“This is literally the “I am not a crook” tweet:”
“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…”
— David Frum re-tweet of Donald Trump tweet 11/30/18
“I have no deals … because I think that would be a conflict.”
“People only lie… when the consequences of telling the truth are even worse.”
— Former US attorney Barbara McQuade
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (12/3/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Why so many lies? What is behind the lies?
For two years the question is whether there was a deal between the Trump campaign and Russia for election help in return for sanctions relief and soft positions regarding Russian aggression in Ukraine. Attacking NATO, praising Putin…
Late in the week we have former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty (again): Michael Cohen, Trump’s Former Lawyer, Pleads Guilty To Lying To Congress About Moscow Project.
Michael Cohen now admits that the effort to land the Trump Moscow real estate project continued until around the same time Trump was securing the GOP nomination in 2016:
“In a , prosecutors laid out a litany of lies that Cohen admitted he told lawmakers in Congress about the Moscow project — an attempt, Cohen said, to minimize links between the proposed development and Trump as his presidential bid was gaining steam.”
As part of Cohen’s statement to the court he said:
““I was aware of Individual 1’s repeated disavowals of commercial and political ties between himself and Russia, his repeated statements that investigations of such ties were politically motivated and without evidence, and that any contact with Russian nationals by Individual 1’s campaign or the Trump Organization had all terminated before the Iowa Caucus, which was on February 1 of 2016,” Cohen told the judge. …I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1,” he told the packed courtroom in Lower Manhattan.”
We’ll let Aaron Blake writing for the Washington Post put this in perspective: 4 Key Takeaways From Michael Cohen’s New Plea Deal.
Here’s Blake’s view of the significant take-aways.
1. There are conspicuous mentions of Trump and his family
…says that not only did Cohen continue to pursue the project through June 2016, but also that he briefed Trump on it more than the three times he had originally claimed, and also that he briefed Trump’s family members.
2. Putin’s spokesman appears to have helped cover this up
…Cohen had said he never heard back.
Turns out, that was a lie. An assistant to Putin’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, emailed him back, according to the plea deal, and then Cohen spoke with the assistant on the phone for 20 minutes.
3. This ties the Trump family’s efforts to the Russian government
4) The deal apparently died the day The Post broke a story about Russian hacking
The plea deal indicates that the last known discussion about the deal was “on or about June 14,” 2016, when Cohen told Sater that he was canceling plans to travel to Russia.
Why is that date significant? It happens to be the day The Washington Post broke .
Cohen lied to align his story with Trump’s. Trump lied repeatedly throughout his campaign about having no business dealings in Russia. Given Trump just submitted his written answers to special counsel Mueller’s questions did he get caught in a lie? He’s likely already caught out regarding lies made by long-time Trump associate Roger Stone (as covered in the last edition).
It turns out, no; Trump’s lawyer says Trump did not repeat his lies about no business dealings with Russia: Trump’s Recall Of Moscow Deal Matches Cohen’s, President’s Lawyers Say.
“…Although Mr. Trump’s lawyers have long worried that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is trying to catch Mr. Trump in a lie, they said Mr. Cohen’s new account of the Trump Organization’s abortive hotel project in Moscow essentially matches what Mr. Trump himself stated in written answers .”
Trump attacks Cohen by saying, “he has so many different version of the same stories”, but it’s Trump that abandoned his own lies to offer the truth at just the right moment – not trapped on this one.
He may have avoided that trap, but the road ahead for Trump just got a lot more challenging.
Is anyone else put at risk by these disclosures? The answer is many people, here’s a compilation of Trump and associates with blanket denials and 92 instances of subsequent admissions of contacts with Russians. The list includes 27 meetings: TRUMP’S RUSSIA COVER-UP BY THE NUMBERS – 92+ CONTACTS WITH RUSSIA-LINKED OPERATIVES.
Dominoes in a line
So many lies. Let’s consider the known risk for a few of those involved.
Let’s start with Trump’s family: Michael Cohen Deal A Critical Step For Mueller That Exposes Trump To New Risk.
Let’s start with Tom McCarthy’s report of Trump’s explanation once the Cohen news broke:
“Confronted with the contradiction outside the presidential helicopter on Thursday morning, a visibly agitated Trump said “this deal was a very public deal – everybody knows about this deal”, then denied there was ever a deal, then said if there had been a deal it would have been no problem.”
Trump’s lies and denials are all starting to sound the same. But is the Trump family exposed by the lies?
“The Cohen deal could pose difficulties for Trump’s family members, too. Court documents referring to Trump as “Individual 1” said Cohen “briefed family members of Individual 1 within the Company about the [Moscow] project”, and that “COHEN agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow Project and took steps in contemplation of Individual 1’s possible travel to Russia.”
“If was part of those conversations, he could be in fresh trouble. In May, Trump Jr told the Senate he “wasn’t involved” with the Moscow deal, and denied awareness that Cohen had contacted the Kremlin to negotiate the deal.”
And apparently — surprise — Trump’s children were involved: Ivanka Trump’s Involvement With Moscow Trump Tower Plan ‘being investigated by Mueller’.
Cohen testified that he “briefed family members, but there is also this:
“Ms Trump and Mr Trump Jr were also copied into emails about the project in late 2015, a person close to the Trump Organisation told Associated Press. Ms Trump even suggested an architect to work on the tower, they added.
“The emails have been handed over to congressional committees by the Trump Organisation, according to the source.”
Next one in the barrel
Who else is now facing increased scrutiny for lying to Congress? Pick from a long list, but here’s a plump one: Report Suggests Blackwater Founder Erik Prince May Have Lied To Congress.
“ founder Erik Prince appears to have a problem. The New York Times Saturday that Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, arranged and attended an August 3, 2016 Trump Tower meeting where George Nader, an adviser to the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, told Donald Trump Jr. that UAE and Saudi Arabia were eager to help his father win the election.
“That doesn’t reflect well on Prince, because on November 30, 2017, he told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under oath, that he had no formal communication or contact with the Trump campaign, other than occasionally sending “papers” on foreign policy matters to Steve Bannon, who became head of the Trump campaign in August.”
Ivanka, Eric, Donnie Jr., Erik Prince. Don’t forget former Trump attorney general Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III, who habitually forgot his meetings with then Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. We even have the office of a Putin associate lending their own lies.
As Buzz Feed reports, that’s not the end of damning unspooling news of Trump’s Russia business: The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow.
You might be tempted to dismiss such a headline out of hand, how could this be? And yet the authors were also amongst the first to report on “Trump’s Russian deal” back in May 2018.
With that in mind:
“President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.
“Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.”
Can anyone imagine Cohen offering Trump a free $50 million penthouse without having Trump’s approval?
But here’s a second piece that the author’s say is still subject to further reporting:
“Two FBI agents with direct knowledge of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that Cohen was in frequent contact with foreign individuals about the real estate venture — and that some of these individuals had knowledge of or played a role in 2016 election meddling. The identity of those individuals remains unknown.”
Some of Cohen’s contacts for Trump Tower Moscow “had knowledge of or played a role in the 2016 election meddling”.
Trump’s favorite bank busted
As if Thursday was not already a bad day for Trump, his biggest lender — the German to which he still owes money — was raided in connection with money laundering investigation: Donald Trump’s Biggest Lender Was Just Raided In Connection With A Money Laundering Investigation.
The raid is not tied to business dealings with Trump.
“Thursday’s raid is not related to either of those scandals. In a statement, the bank confirmed it had been raided in connection with offshore transactions revealed in the Panama Papers, and it is cooperating with the investigation.”
Deutsche Bank has already been fined $630 million by US and UK regulators for money laundering and is linked to the Estonian branch of Danish bank Danske which is being investigated for laundering about $200 billion.
It is such an small, small interconnected world. Given the mention of the Panama Papers leading to this raid, you know who else is connected? Foreign Policy reported: WikiLeaks Turned Down Leaks on Russian Government During U.S. Presidential Campaign.
In spite of a mission to publish documents on any institution that resisted oversight:
“In the summer of 2016, as WikiLeaks was publishing documents from Democratic operatives allegedly obtained by Kremlin-directed hackers, Julian Assange turned down a large cache of documents related to the Russian government, according to chat messages and a source who provided the records.”
Trump “loved reading those WikiLeaks” 141 times in the month before the election. We’ll leave this here, but the Foreign Policy sub-head above states Assange took a pass on information damaging to Putin to instead focus on information damaging to Trump’s opponent in the election.
A lot happened in a day; one might imagine discussing the events with peers at work around the water cooler. But you know who can’t talk about any of this at work? Yep – federal employees; so much for free speech: New Warning To Federal Employees: No Talk Of ‘Resistance’ Or Opinions About Impeachment At Work.
The federal government has issued new guidance for the political activity of federal government workers, warning that weighing in on impeachment or talking about “the Resistance” may constitute prohibited activity…
What we have learned
Trump was lying throughout his campaign, the transition and his first two years in office about having no business interest in Russia.
- The Trump family is exposed; in the case of Donnie Jr. this includes lying to Congress.
- Offering Putin a free $50 million penthouse is maybe a good marketing idea but may be a violation of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (anti-bribery, anti-corruption business governance).
- Putin knew Trump was lying until Cohen’s testimony. That is text book kompromat – affording another party leverage.
- The President of the United States is compromised in his ability to do his job. His international standing is crippled and his dealings with Putin will always be questioned. His domestic political issues are driving whether he will even meet with Putin at the G20 meeting let alone confront him over Russian aggression taking Ukraine sailors hostage.
“…we can see that Putin has been in possession of crucial information about Trump’s business interests that the president deliberately hid from the American people. In a normal political world, Republicans would have enough patriotism to find this alarming and humiliating. Every day of the Trump presidency is a national security emergency. The question now is whether Senate Republicans, who could actually do something about it, will ever be moved to care.”
Final note; one Republican is doing something – it would be easy to make too much of this as a non-partisan effort, but Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) “told an audience at the University of Texas that Cohen’s guilty plea was just one instance of the committee learning it had been lied to, and subsequently giving that information to and his team”.
Other Congressional committees are dusting off testimony and may well do the same thing.
Trump will tweet and bellow and bray, but subpoenas, indictments and guilty pleas carry far more weight.