Opinion | Trump Tops Tricky Dick – The New York Times

And now, the worst and the dumbest.

Watergate was way easier than this.

Really, Richard Nixon might have been attempting to undermine the nation’s legal system, but at least he wasn’t negotiating to build, say, a hotel in Hanoi at the same time.

You’d think that after almost half a century we could at least expect an improved quality of criminals. But it does appear that Donald Trump is surrounded by minions who would have been totally incapable of pulling off a small-bore burglary without creating a constitutional crisis.

So many plea bargains and indictments, so little time. How do you keep track of all this stuff? (Let’s follow the president’s lead and pretend that everything happening in the world is all about you.) What do you do at holiday parties when somebody asks you what you think about the Trump scandal-rama? No fair just rolling your eyes and muttering something about the merlot.

Maybe you could boil things down. Just challenge everyone to name their favorite Trump investigation indictee.

… So far.

There are plenty to choose from. Nearly three dozen if you count all the Russians we’re never going to see. And old favorites like national-security-adviser-for-a-minute turned convicted felon Michael Flynn. This would give everybody a chance to recall Flynn leading the “Lock her up!” chants at the Republican convention.

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s bedraggled-beagle face has been everywhere. We knew he was funneling money to pay off Stormy Daniels and other assorted Trump squeezes. But now we’ve learned that he was also negotiating with the Russians about an allegedly terminated Moscow hotel deal during the presidential primaries.

You can say a lot of bad things about Cohen, but you cannot accuse him of lack of energy.

This week, after the world learned Cohen was baring his soul to the Mueller investigators, Trump said his old fixer was “a weak person and not a very smart person.” Which caused a reporter to ask, reasonably enough, why he had such a loser on his payroll for 12 years. The president vaguely explained it was because Cohen “did me a favor.”

Possible holiday dinner-table discussion: What do you think the favor was?

A) Introduced Trump to Roy Cohn

B) Bought a whole bunch of Trump apartments at a price nobody else would pay

C) Wrote “The Art of the Deal”

This whole saga is getting so incredibly … dense. All the Mueller indictments, all the people trying to trade information for a shorter sentence. Meanwhile Paul Manafort was double-flipping, giving Trump’s lawyers a secret briefing on what was going on while he was spilling the beans.

Manafort was supposed to be one of Trump’s cannier associates. As well as a former lobbyist for bloodthirsty dictators who had an addiction to the sort of lifestyle that included an $18,500 python skin jacket. Truly, you should always beware of flunkies wearing python skin.

Most presidents might have held it against a former campaign chairman and close associate who got convicted on multiple counts of tax and bank fraud. Even Warren Harding, that old Teapot-Domer, would have found it a tad embarrassing. But Trump still loves, loves, loves Manafort. (“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. … Such respect for a brave man!”)

One obvious reason is that Manafort was double-dealing the investigators, a tactic the president would naturally love. Particularly in an administration where the bar for loyalty is sinking lower into the swamp with every passing minute.

And maybe there’s a golf cart factor. You have to notice how frequently golf carts show up in this story. We recently learned that a former associate claimed that when Manafort was playing golf, “He’d take his cart and roll over your ball.” That might have been extremely attractive to Trump, who always likes to drive his cart onto the putting green — a serious breach of golf etiquette that might look less shocking if you were in the company of a ball-squasher.

The president has some history of preferring a golf cart ride to a walk with world leaders during important international meetings. Happily, he managed to start his visit to Argentina this week on two feet. (He did toss away his translation earpiece during a meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, claiming he could understand Macri better in Spanish. Can I see a show of hands on how many people will swallow that one?)

Plans for a one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin were shelved — a development that the White House said had absolutely nothing to do with Michael Cohen’s revelations about negotiating for that Moscow hotel deal during the presidential primaries. Or the new story that suggested Cohen planned to sweeten the deal by offering Putin a $50 million penthouse.

It was all allegedly about Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian ships and sailors. And if you believe that one, I’ve got a Moscow hotel I can sell you.

~Gail Collins

Source: Opinion | Trump Tops Tricky Dick – The New York Times

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