Saturday, July 28, 2018

On Trump, Evidence of Collusion, Obstruction Grows

      Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's longtime fixer of a lawyer, is prepared to tell investigators with special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance of the infamous campaign-time meeting that his son Donald Trump Jr. held at Trump Tower with a Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. If true, Cohen's account comes close to evidence of Trump's conscious collusion with Russia in a presidential campaign that the Russian government, President Putin has now confirmed, wanted Trump to win.
      The New York Times followed the next morning [July 27] with a deep dive into Mueller's reported interest in fashioning an obstruction of justice charge out of Trump's various tweets aimed, the theory goes, at intimidating potential witnesses or pressuring officials to tamp down the inquiry. Mueller has reportedly stated that he will abide by he Justice Department's official view that the president is not subject to indictment, but his office could outline the criminal charge in an eventual report to Congress.
      In sum, the suggestions of criminality in the Oval Office are getting stronger and stronger: perhaps even too strong for feckless Republican lawmakers to ignore. "No collusion" sounds more and more like Nixon's plaintive denial, "I am not a crook"  with about the same degree of truthfulness.
      One other potential development is also too ominous to ignore: the possibility that Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, with his inflated view of presidential prerogatives, could have the decisive vote if any challenge to the Trump investigations reaches the high court. Any wavering Senate Republicans ought to be at least as concerned about that issue as they might be about the fate of women's reproductive rights if Kavanaugh is confirmed.
      The latest wrinkle on the Trump Tower meeting prompted a new spate of denials from Trump as well as from his newly enlisted lawyer mouthpiece, Rudy Giuliani. The former New York City mayor was in full finger-wagging mode as he answered every question from CNN's Chris Cuomo not with evidence but with attacks on Cohen's credibilit. "He's been lying for weeks," Giuliani said of Cohen just two months after having vouched for Cohen's honesty. "I don't see how he has any credibility."
      Cohen is reported by CNN to be saying that he saw Junior tell Trump in advance about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, also attended by son-in-law Jared Kushner. Junior and Jared met, along with then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who had asked for the meet-up to share negative information about the then-leading presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
      Trump has repeatedly denied any foreknowledge about the meeting &#151 notably, in an extended interview with the New York Times in June 2017. "No, nobody told me about it," Trump told the Times with elaborate, he-doth-protest-too-much emphasis on the meeting's unimportance. "I never even heard about it." The president tweeted a new denial on Friday, accusing Cohen of a leniency-seeking fabrication. "I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr,," Trump tweeted. "Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?)."
      A swearing contest between Trump and Cohen would be like a ball game between two under .500 teams: one side has to win whatever their past records may be. In Cohen's case, there is no documented instance of lying, however shady his appearance. In Trump's case, on the other hand, Cohen himself has provided the documentary evidence of a recorded telephone call to show that Trump, contrary to his previous denials, knew of the $130,000 in hush money paid to Stormy Daniels to try to silence her campaign-time allegations of a long-running sexual affair with Trump.
      Trump's denials about the Trump Tower meeting rang false from the very start. Junior has neither the smarts nor the guts to call the meeting without consulting Dad; nor is he smart enough to have spared Dad any information in order to provide him plausible deniability.
      The denials were never plausible in the slightest, according to Bob Bauer, former White House counsel under President Clinton. "The notion that a foreign government promising to bring groundbreaking ‘dirt’ on  Hillary Clinton to the campaign would be invited for a meeting, without running the entire suggestion by Donald Trump, at least informing and most likely getting his explicit approval, was never believable for a moment," Bauer said in an article by Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracy.
      David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones, underlined the significance of Cohen's account, naturally enough, on Twitter. "If Cohen's account is accurate, Trump knew from the start that Putin had a secret plot to hurt HRC & help him," Corn tweeted. "Yet he constantly denied Russia was behind the attack on the US election. That is, he knowingly lied to protect a foreign adversary attacking the US. That's betrayal."
      Watergate, let it be remembered, was a national nightmare that spanned a little over two years: prolonged unnecessarily by a power-hungry president who used treachery and deception to fend off official investigations. The system worked, the nation said with a sigh of relief as Richard Nixon left office. It remains to be seen whether the system can work this time too.

No comments:

Post a Comment