It all started with a single probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. That investigation quickly split into two buckets: the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia and Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice. Then came the addition of the Stormy Daniels hush-money payment and her lawsuit to dissolve the Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) silencing her about her alleged affair with Trump. Shortly after that heated up, the FBI executed a search warrant on the premises of Trump’s longtime lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen, and the rest is history.
The Cohen investigation wed the Daniels’ scandal with the mind-boggling revelation that millions of dollars in apparent bribes flowed through the shell company Cohen originally set up to pay Daniels off. That’s opened up the possibility of everything from bank fraud and federal bribery charges to money laundering and tax evasion. And it’s far from over—Summer Zervos’s defamation lawsuit is starting to get traction and every day brings another Cohen impropriety. Trump’s erstwhile sidekick was apparently the de facto point of entry for international corporations and foreign leaders seeking influence over the Trump administration.
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the flood of news, the ever-increasing number of Russian oligarchs you’re trying to memorize, and the sheer volume of Donald Trump’s misdeeds and legal liabilities, join the club. We’re all sitting right there with you, scratching our heads with one hand while crossing our fingers with the other.
But for better or worse, there’s a way to winnow all this down to a cliff-notes version of Trump’s tenure that comes down to one solitary word: corruption. The Atlantic‘s Adam Serwer writes:
There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.
Corruption is the one massive bucket that everything from collusion and obstruction to bribery and pay offs sits comfortably within.
So the next time you’re fretting over that Russian oligarch you can’t recall or the crown prince you’ve never heard of, relax. Every story line has the same origin and they all lead back to the same crook: Donald Trump.