Michael Cohen’s politically explosive plea deal with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York is sweet, sweet vindication . . . for King Solomon and the Book of Proverbs.
The presidential fixer paid off two of Donald Trump’s mistresses—porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy bunny Karen McDougal—in the leadup to the 2016 election. The payments involved financial shenanigans that violated federal election laws, Cohen admitted, and they were made at the “direction of a candidate for federal office.” Put another way: Cohen committed felonies at the behest of the leader of the free world.
Trump and his lawyers will contest Cohen’s account, of course. They will also argue that the plea deal is proof that special counsel Robert Mueller has strayed far beyond his remit to investigate Russian interference in the election (Mueller referred Cohen’s case to SDNY).
Even if federal law enforcers conclude that Trump shared culpability with Cohen, moreover, it isn’t clear that they have the authority to indict the president. As my colleague John Podhoretz notes nearby, there is a sound constitutional theory that the Justice Department can’t indict Trump, who embodies the power of the executive branch in his person. It makes no sense for Trump to indict himself.
But I find the moral and cultural import more interesting. There is a biblical quality in all this, just not in the way that Jerry Falwell, Jr. seems to think.
Is the Trump-Stormy-Cohen affair not a perfect contemporary demonstration of the Hebrew Bible’s numerous warnings against male caddishness and adultery and sexual adventurism of all kinds? Don’t we hear in the story echoes of the author of Proverbs, who warns his son against the “loose woman?”
“For the lips of a loose woman drips honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as a two-edged sword” (Prov. 5:3-4).
Would it have killed Trump to have stayed loyal to his third wife, if not the first and the second? More from Proverbs:
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. . . . The iniquities of the wicked man ensnare him, and he is caught in the toils of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is lost (15-18; 22-23).
Religious believers or not, Americans cringe at the court filings and news conferences and all the dirty little details. They wonder about the impact of all this on First Lady Melania Trump (talk about long-suffering). If the Trump presidency points the nation to a rediscovery of the practical benefits—set aside the spiritual riches—embedded in the Bible’s moral absolutes, the ordeal may have been worth it. I’m hopeful but not optimistic.
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