Team Trump, which is often caught by surprise — but seldom pleasantly — seemed to catch a few unexpected breaks this week.
Paul Manafort, the President’s former campaign chairman on his way to prison, entered his sentencing hearing Thursday, abjectly and in a wheelchair. He wheeled out with … a 47-month sentence, way below what federal guidelines called for and far less than many dumbfounded Trump critics, and others, said he deserved. Judge T.S. Ellis’ sentence “sent terrible messages to the public about our criminal justice system,” lamented Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor.
Donald Trump saw it differently, tweeting the (untrue) claim that “Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia.” (The judge had said only that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government.”)
Trump had other reasons to gloat: Democrats spent the week squabbling among themselves after freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar’s tweets and statements criticizing Israel and pro-Israel lobbyists were widely condemned as (intentionally or not) anti-Semitic. The House passed an anti-bigotry resolution that was a sideways rebuke of Omar (and a missed opportunity “to confront anti-Semitism with the single-minded focus it requires,” observed Frida Ghitis).
But the internal sparring had laid bare tensions between the party’s young, diverse freshman class and its old guard — over health care, taxes, impeachment, the future and more. And some 2020 hopefuls jumped into the fray.
No question, wrote Jen Psaki: Capturing new energy “is not limited to the young, but it is more challenging to make the public argument that you are pushing a bold agenda when you have been legislating for decades.” (She cautioned against using age as an arbiter.)
Finally, three potential Democratic challengers to Trump in 2020 — Michael Bloomberg, Eric Holder and the Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown — said they would not be joining the crowded race. “Here’s why Mr. Trump is doing the Humpty Dance on the Truman Balcony,” wrote Paul Begala. “Sherrod Brown could have beaten him.” And “Trump knows it.”