Trump Won’t Be Meeting With Russian President Putin At A Meeting Of World Leaders In Argentina This Weekend
The President, in a series of Tweets, citing the fact that Russia has still not released three ships belonging to Ukraine’s military as the reason. We told you about that story last weekend.
But there’s another reason this might not be a great time for Trump to meet with the Russian leader: optics.
Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, showed up unexpectedly in federal court Thursday, pleading guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s interest and involvement in building a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen told a Congressional Committee that talks about the tower had gone nowhere and ended long before Trump became the Republican party’s presumptive nominee. Now he says those discussions continued well into Trump’s campaign for President, lasting through June 2016.
Here’s an actual copy of the new 9 page charge by Mueller to which Cohen has pleaded guilty.
Three things to keep in mind:
- Cohen’s plea was a complete surprise. Underscoring how un-leaky the Mueller team has been. Especially in comparison to everyone who’s out to discredit the Mueller team.
- This still doesn’t mean Trump did anything illegal unless he was untruthful in the answers he just provided the Mueller team. Trump could’ve been doing business in Russia, or attempting to do business in Russia while he was running for President and that would’ve been perfectly legal. And even if he told the public he wasn’t (which he did), and he was (which maybe there’s evidence now he was), that still wouldn’t make it illegal. Because— as the President proves virtually every day — politicians are allowed to lie to voters. Lying to federal investigators, however, would be illegal.
- Trump just answered written questions from Mueller. We don’t know for sure exactly what he asked, but given the reaction of people involved to this news, it’s probably pretty safe to guess Mueller asked him about efforts and discussions to build a major Trump-branded property in Moscow. If the President’s written answers don’t jibe with what Cohen is now saying, that could be a really gigantic problem for Trump. That may be why some Trump advisors and lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, were quick to assure the New York Times that Cohen’s “updated” story “essentially matches what Mr. Trump himself stated in written answers”.
Still, Trump reacted angrily, telling reporters as he was leaving the White House on his Argentina trip that Cohen is “a weak person, and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence, so he’s lying about a project”. Here’s a clip (click on photo to play):
It’s hard to imagine this will end up as a he-said/he-said, no matter how much mud the President slings. Because everything Cohen is alleging, if true, should be provable by some kind of documentation or paper trail: emails, texts, etc.
As Jeffrey Toobin sums it up in the New Yorker:
“It seems that the prosecution team, led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, delayed Cohen’s admission of guilt until after Trump and his legal team had submitted the President’s written answers to Mueller’s questions, which he did earlier this month. Mueller surely asked Trump about the Moscow negotiation, and the President’s answers were likely locked in before he and his lawyers could factor in Cohen’s admissions. If those answers were to conflict with Cohen’s latest version of events, it would potentially be a matter of great peril for the President”.
This could be huge, folks…