on his behalf,” Warren concludes. “What does it say about the president, who keeps calling the investigations a ‘witch hunt,’ that he keeps finding himself in the company of witches?”

Elsewhere at the Weekly Standard Andrew Egger’s piece titled “Cohen Plea Could Mean Trouble for Trump” notes “[t]he campaign finance charges aren’t what got Cohen in the most serious legal trouble, but they’re the ones likely to cause headaches for the president.” “After nearly two years of frenzied speculation about the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia, wouldn’t it be wild if the thing that brought him down was the porn star payoff after all?” he muses. When it comes to Manafort, Egger declares the conviction the “latest and largest court victory for special prosecutor Robert Mueller.”

Alex Parker at Red State, however, sees the day’s events more as a news narrative development than a legal development. “Manafort’s verdict marks a move forward in the Trump news narrative—a onetime campaign aide found guilty, no doubt to be hailed by the Left as a chink in the President’s armor, whether Manafort’s deeds implicate Trump in anything or not,” Parker writes. The Federalist framed Manafort’s eight felony convictions in a headline this way: “Federal Jury Fails to Convict Paul Manafort on Majority of Counts, Finds Him Guilty on 8 Counts of Fraud.”

Typically Trump-friendly Breitbart covered the day’s news plainly, noting “[n]one of the charges in either of these cases relate to his work with the 2016 Trump campaign, but the trials represent the first major public hearing of the findings of the Mueller investigation, which officially was charged with investigating ‘collusion’ with the Russian government by that campaign.” Breitbart also picked up on Senate Minorty Leader Chuck Schumer’s statement on the looming issue of presidential pardons. “I understand the president’s on his way to a rally,” Schumer said. “He better not talk about pardons for Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort tonight, or any time in the future.”