Why you should care

Michael Cohen’s remarkable plea implicating his former boss ratchets up the fight to keep the GOP in power.

The Donald Dossier: Cutting Through This Week’s Noisy NewsThe Donald Dossier: Cutting Through This Week’s Noisy News With What You Need to Know

The longtime attorney and confidant for the president of the United States pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring with the president to break federal law.

Put aside, for a moment, the daily news cyclone and all that we know about Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels and their parade of flamboyant lawyers. Tuesday was a remarkable day, even for a presidency of overheated news alerts.

Cohen’s plea and his statement in court that he made hush-money payments to women alleging affairs to sway the 2016 election “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump was a legal bombshell, courtesy of a man Trump had confidently predicted would not “flip” just a few months ago.

Add in yesterday’s fraud conviction of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — a case launched by Special Counsel Robert Mueller but not directly tied to Trump — and it was a tough afternoon for the president.

But this story doesn’t end with the #resistance fever dream of the president leaving the Oval Office in handcuffs. The Department of Justice is unlikely to indict a sitting president, while the hush-money payments are now all but sealed as Article Two of impeachment proceedings against Trump come 2019 — if the Democrats manage to win the House. Nancy Pelosi and her fellow party leaders are trying their best to hold back publicly at this point for sound political reasons, but the pressure from the base will be far too great and the evidence far too strong. I’m assuming Article One of the impeachment is Trump firing FBI Director James Comey in order to squelch the Russia investigation, but perhaps they’ll go with Stormy for the sex appeal. You could toss in foreign governments enriching Trump via his properties — think Saudis buying up suites at Trump hotels. Mueller could deliver more by then on the Russian collusion or money-laundering front.

Good thing Trump spent Tuesday afternoon on the way to his happy place. A preplanned trip to West Virginia — a state that gave 69 percent of its votes to Trump in 2016, the second highest in the nation — gave the president a chance to stand in front of people in coal-mining gear and give his usual stream-of-consciousness call to arms. He came bearing fresh news of a pro-coal proposal that would repeal Barack Obama’s attempted limits on power plants, and the men in miner suits cheered.

The purpose? To help elect Republican Patrick Morrisey to the Senate, adding a pro-Trump Republican to a group that would have to vote two-thirds to convict Trump if he is impeached. Remember that most Republican senators personally can’t stand the president, but they know all too well his political hold on their party — and a strong midterm showing could convince them they’d be better off sticking with Trump rather than rolling the dice with Vice President Mike Pence in 2020.

His Charleston, West Virginia, speech was remarkably constrained, by Trump standards. He didn’t mention the Manafort or Cohen news directly, and even his usual “fake news” jabs at the press seemed low-energy, to borrow a phrase. “Where is the collusion?” he asked, but rather than dwell on the point, he abruptly started talking about the importance of securing the Mexican border.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump’s political team spread the word about an aggressive midterms travel schedule to Trump-friendly areas such as Kentucky and North Dakota. On stage in West Virginia, Trump mused that he’d like to travel even more and perhaps he would ditch the Secret Service to do it. He sounded like a man who knows his political life depends on electing loyal Republicans to office, with time better spent on the road than in a White House where the walls are closing in.

OZYOpinion

Interviews, op-eds, and analysis to help you make sense of the news of the day and the news of the future.