Donald Trump had a terrible weekend. The Washington Post reported that Donald Trump concealed the details of five meetings with Putin and that he even went so far as to physically take possession of interpreter Marina Gross’ notes, further instructing her not to speak to anyone about the contents of the meeting, not even senior White House or State Department officials. That’s rather damning behavior on the face of it. Why wouldn’t Trump want his closest national security advisers to be aware of the content of the discussion between him and Putin?
As media outlets worldwide blasted out this bombshell of a story, Trump turned to good ol’ reliably friendly Fox News in an attempt to take control of the media narrative and diminish the obviously damning news. He called in to speak with Fox host Jeanine Pirro, whose dedication to Trump rivals that of Sean Hannity. He was obviously expecting fluff questions, and Pirro delivered, but even then, he couldn’t help himself. When asked directly whether he was working for Russia, he just couldn’t bring himself to say no. Seeing the negative headlines that resulted over the past 24 hours, he addressed the issue when asked again this morning and finally said, “No, I never worked for Russia,” before berating the reporter for even asking the question. You can see this exchange below.
But, let’s get back to the Pirro interview, because he did something else remarkable during the call: He suggested that the Fox News host and other media look into Michael Cohen’s father-in-law. Here’s the full exchange between Pirro and Trump, discussing Michael Cohen’s upcoming public testimony before the House Oversight Committee. [Shout-out to Daily Kos community member KeithDB for the transcript and felony details; join the community discussion in his post here.]
PIRRO: All right. And now, of course, Little Adam Schiff, as you call him, is going to be dragging in, and Jerry Nadler are going to be bringing in Michael Cohen, an already-proven liar, to Congress, convicted of it. You know, are you—are you worried that—
TRUMP: No, look, I was a client of his. You know, and you’re supposed to have lawyer/client privilege, but it doesn’t matter because I’m a very honest person, frankly. But he’s in trouble on some loans and fraud and taxi cabs and stuff that I know nothing about.
PIRRO: And taxi medallions.
TRUMP: And in order to get his sentence reduced, he says, I have an idea, I’ll tell—I’ll give you some information on the president. Well, there is no information. But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at. Because where does that money—that’s the money in the family. And I guess he didn’t want to talk about his father—he’s trying to get his sentence reduced.
So, it’s pretty sad. You know, it’s weak and it’s very sad to watch a thing like that. I couldn’t care less.
PIRRO: What is his father-in-law’s name?
TRUMP: I don’t know, but you’ll find out, and you’ll look into it because nobody knows what’s going on over there.
Again, I was a client. I was a client. He has a law firm. They broke into his law firm sometime early in the morning, I guess, and they took—this couldn’t happen to anybody except you’re dealing with McCabe, you’re dealing with the remnants of Comey.
And wait until you see how it all ends up, you watch. McCabe, Lisa Page, Strzok, wait until you see how that all ends up, including some others that I could name ... We’ll make—we’ll make front page news if I do.
It seems unmistakably clear that Donald Trump is encouraging a major media network to pursue an investigation of a witness who is scheduled to publicly testify with damning information on Donald Trump. This action appears to meet the threshold of felony witness tampering. Democrats think so too, and they warned Trump to cease his public attacks on Michael Cohen. From NBC News:
The integrity of our process to serve as an independent check on the Executive Branch must be respected by everyone, including the President," Democratic chairmen Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler of the House Oversight, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees said in a joint statement.
"Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress. The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress."
From possible witness tampering to obstruction of justice, there is a reason Donald Trump is so eager to stop Michael Cohen from telling the world all he knows about Donald Trump. Cohen’s lawyer and representative, Lanny Davis, told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt over the weekend that Michael Cohen is quite simply the “greatest threat” to Trump and his presidency: “Donald Trump sees Michael Cohen, and I would say justifiably, as the greatest threat to his presidency and what could be criminal and impeachable actions as president.”
For what it’s worth, Michael Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, has been linked to organized crime and was convicted in 1993 for crimes related to money laundering. Trump reportedly hired Cohen as a favor to Shusterman. And Trump seemed to have no problem with Shusterman when Trump was in the business of whatever it was he was doing before he ran for office.
As we get closer to Michael Cohen’s Feb. 7 testimony, it seems extremely likely Trump’s behavior will continue to spiral downward as the walls begin to close in.