All the president’s mess

It’s absurd to think a president could ever be impeached for lying about sex.

Or so was the prevailing wisdom until it happened in 1998 to Bill Clinton. Twenty years later the specter of another such chapter is suddenly not that far-fetched. It’s too soon to know where things are heading, but it’s hardly rushing to judgment to say yesterday was a very bad day for President Trump.

His former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted on eight counts of financial fraud involving schemes to hide millions of dollars in foreign accounts to evade taxes. But the real dagger aimed at Trump came from his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, who, as part of his guilty plea to campaign finance and other charges, said Trump directed him to pay off two women who allege they had affairs with Trump in order to buy their silence in the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The sworn statements by Cohen implicate Trump in the commission of crimes. Globe op-ed contributor Michael Cohen (yes, the same name) declares that there is “a very good chance” that yesterday will be “forever known as the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.”

We’ve seen such proclamations before, which almost always come — and the Cohen column is no exception — from those who also wish fervently that they are true. But the news yesterday does seem qualitatively different, because it centers on a sworn statement about specific action Trump is alleged to have directed.

“[E]ven the president’s staunchest defenders acknowledged privately that the legal setbacks he suffered within minutes of each other could open fissures among Republicans on Capitol Hill and expose Mr. Trump to the possibility of impeachment,” the New York Times reports.

A New York Times editorial reminds readers that yesterday’s bombshells are merely the latest ones. “You’re forgiven if you’ve lost track of all the criminality, either charged or admitted, that has burst forth from Mr. Trump’s circles in the last couple years,” it says, before ticking of a cheat-sheet review of other cases, including guilty pleas from Trump’s former national security adviser and a campaign policy adviser.

Is this time different?

“For the first time, the charges undeniably relate to Trump’s election,” writes Evan Slavitt, a one-time Massachusetts Republican candidate for attorney general, in today’s Boston Herald. Maybe Trump can evade criminal culpability for Cohen’s actions, says Slavitt. “Even so, however, it squarely puts Trump directly in contact with a longtime associate who did something that only benefited Trump and not himself,” he writes. “In earlier days, this alone might have called the presidency into question.”

But by today’s standards, which Trump seems able to force a rewrite of each day? Who knows? Which leaves Slavitt to conclude only that “it has to cost Trump and his administration something.”

One obvious candidate for that would be Republican seats in Congress in the coming midterm election.

“If Congress does not act, then not only will impeachment be on the ballot in November, but so too will be the future of the rule of law in America,” writes columnist Cohen in the Globe.

Maybe the latest developments change the equation. Until now, however, the talk of making impeachment an issue in the midterms has mostly had Democrats worried about only energizing Trump’s base to turn out in larger numbers than current polling has forecast.

The saving grace for Trump to the chaos and convictions that have defined his administration has been how inured the country has become to the circus in the White House. This morning, Trump tweeted that anyone looking for a good lawyer would be a fool to hire the man he confided in and relied on for years as his personal lawyer.

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a $2.4 bond bill that aims to address climate change preparations across the state. (Associated Press)

WEEI talk show hosts pressed Baker on judges who let defendants off easy, but the governor insisted the problem is the law not the judges. He pledged to pursue legislation on dangerousness hearings. (State House News)

Fifteen women who are running for legislative offices as Democrats pledge to seek roll calls on legislative votes if they are elected to increase transparency on Beacon Hill. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Haverhill City Council pumped more money into a Sal Lupoli development project after the council voted to let four members who had ethical conflicts with the Lupoli project vote under a so-called rule of necessity. (Eagle-Tribune)

The town of Falmouth has filed suit against Citibank to halt the foreclosure auction of a low-income property because officials say it violates the deed that only allows the home to be sold to a low-income buyer at a maximum set price. (Cape Cod Times)

The Marblehead facilities director said he was forced out of his job after it was discovered custodians were pouring rinse water from floor cleaning machines into an organic garden at one of the town’s schools. The director said he had no knowledge of the practice. (Salem News)

The Framingham City Council, seemingly at battle with Mayor Yvonne Spicer since her inauguration, rejected her slate of nominees for the Zoning Board, claiming most lacked government experience and several were new to the city. (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pled guilty to violating campaign laws and says Trump ordered him to pay off women who said they had sexual affairs with him. (New York Times) At the same time, former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of eight charges of fraud and tax evasion while the jury could not agree on 10 other counts. (Washington Post) Meanwhile, a new poll shows several prominent Democrats leading Trump in a race for the presidency. Old-timers Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders lead by roughly 12 points and even Sen. Elizabeth Warren is ahead. (Politico)

Facebook said it identified and removed more than 650 fake accounts, most started in Russia and Iran, that intended to sow discord in countries around the world. (New York Times)

Jeff Jacoby decries a recent speech by Chelsea Clinton that tied women’s entry into the workforce and the economic growth it spurred to the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

The Globe endorses Jay Gonzalez in the Democratic primary for governor and Charlie Baker in the Republican primary.

A Lowell Sun editorial endorsed Lori Trahan in the Democratic primary to replace US Rep. Niki Tsongas.

The two Republicans vying to take on Attorney General Maura Healey tried to create some differences with each other in a radio debate but agreed on issues such as opposition to Healey’s assault weapons ban, the lack of transparency in the office, and a push to increase drug trafficking prosecutions. (State House News)

Ouch: Republican US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl stops by the Globe editorial board and gets seriously Lehighed.

The Boston Herald endorsed two Democratic challengers (and Boston city councilors) over incumbents — Ayanna Pressley for Congress and Josh Zakim for secretary of state.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The US stock market is set a record for its longest-ever bull market, running 3,453 days since hitting its low mark on March 9, 2009. (Wall Street Journal)

EDUCATION

A new report on sexual abuse of students at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, substantiates claims made against 10 former faculty members at the elite prep school, including late Massachusetts congressman Gerry Studds. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Department of Public Health has raised the risk of West Nile virus to moderate in every community in the state after more than half the cities and towns had mosquitoes that tested positive for the disease. (The Enterprise)

A conflict has broken out among labs in the state testing marijuana for impurities over whose methods are better, and the state doesn’t seem inclined to step in and resolve the matter. (Boston Globe)

The decline of tuberculosis cases in the United States has slowed and in some communities, the number is even on the rise indicating eliminating the disease will likely not happen this century. (U.S. News & World Report)

TRANSPORTATION

With Gov. Charlie Baker seeking reelection, the MBTA managed to balance its budget for the first time in a decade with the help of accounting maneuvers and one-time revenues. (CommonWealth)

Nearly 1 of every 10 commuter rail train runs in fiscal 2018 incurred some sort of financial penalty for Keolis. (CommonWealth)

The quick rebuilding of a bridge on Commonwealth Avenue over the Massachusetts Turnpike was the exception to the standard timeline in which it can take years to complete such projects. (Boston Globe)

Plans to replace a large segment of track on the Worcester commuter rail line are expected to cause some delays but not during rush hour. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Sandwich officials are seeking final approval from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge sand off of Scusset Beach on the other side of the canal to replenish the eroding beaches and dunes decimated by nor’easters earlier this year. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Another Republican congressman has been indicted on charges of using campaign funds for personal expenses. (Washington Post)