Trump, Cohen, and the 'Russian Deal'
A questionable report claims Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress.
Regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation and the convictions of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, I wrote last August that the investigation doesn’t “have anything to do with ‘Russian collusion,’ but the worms are out, and in the case of Cohen, so much for ‘lawyer-client privilege.’ … As his former attorney, Cohen knows where, on Trump’s behalf, he hid corporate and personal legal skeletons.”
To date, Trump’s Cohen problem has centered on campaign-finance issues. But in late November, when it became clear that Cohen’s plea deal included perjury charges related to his congressional testimony about the timing of discussions about a future Russian building project, there were questions about why Cohen would lie about the timing.
Now, there is a BuzzFeed report that Cohen lied at Trump’s direction. According to the Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney, “President Trump now stands accused of directing his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about Trump’s attempt to court Vladimir Putin during the campaign and build a hotel in Moscow.”
Predictably, the Leftmedia promptly piled on! But caveat emptor… Recall that BuzzFeed was also first to publish the now-infamously fake Trump/Russia dossier, a new low for “tabloid journalism,” but one that accelerated the Trump investigation.
During his presidential primary campaign, Trump asserted that he had no “business” in Russia at the time. It can be argued that it was fair enough for Trump to make that claim, because an ongoing conversation about the prospect of a future project does not constitute “business” in the present, as if Trump owned a property in Russia at the time. Trump has admitted he had conversations with Russia about a project.
However, given that Cohen admitted to lying to Congress about when the 2016 discussions regarding a potential future project in Russia ended, if there is irrefutable evidence that Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress about it, as BuzzFeed claims, that does constitute suborning perjury — a serious offense.
But, in a rare response regarding what would constitute a leak about Cohen’s testimony, Peter Carr, spokesman for Robert Mueller’s office, said, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Andrew McCarthy writes, “Clearly, Mueller did the right thing. The reporting had triggered a frenzy of commentary by Trump critics that impeachment was imminent, and even many chagrined Trump supporters conceded that, if the report was true, the presidency was in grave peril. Had Mueller stood idly by, the administration, and thus the governance of the nation, would have been engulfed in a ruinous storm of suspicion. It is not the special counsel’s job to correct bad reporting, but it would have been irresponsible to stay mum in these circumstances if the story was false.”
According to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, “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. … Today’s claims are just more made-up lies born of Michael Cohen’s malice and desperation, in an effort to reduce his sentence.”
But Georgetown Law professor Jonathan Turley cautions: “I think that Giuliani is trying to preempt the Michael Cohen [congressional] testimony. People are kidding themselves if they think the Buzzfeed story is going to be 100 percent wrong. I think that Michael Cohen is going to Congress to incriminate the president. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s true but you can anticipate that he’s going to bring details including this one. That dealings and discussions may have continued much later than we currently think. So I think that Giuliani was trying to preempt that story.”
Turley continued: “Where I think Giuliani is wrong is that when he says there’s nothing wrong with the president talking to Cohen. Legally that’s true. Cohen was his attorney and he was talking to him about that. But tactically it would have been moronic that … and I blame really his counsel on this. The president should not have been sitting down with his lawyer to talk about testimony affecting him in front of Congress. It’s begging for this type of allegation.”
That notwithstanding, with Democrats in control Congress, expect to hear a renewed chorus of howls to investigate and impeach Trump.