The Coverup Strategy

In political scandals, the actual deed never gets anyone in real trouble. It’s the coverup that matters. Donald Trump knows this, which is why he admits to everything. “Yes, I did try to pressure the Ukrainian president. So what? It was the right thing to do.”

Whether or not you agree that it was the right thing to do, a coverup is not part of the narrative. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are trying to change that. Their strategy is to insist that the White House is trying to hide something by not allowing any witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial.

So far, Trump and Mitch McConnell seem to be in full control. But if the conversation changes from whether Trump did anything wrong to whether Trump was trying to cover something up they could find themselves behind an eight ball.

Update: January 12, 2020: Pelosi works on changing the narrative on ABC News’ “This Week” today: “Dismissing is a coverup. Dismissing is a coverup.”

Read The Transcript

As the impeachment inquiry heats up, Donald Trump continues to urge people to ‘read the transcript’ of his call with the Ukrainian president. His assumption is that if they did they would see that he did nothing impeachable.

What the White House issued last month is not actually a verbatim transcript of the call. Instead, as the White House fully admitted, it is a summary of the call. As the White House would like to present it.

The summary was still bad enough that the Democrats started an impeachment inquiry. But based on the summary, Trump is unlikely to be convicted by the Senate.

The problem for Trump is that the verbatim transcript will eventually come out. People are going to read it. Trump’s summary is going to look like a coverup. And coverups are what sink politicians.

It’s the Cover Up, Stupid

Anyone who follows politics knows that when it comes to scandals, it is not the transgression that gets you, it’s the cover up. Nevertheless, politicians continue to cover things up rather than just admit to them, face the music and try to move on.

There was some reasonable expectation that Donald Trump would be different. After all, he was the one that claimed he could shoot someone in Times Square and still maintain his support. But it was not to be, and a few days ago Trump succumbed. He fired the FBI director, apparently for digging too deeply into his Russian connections.

By taking this extreme step that was clearly politically motivated, Trump likely achieves a number of unwanted objectives.

  • He makes enemies of a whole bunch of FBI personnel that can hurt him with their investigations and, more importantly, their leaks.
  • He gives the press renewed incentive to pursue the story
  • He gives his enemies in congress more ammo that he is undemocratic
  • He encourages more leaking by other members of the executive branch that disagree with politicizing the FBI

Inevitably, Trump’s Russian connections will be exposed. They could be around manipulating the election, they could be around his business empire being financed by Putins’ billionaire friends, they could be around his hotels getting sweetheart deals in Russia. There is a good chance it will be all of the above.

Whatever the connections turn out to be, they will not be the impeachable offense. That will be his efforts to cover them up.