In entering a guilty plea yesterday, Michael Cohen admitted to lying to Congress. Specifically, Michael Cohen admitted to lying about Trump’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. At the beginning of the Trump Administration, there was a lot of reporting on this — that the President had tried to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and had continued to do so over the course of the campaign (Buzzfeed even reported yesterday that The Trump Organization had planned to give Vladimir Putin the $50 million penthouse in Trump Tower). All of that reporting has proven to be accurate. Trump even signed a letter of intent to move ahead with the Trump Tower in Moscow on the day of the third GOP debate. Trump was negotiating with a hostile nation while running for President. If you can’t see the additional incentives that Putin had for helping Trump win the election, you’re goddamn blind.
Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.
But why is this even a big deal? After repeatedly insisting during the campaign that it was absolutely untrue — that he had NO connections or investments or dealings with Russia (“No puppet! No puppet!”) — this morning, Trump conceded that it was true. He’d been lying during the entire campaign.
Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2018
….Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2018
Forget about the many, many, many lies that Trump told about this during the campaign (and in the debates) — lying to the voters or newspapers, alas, is not a crime. But legally, Trump is facing two very big problems. Foremost is the fact that Cohen’s testimony — and Trump’s own admission in those tweets above — essentially illustrates that the Russians do have leverage over him. Trump’s been lying this entire time, and Putin knew he was lying this entire time, and Putin could have, at any point, used Trump’s lies to damage him politically. Forget the pee tape — which may or may not exist — this information right here is enough to explain many of Trump’s actions where it has concerned Putin over the last two years.
You cannot be a successful President if your biggest geopolitical foe has leverage over you. “If the Russians are aware that senior American officials are publicly stating things that are not true, it’s a counterintelligence nightmare,” said Adam Schiff, who will take over the House Intelligence Committee in January.
Meanwhile, Trump has another “huge, big league” problem. Note the timing of Michael Cohen’s plea: It comes after Donald Trump submitted his answers to Bob Mueller. Trump’s testimony is locked in. And anything that comes out after Trump’s answers were submitted exposes Trump to more perjury. That’s why there has been such a flurry of activity in the Mueller probe since the President submitted his answers.
Perjury charges are almost certainly already awaiting Trump, although it will be up to Congress to determine if they warrant impeachment (or they could wait and “lock him up” after his Presidency has ended). But there’s not much Trump can do about the perjury charges that are almost certainly awaiting at least Don Jr., and perhaps Jared and Ivanka, too.
Arrived in Argentina with a very busy two days planned. Important meetings scheduled throughout. Our great Country is extremely well represented. Will be very productive!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2018
Those two days now no longer include planned meetings with Putin, South Korea, or Turkey, each of those meetings Trump has canceled, probably so that he can stay in his hotel and shitpost Mueller as the noose tightens around Trump, his family, and anyone else in the Administration who has lied to Mueller or Congress. It’s gonna be a hell of a weekend.