In the more than three years since the tape emerged, it’s become clear that the you-can-do-anything line wasn’t only describing Trump’s attitude toward women. It was describing his attitude toward everything: If you’re rich, famous or powerful, you can get away with much more than most people understand. You just do it. You don’t need to worry about ethical niceties or even, sometimes, the law. You use your advantages to bulldoze any obstacles.
For anyone trying to make sense of the impeachment trial, this attitude is central. It’s why Trump pressured Ukraine to conduct a smear campaign in the first place: Because he could. And it’s how Trump organized his defense in the Senate. His lawyers offered a brazenly inconsistent series of arguments, from “He did nothing wrong” to “There was no quid prod quo” to “There were no witnesses to the quid pro quo” to, finally, “If a president does it, it’s O.K.”
You could almost hear the echo of the “Access Hollywood” tape in the Senate last week: When you’re president, you can do anything.