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For Manafort and Cohen, the truth and nothing but the truth
Blair Bess

There may be hope for the American judicial system. The felony convictions of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is evidence of this, as is the plea agreement of former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

Despite the incoherent ramblings of one-time law and order advocate Rudy Giuliani, the truth is the truth.

Despite being unable to convict Manafort on all 18 counts for which he was charged, a jury of twelve Americans weighed the evidence against him and agreed with the government’s assessment that he was guilty of committing serious crimes. That he was not telling the truth. 

Despite Cohen’s long-ago willingness to “take a bullet” for Trump, the consequences of actions he took on Trump’s behalf were cause enough for him to plead guilty to eight criminal counts - including election law violations - and tell the truth. 

In his riveting book “On Tyranny,” author Timothy Snyder writes, “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom... If nothing is true [as Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump insist], then all is spectacle.” 

The Trump presidency is certainly that. As was the now-defunct Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Trump continues to mislead. He continues to lie. He continues to speak anything but the truth.

In the wake of Manafort’s conviction on eight counts of criminal misconduct, Trump called the newly-convicted felon “a good man.” Just as he refers to white nationalists as “fine people.” He reiterated that the Manafort trial had “nothing to do with Russian collusion.” No one suggested it did. 

Manafort was convicted on tax evasion and bank fraud charges, and lying about having bank accounts in foreign countries. Whether Manafort is also guilty of being involved in activities related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election and acting as a foreign agent remains for another jury to decide next month.

“No collusion, no collusion, no collusion,” Trump drones repetitively. 

Snyder’s book notes that Victor Klemperer, a renowned German scholar who witnessed the rise of the Third Reich, wrote that this type of “endless repetition” is meant to “make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable.” It is fascistic in nature and tyrannical in intent.

Trump and his minions would have us believe that verifiable facts are a distortion of reality, his reality, and that anyone who says otherwise - meaning the press and the opposition - is an “enemy of the people.” 

At one of his Munich-like pep rallies in Kansas City last month, Trump told attendees, “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news... what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

That’s right. Don’t believe your own eyes and ears. You’re hallucinating. 

When presented with cold hard facts, twelve jurors independently and collectively reached the conclusion that Manafort lied. Through their deliberations, they uncovered the truth. Not the truth according to Trump. The real truth. 

In Cohen’s case, the president himself has been implicated in criminal behavior. Cohen told a court that his felony campaign law violations were made in “coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Meaning, Trump. He did so for “the principal purpose of influencing the election.” This is not “deep state,” this is truth, sworn to under oath.

Trump also took an oath: to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” He consistently thumbs his nose at that very Constitution and, by extension, the people he was elected to serve. He might eventually be named an unindicted co-conspirator for two of the felony charges to which Cohen pled. 

Many Americans have been lulled into complacency by Trump’s exhortation that he alone can solve the nation’s ills. It’s worked on those Republican members of Congress who’ve abrogated their constitutional responsibilities. Like many of his followers, they have bought into Trump’s cult of personality and a fictional narrative rife with “alternative facts” and lies, one that is antithetical to the foundations of our democracy. That is a truth for which they will eventually be held accountable by the people they serve.

The truth will, in all probability, not set Manafort and Cohen free. But it should send a very clear message to Donald J. Trump that no one is above the law. Not even those closest to him. Trump, however, can’t handle the truth. Nor, it would appear, can his most ardent supporters.

Blair Bess is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer, and columnist. He edits the online blog, and can be reached at