Donald Trump has good reason to worry about himself today.

His former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been found guilty on eight counts in a fraud trial that was a cocktail of tax-dodging, offshore accounts, elite living and pay-to-play politics.

The star witness was confessed embezzler Rick Gates, Trump's former deputy campaign chairman who is cooperating with the Russia probe.

The US President's former lawyer and 'fixer' Michael Cohen has just implicated Trump in campaign finance violations involving hush money payments. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws.

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Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, is dangling dangerous bait before Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

He told MSNBC that Cohen "is more than happy to tell [Mueller] all that he knows - not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2026 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether of not [Trump] knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on."

In this head-spinning, Sopranos in the West Wing, all-too-reality TV, Cohen's the guy who knows where the bodies are buried.

But beyond what it all means for Trump's personal fate, there are wider issues.

Has political and financial corruption finally snowballed from being a sleeper voter concern?

Other, more personal, issues such as the economy, jobs, taxes, immigration and healthcare have dominated in primaries and special elections in this cycle.

After yesterday's legal grenades, political journalists wondered whether The Swamp sleaze had blasted through to the big time.

David Roberts of Vox tweeted: "I'm no political strategist but it seems like a platform of holding powerful men accountable for the crimes they commit has real potential."


Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg News noted: "It's wild to think Cohen and Manafort probably would've gotten away with this - all they had to do was not get their boss elected president of the United States."

Benjy Sarlin of NBC News tweeted: "The big 2018 angle to today's news isn't 'How will these pleas and verdicts affect votes?' It's 'What happens if Democrats get subpoena power in January?' There's a ton of pent-up oversight for them to pursue."

There was much comment on social media yesterday about the number of inner-circle Trumpians now fingered over crimes. "All the President's Crooks," as the New York Times put it in an editorial.

Vox editor-at-large Ezra Klein tweeted: "It's such a crazy coincidence that all these criminals ended up in key positions around Donald Trump. It's almost as if he fostered a culture in which unethical, illegal behaviour was tolerated and, when useful, encouraged."

Republicans in Congress are in a bind should corruption become a key focus in November's Midterm elections.

Trump has weaponised the Republican base to the extent where members toe his line to stay sweet with supporters. Dozens of Republicans have chosen to not contest their seats.

Democrats have criticised members for 'enabelling' Trump, not performing enough 'oversight'. They are trying, of course, to make their case for Democrats to gain control of the House of Representatives, to do just that.

Trump is increasingly giving Democrats a focus and mission for the Midterms and beyond after a 2016 election campaign where it seemed as though the party wasn't sure how to wrap up the Obama era and leave it behind.

There's now a road for reform ahead.

Commenting on the release of a plan by Democrat senator and likely 2020 presidential contender Elizabeth Warren to tackle Washington corruption, Klein wrote: "I don't know that Trump and the Republicans understand just how powerful his reformist, drain-the-swamp arguments were, or how much ground he's given up by running such a corrupt administration. Elizabeth Warren clearly does."

Warren and others who have pushed for a clean up of finance and politics have Trump and his now infamous aides as a poster gang for their arguments. Whether it is a successful strategy is still to be seen.

It all comes down to winning back the House in November.


- Nicola Lamb is the foreign editor of the NZ Herald.