How will the Kavanaugh confirmation affect immigration
Cohen and Manafort in courtPolitical scientist: Trump now has to limit damage
Jörg Münchenberg: It's about the political pressure on the US President Donald Trump, because two of his former closest employees have come under heavy legal pressure. Martin Thunert from the Heidelberg Center for American Studies is on the phone. Mr. Thunert, good morning!
Martin Thunert: Yes, good morning.
Münchenberg: Mr. Thunert, two closest confidants are coming under heavy legal pressure. What does that mean for the US President?
Thunert: Yes, that wasn't a good night for Donald Trump because the Damocles sword of the Russia investigation got a bit sharper and more threatening tonight. And I think above all ominous is the testimony of his former private lawyer Michael Cohen, who, as you have just said, has pleaded guilty, among other things, to the fact that he was told by candidate Trump shortly before election day in November 2016 Paid $ 150,000 to two women, porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claim they had an affair with Trump and they didn't want that to come out. This is presumably a violation of the election campaign funding law. If it were actually proven now that it had been carried out on Trump's instructions, that would be a criminal offense of which the president could also be accused.
"That should strengthen the special investigator Mueller politically"
Münchenberg: On the other hand, Mr. Thunert, there have been so many scandals, so many affairs, all of which Donald Trump has survived. Is that really a new quality now?
Thunert: I think it's a new quality. The other was a jury verdict against Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign leader. However, these are convictions that stem from offenses resulting from his advisory work for the former Ukrainian President Yanukovych. But they have shown that the Mueller investigation, which Trump calls a witch hunt, has now actually led to the condemnation of a close Trump employee by an independent jury, and that is likely to undermine the special investigator Mueller, whom Trump is trying to undermine , strengthen politically.
Münchenberg: How do you think Trump will react now? There has been speculation for a long time that he could fire special investigator Mueller, for example. Do you think that is a realistic option?
Thunert: That would be a radical solution, I think, but it would also cost a lot of support from some Republican senators and MPs. For Trump, the only thing that can really matter now is to limit the damage, to go on an election campaign tour - he did that tonight, as you just showed in the incorrectly recorded post in West Virginia - in order to prevent the Republicans from losing a majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections in two and a half months. Should they do so and should this suspicion that there is a violation of Trump's election campaign funding be confirmed, it is relatively likely that the House of Representatives, which could then be under a democratic majority, will actually initiate impeachment proceedings from January.
That does not mean that he will then also be condemned by the Senate - it needs a two-thirds majority - but a process in itself, even one that he could win, would certainly not be helpful for his re-election in 2020. At the moment, I believe, that is a more concrete threat than that it can be proven that he has had secret agreements with Russia in a court of law. However, one does not know what the lawyer Cohen still knows about Trump's deals that he did in Russia, which may also have violated the law. There is a threat of a legal, but in the short term, I believe, more of a political risk for Trump.
"The core supporters will stand by him"
Münchenberg: You mentioned the upcoming congressional elections in the autumn. On the other hand, one has to say yes: none of the scandals impressed his followers very much. Could these events now actually have a negative effect on the elections for him?
Thurner: It is now relatively clear that these congressional elections will be a vote, a referendum, over the two years of Trump. The Democrats want it that way, and so do the Republicans. It will not be a question of how individual MPs fared.
The core supporters will stand by him. You saw that again in West Virginia tonight. But the question is whether they are mobilized enough. The Democrats are of course enormously mobilized by things like yesterday or by other scandals and for Trump it will now be important that he succeeds in preventing A himself from endangering himself through ignorant statements, which is always a danger for him, and that he is now trying to mobilize his base, but also people who do not like him, but are still Republican-minded.
He can do that by now quickly having the Supreme Court judge he nominated, Mr. Kavanaugh, ratified by the Senate. He can do that by reaching a conclusion in the NAFTA renegotiation with Mexico, perhaps in the next few weeks. And he will repeatedly point out his very good economic data for the USA and also say that this has to do with his tax reform, and he will try to persuade the Democrats to adopt more extreme attitudes on immigration issues, namely the abolition of the ICE immigration police are certainly not able to win a majority in the population. Election campaigns and obtaining a congressional majority are likely to be number one for Trump for the next two and a half months, and he is certainly still a driving force in the states, in the constituencies that are hotly contested.
Münchenberg: Mr Thunert, do you think that means that the Republicans will continue to support their president just before the congressional elections?
Thunert: I think you need to keep supporting him now. But it will be exciting if the Congress or the House of Representatives changes the majorities. Then, I believe, we really have to be prepared for the fact that we could be heading for impeachment proceedings in the first quarter of 2019. Because I cannot imagine that he is now firing Mueller, that it would be so politically free for him at the moment. If Mr Manafort had been acquitted by the jury today, or if the jury had not been able to come to an agreement, as they could not have been able to do on some counts, but were able to agree on the important ones, then he would certainly have closed the Mueller investigation with his strategy undermine, had more success. What happened yesterday or what happened tonight initially strengthened Mueller, and I think he won't dare to fire him now.
Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.
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