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No One Who Works for Trump Ever Wins in the End

Lots of people were eager to jump on the Trump train, but it turns out that train is more a rollercoaster that inevitably ends suddenly in a brick wall.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

In two separate courthouses in two different states on the same day, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen found themselves staring down the barrel of long prison sentences. In New York, Cohen, Trump's longtime "fixer," pleaded guilty to crimes including tax evasion and breaking campaign finance laws at the “direction of a candidate for federal office.” In Virginia, Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, was found guilty on eight out of 18 charges relating to tax dodging and bank fraud, and a mistrial was declared on the remainder, meaning he could be retried. If Manafort gets convicted of all 18, he could face up to 305 years in prison; Cohen could be subject to 65 years and fines of $1.6 million.


The pair have had the most prominent, most schadenfreude-inducing falls from grace—or at least falls from wealth—in all of Trumpland. But the Tuesday afternoon massacre is also another example of a pattern anyone currently in the president's orbit should pay attention to: No relationship with Trump ever ends well.

That maxim was obvious well before the election—you just needed to ask the hundreds of contractors and laborers Trump reportedly screwed during his time as a real estate magnate. But it's remarkable just how badly fucked every single person who has ever so much as shaken Trump's tiny, weatherbeaten hands has gotten. A short list:


That's an incomplete list, and a mostly unsympathetic one to boot. If they didn't suffer humiliation because of their own corruption a la Pruitt, they hitched their careers to an unstable reality star and ended up being contradicted and humiliated in public a la Tillerson. But all of them (save for Comey, who wasn't appointed by Trump) were happy to ride the Trump train to greater power or influence—only to find out that the train was more of a rollercoaster that inevitably ends suddenly in a brick wall.

Being in Trumpworld means subjecting yourself to greater scrutiny from the media and potentially the Mueller investigation, which is how a relative nobody like Papadolous ends up facing prison time. It might mean being promoted way beyond your level of competence, which is how Omarosa Manigault Newman ends up running around the White House with a tape recorder. It means wondering whether you should resign when your boss praises white nationalists or bends over backward to Vladimir Putin.

Trump can't be blamed for all the misdeeds of his subordinates—Manafort's crimes, for instance, don't involve his work for the campaign. But he unquestionably creates a toxic, unpredictable environment, and it's no wonder that his administration winds up attracting only the very greedy, the very stupid, or the very related to him (with significant overlap between those categories). The smart people are staying as far away from the White House as they can, which might help explain why so many Republican congressmen have suddenly decided to retire. Joining up with Trump means not just dealing with his own mood swings but the backstabbing that is part and parcel of his White House. A White House job doesn't make you a criminal, but you may very well be sharing office space with one.

It's satisfying for Trump's opponents to watch the likes of Manafort and Cohen get cut down to size. Every criminal indictment, every resignation, damages the administration and (one would hope) makes it more likely that Trump will suffer defeats in 2018 and 2020. But then there's the catch, and the sinking feeling: These people, the ones being revealed as grifters of the most shameless sort, are the same people running our country.

Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.