“In light of the fact that you are a pathological liar, you should not be heard to complain about inaccurate media reports.”
— George Conway, lawyer and spouse of Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, tweet (1/18/19)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/21/19)
Did BuzzFeed just confirm a Trump-Russia smoking gun? Best answer: It’s not clear, but it’s worthy of consideration.
Before we dive into the 48-hour kerfuffle kicked off by BuzzFeed let’s check in with Trump’s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Lately Rudy is good at confirming any latest accusation of Trump-Russia corruption but in doing so he consistently raises the specter of even more damning Trump news.
Let’s be clear on what Giuliani is confirming – it’s Russian Kompromat which is “compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes”.
Putin knew Trump was working on a deal for Trump Moscow, meaning Putin knew that Trump was lying to everyone else while running for the presidency. How inconvenient for Trump should Putin decide that Trump wasn’t honoring a ‘deal’. Trump was warned by the FBI about Russian efforts to compromise him and his campaign – but he already knew this, embraced it and lied about it.
The Trump clan knew all of this. Kushner wrongly assured Trump that the firing of convicted former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and then firing former FBI Director James Comey “would help end an investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia”.
We know the arc of the story – Trump and family were lying about a deal they were doing in Moscow, Putin knew and once they reached the White House they continued to lie and do whatever it took to deflect or head off any investigation of Trump-Russia corruption.
The arc of the story – we’ve witnessed Trump’s subservience to Putin, his lack of criticism, how he lights up when Putin enters a room, his mastery of revisionist Russian propaganda, his capitulation over foreign policy to the benefit of Putin.
Let’s hear the latest from the president’s legal counsel: Giuliani: Trump Tower Moscow Negotiations ‘as far as October, November’ 2016.
Imagine Trump not remembering when discussions of a Trump Moscow project ended; the elusive shiny object Trump has chased for decades.
Giulianni continues by noting that convicted Trump lawyer and ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen was “the key guy” – which is cover for not answering NBC’s Jake Tapper’s question about what Donnie Jr. knew. If you watch the next segment we’ll use Giuliani’s assurance to get to the kerfuffle.
Background and context: Cohen lied to Congress, we know this, he admits this, he has been convicted of this. It raises the question of who knew and who else lied to Congress, like … oh, say Donnie Jr.
The question is also whether Trump told Cohen to lie – THAT would be a smoking gun. Giuliani confirms that Trump met with Cohen before he testified, and unlike his fuzzy memory of the timing of his Kompromat around the Trump Moscow project, he is 100% clear that he did not tell Cohen to lie.
Memory is a curious thing. To repeat, we already know the arc of the story – Giuliani and Trump have already confirmed Kompromat. Right, wrong, or partially true, the BuzzFeed story is an inflection point but important enough to highlight: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project.
BuzzFeed reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Courmier have spent a lot of time reporting Trump-Russia news and have been Pulitzer Prize finalists. One of Leopold’s old editors, Marc Ash of Reader Supported News, reports Leopold is a good reporter who broke many important past stories and, “He had no fear of getting off the beaten path and was willing to talk to anyone who had inside knowledge of the story.”
The sub-head captures much of the significance: Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin. Update: The office of the special counsel is disputing BuzzFeed News’ report.
Their news – Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress:
“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. And even as Trump he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said 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.”
The special counsel push-back:
“A spokesperson for special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, Peter Carr, disputed aspects of BuzzFeed News’ report.
““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,” Carr said.”
The kerfuffle seems to be about “characterization”, not content. Here is more:
“Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.”
Trump denied any ties to Russia so why should we believe Trump would put personal enrichment ahead of his own integrity and credibility as President of the United States?
“On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.”
Mueller’s office speaks… cryptically
As BuzzFeed noted through updates to their breaking news: In A Rare Move, Mueller’s Office Denies BuzzFeed Report That Trump Told Cohen To Lie About Moscow Project.
Special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr said the report was “not accurate”.
The Washington Post added:
“The statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that could spell the end of the Trump presidency. As earthshaking as the claims in the story were, no other media organizations were able to match them.”
The office of the special counsel has never been accused of leaking and it’s likely the “attributed to two federal law enforcement officials” are from the federal investigation through Southern District of New York which has open charges against Trump.
Trump crowed “#FAKENEWS”.
Cohen said nothing.
Cohen’s lawyer declined to comment.
Much wringing of hands was witnessed….
But BuzzFeed continues to stand by the story. One final point of curiosity:
“…the deputy attorney general’s office called to inquire if the special counsel planned any kind of response, and was informed a statement was being prepared, the people said.”
Trump lies about everything, as George Conway tweeted at the lead in to today’s column, so why give any added credence to a latest Trump lie over and above the many of thousands of preceding lies. Wringing of hands included lectures over journalistic responsibility, admonishments that Mueller is taking too long, feeding of Trump denials, setting back the investigation…
We don’t dismiss journalistic responsibility. BuzzFeed has broken many Trump-Russia stories going back to publishing the former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s dossier in January 2017. They stand by their story.
One way or another, it’s an important story warranting a denial by the office of the special counsel and a public acknowledgment of intrusion by the office of the deputy attorney general.
Did it set back the investigation? Everyone already knew Cohen lied to Congress. If Cohen lied to Congress then Donnie Jr. testimony includes lying to Congress. Blackwater founder and ‘unofficial’ Trump campaign associate Erik Prince lied to Congress and we’ll see that many more did as well.
Well, maybe a teensy, little, tiny bit…
The arc of the story is clear. We don’t know how or when the story ends – do they get the bad guy in the end?
This is an important inflection point. It’s not hard to imagine Trump telling Cohen to lie to Congress. But that’s not how this works. Trump has told many thousands of lies but those pursuing the case — be they employees of the Department of Justice or the media — are held to a standard of correctness. And that’s only right.
Remember, Giuliani has now confirmed Kompromat – Trump negotiating with Russia over Trump Moscow right up to the election while lying about it to the public. Putin knew he was lying, Putin knew Flynn was lying. Putin knew Cohen was lying. Putin knew Donnie Jr. was lying…
Giuliani even confirms Trump-Russia collusion, but just not by the president: Giuliani’s Walkback: No Collusion. Well, Maybe Some Collusion.