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Day 729

Updated 1/18/2019 10:35 AM PST

1/ Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in order to obscure his involvement in the deal. Cohen and Trump had at least 10 face-to-face meetings about the deal during the campaign. Cohen told Robert Mueller's team noted that he gave false testimony to the Senate and House intelligence committees that the Moscow tower negotiations ended in January 2016 were an attempt to "minimize links between the Moscow Project" and Trump "in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations." Trump also approved a plan by Cohen to visit Russia during the presidential campaign and meet with Putin in order to kick-off the negotiations for the Moscow project. "Make it happen," Trump told Cohen. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. both regularly received "very detailed updates" about the project from Cohen. The revelation marks the first time Trump is known to have directly – and explicitly – ordered one of his subordinates to lie about his dealings with Russia. (BuzzFeed News)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

@matt - Thanks for these excellent editorials. This feels like a turning point and it’s good to have some perspective on what’s happening.


Here’s one of the editorials @matt posted above. I just wanted to highlight a few telling points.

For much of the past 20 months, President Donald Trump and his administration have insisted that, for all of the smoke surrounding his 2016 campaign, there was no fire.

That very well might have changed Thursday night, with this report from BuzzFeed:

"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.

“Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. ‘Make it happen,’ the sources said Trump told Cohen.”

The BuzzFeed story also claims that Cohen confirmed this information to special counsel Robert Mueller after “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.”

It’s hard to overstate what a big deal that is.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out this exchange between Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Attorney General nominee William Barr during his confirmation hearings earlier this week…:

Klobuchar: The President persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction, is that right?

Barr: Well, yes. Well, any person who persuades another to – yeah."

Klobuchar: "You also said that a President or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction, is that right?

Barr: Yes." …

The Trump response to all of this? To attack Cohen. …

On Friday, Giuliani added in a statement, “Any suggestion – from any source – that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false. Michael Cohen is a convicted criminal and a liar.”

The problem for Giuliani is that the BuzzFeed report doesn’t hinge on Cohen. It says that the special counsel unearthed the evidence that Trump had told Cohen to lie through “multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.” Mueller’s office only went to Cohen to confirm/admit he actually did it. The special counsel’s office didn’t get the information from Cohen. That fact makes Giuliani’s claim that Cohen is a proven liar – which he is! – largely meaningless. …

If the BuzzFeed report is true (and yes that remains an “if” since CNN has not corroborated the reporting), then the entire Russia conversation changes.

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse agreed, tweeting, "If this is true, this is plain, slam-dunk, criminal obstruction of justice (18 U.S.C. 1505, 1512), subornation of perjury (18 U.S.C. 1622), conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 371) and likely aiding and abetting perjury (18 U.S.C. 2)."

The “if true” part is, of course, the key. BuzzFeed has put the credibility of its entire organization on the line here. To make an allegation that the President of the United States purposely obstructed justice in an investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere in a presidential election is a massive deal – and the sort of thing that, if wrong, can do irreparable damage to a company’s reputation.

But if the BuzzFeed article is right – and one of the reporters who bylined the story insisted on CNN Friday morning that the information in the piece is “rock solid” and that the sourcing “goes beyond” the two sources cited – then this is the smoking gun

One of the biggest takeaways from this editorial is the fact that William Barr, who will most likely become our next Attorney General, went on record agreeing with Senator Klobuchar that, "The President persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction."

And according to another CNN report, Lindsey Graham also solicited the same response from Barr:

Barr was asked by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, if he would consider it obstruction of justice if the President concealed evidence or "tried to coach somebody not to testimony or testify falsely."

Barr said "yes, under an obstruction statute, yes."


Meanwhile, in another investigation…

Two Senate committees investigating Russian efforts to influence US politics through the National Rifle Association are led by GOP senators who have long received campaign support and donations from the gun group and its leaders. While that might raise questions about the integrity of the investigations, Democrats close to the probes tell the Trace and Mother Jones that they are proceeding without impediment—indicating that the NRA’s influence in Congress may not help it avoid scrutiny amid the wider Trump-Russia investigation.

Both the Senate Finance Committee, led by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, led by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, have been looking into the relationship between the NRA and confessed Russian agent Maria Butina. Butina spent years courting the gun group’s leadership in what prosecutors have described as an effort “to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.” …

The NRA is so enmeshed in GOP politics that, in theory, any investigation led by a Republican legislator could be vulnerable to allegations of conflict of interest. But Burr is particularly tight with the NRA, which has spent more than $7 million in support of his campaigns over the years, putting him among the top recipients in Congress of NRA largesse, according to the Charlotte Observer.

In 2016, as the Trace and Mother Jones have reported, the NRA’s support for Burr’s reelection campaign appears to have been coordinated in violation of campaign finance laws.

The article goes on to discuss Grassley’s ties to the NRA:

… Pete Brownell, who in 2017 was elected the NRA’s board president, a position he held for a year. Brownell is the CEO of an Iowa-based gun supplier, a job he inherited from his father, Frank. The two men are among Grassley’s most prominent constituents, and since 1991, they have donated more than $23,000 combined to the senator’s reelection campaigns, according to FEC records. Brownell did not respond to a request for comment.

Although the article states, “Democrats close to the probes tell the Trace and Mother Jones that they are proceeding without impediment,” pardon my skepticism. This is just my person opinion, but I do not trust Burr or Grassley – they have a history of saying one thing and doing another.


And yet another investigation takes an important step forward…

The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed conservative conspiracy theorist and special counsel witness Jerome Corsi, his attorney told The Hill on Friday.

The committee is seeking both an interview and documents from Corsi, an associate of longtime GOP operative and Trump ally Roger Stone, Corsi’s lawyer Larry Klayman said.


Yesterday, @Pet_Proletariat and @dragonfly9 talked about how Trump’s kids are also implicated in the recent allegation that Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress. Here’s a take on Trump Jr.'s exposure:

When Donald Trump Jr. testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017, he told lawmakers that he was only “peripherally aware” of talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during his father’s presidential campaign. “Most of my knowledge has been gained since as it relates to hearing about it over the last few weeks,” he claimed. Last November, however, Yahoo News suggested that wasn’t exactly the case. In fact, multiple sources told White House correspondent Hunter Walker that both Ivanka Trump and her older brother had been “working to make Trump Tower Moscow a reality,” a situation that special counsel Robert Mueller had “asked questions about.”

Last night’s BuzzFeed bombshell, if true, confirms that Trump’s kids were involved in the Moscow project. Worse, it makes Trump Jr.’s claim of “peripheral awareness” seem a little dubious! According to the BuzzFeed story, Donald Trump instructed his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about the timing of the Trump Tower deal, which would have brought in profits in excess of $300 million. It also cites law-enforcement sources who say that “Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real-estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.”


Mmmm… Trump’s White House spokesperson dodges the question of whether or not Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress – he does this three times in a row – and he’s being interviewed by Trump-supporting Fox News reporters who will not let him slide on this. See the video half way through the article. :thinking:


Mueller’s office is disputing the characterizations made by BUZZFEED.

Ay yay yay…


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