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“This is exactly the Watergate model…” by @BloggersRUs

"This is exactly the Watergate model..."

by Tom Sullivan


Image by Philip Cohen via Flickr.

All Thursday long, pundits reacting to Rudy Giuliani's antics on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" Wednesday insisted they fit a pattern.

"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign," the president's attorney told Chris Cuomo, remarkably implying in public that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to win the 2016 election. There was just no collusion by the now-President of the United States, Giuliani insisted.

Pundits suggested Giuliani may not simply be crazed or the worst presidential lawyer ever. He knows something bad is coming out and wants to distract from it or in part inoculate his client from it. Last night after 10 p.m. Eastern, they were proved right.

In yet another BussFeed News scoop, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier reported, "President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter."

If true, that is conspiracy by the President of the United States to suborn perjury and obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. Plus, perjury and lying to Congress by Cohen.

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks reacted on MSNBC's "The Last Word," saying, "This is exactly the Watergate model..." that brought down the Nixon presidency.

For context, BuzzFeed adds:

On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.
BuzzFeed's sources report the evidence for the accusation is not simply Cohen's statements:
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

BuzzFeed claims, however, this is "the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia." Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) contests that characterization, tweeting there is other evidence extant that Trump suborned perjury from subordinates, and that seems right. Expect more on that from Wheeler this morning. This onion has just begun peeling.

It is important to remember, Trump was a private citizen when these Trump Tower Moscow negotiations involving Cohen took place. Those discussions were not illegal. Yet, Trump lied about the deal and, if reports are confirmed, directed Cohen to lie about it to Congress. One might suspect there is a reason Trump and associates might have committed crimes to conceal it.

Leopold and Cormier have been tracking that, giving a close look to a series of suspicious 2016 money transfers. Following the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 and immediately after Trump's election, two "bursts" of transactions occurred between foreign and U.S. banks connected to "at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting," federal investigators found. Those cash transfers and their timing might be innocent. So might be Trump's reasons for his unprecedented confiscation of his translator's notes of his meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg. And his concealment of what was said in four other of their conversations.

Mueller will tell. Before then, the House Intelligence Committee will investigate whether Cohen lied to Congress at the behest of the sitting President of the United States. (I use that phrase to remind myself this presidency too will pass. It seems even more likely this morning to expire before its due date.)