Overnight, CNN broke the news that Michael Cohen was supposedly ready to testify to Robert Mueller that:
- Donald Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr, his top campaign staff, and Russian operatives.
- Cohen was personally present when Trump Jr described the meeting to him, including the goal of obtaining “dirt” against Hilary Clinton from Russian sources.
- Donald Trump didn’t just know of, but approved the meeting.
If this information is accurate, it would implicate Trump directly in conspiracy with the Russian operatives, show that in preparing a memo claiming that the meeting was “about adoptions” Trump was knowingly engaged in obstruction, and expose multiple Trump staffers—including Donald Trump Jr—to charges of lying before a Congressional committee.
As of Friday, there does not appear to be any deal between Cohen and special counsel Robert Mueller. This could make it appear that the leak of the information represents Cohen sending up a flag to express his potential value to the special counsel, in the hopes of finding relief from his current charges. Cohen’s case is currently being handled by the US attorney in the Southern District of New York, not Mueller.
However, since that initial news item, Cohen’s attorneys have denied that they or Cohen were the source of the leak—though they have not denied the underlying information. Suggestions have been made that Trump or his legal team, in particular Rudy Giuliani, may have been behind leaking the information. Possibly in an attempt to get the item out there before Cohen could have an opportunity to testify before Mueller on this topic, or to bring up the subject in open court. Since the original CNN story emphasizes both that Cohen has no recordings of this event, and that he is still looking for a deal with Mueller, the intent may be simply to make it appear that this is something that Cohen is fabricating in an effort to stay out of jail.
But while Fox News immediately jumped to stating that it was perfectly fine for campaigns to collaborate with foreign governments as they conducted damage control around this story, Donald Trump began the morning by raising the number of times he has denied knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting to sixteen, by tweeting “I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.” And the idea that Trump’s team released the information in an effort to diminish Cohen’s value as a witness definitely got a boost, when Trump followed this statement with “Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories ...” and an attempt to connect Cohen to none other than Hilary Clinton.
Trump’s morning tweet also includes an implied threat.
Cohen and Trump worked together for over a decade, and as the recording that was released earlier in the week where the pair were conspiring to deceive former Playboy model Karen McDougal into thinking her story about Trump was going to be published shows, they were casual in their discussions of some extremely dirty laundry. If Cohen was running a scam using his taxi medallions, it’s likely that Trump knows about it.
However, the best thing that could happen to Cohen would likely be for Trump to blast accusations his way. After all, it’s not as if Trump is likely to sit down and testify against his former fixer, and it’s equally unlikely that any jury could be empaneled untainted by ‘hearsay’ evidence courtesy of Trump. So if the taxi “hint” is Trump saying that he has a bus ready for Cohen to go under … that’s not much of a genuine threat.
There have also been suggestions that the purpose of putting this information out there is to diminish Cohen’s value as a witness and make the job of prosecutors more difficult on this topic … though it’s not clear exactly how bringing attention to this event, especially if Cohen was present when it was discussed with Trump, can be all that valuable. The only way that would work would seem to be if Cohen had something even worse in his pocket. Short of a recording of Trump calling to see if his paycheck had arrived from Putin, it’s hard to conceive of much worse.
Though overnight news also included word that Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti is now representing three additional women who also claim to have had affairs with Trump, all three of whom were apparently paid off by Cohen, and at least one of whom may have had an abortion courtesy of Trump, it seems unlikely that these events were during the campaign. So they would go more to the evidence that Trump is a scumbag … at that’s already a given.
Short of direct evidence that Trump himself was knowingly conspiring with Russian operatives—and that could well be out there—confirming his advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting is about as bad as it gets. The evidence that members of Trump’s campaign, including Donald Trump Jr, participated in a conspiracy to alter the outcome of the election by working with Russian operatives was already abundant. Trump’s participation in obstructing investigation of that conspiracy already seemed clear. But if this information is true — something Cohen’s team is notably not denying — then Trump is directly implicated in the conspiracy.
And what do you know. This is a very special anniversary.
#OnThisDay in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend that President Richard M. Nixon be impeached and removed from office for obstruction of justice.