January 18, 2019

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:

President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project (Jason Leopold & Anthony Cormier, 1/17/19, BuzzFeed News)

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 told the public 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.


Trump, Cohen, and Buzzfeed: Is This the Big One?: If the new Buzzfeed report is true, the legal debates about Trump and obstruction just got blown out of the water. (ANDREW EGGER  JANUARY 18, 2019, The Bulwark)

Some legal observers have argued that finding a "corrupt intent" in Trump's use of his constitutional powers of executive oversight would fall short of establishing a charge of criminal obstruction. Two former top prosecutors on the Whitewater investigation, Sol Wisenberg and Robert Ray, made this case to me last year: "I think almost everything that Trump did, starting with the firing of Comey, criticizing Sessions for recusing himself, all of that stuff, allowing the attacks on Mueller to happen, it's all terrible," Wisenberg said. "But I don't think it's obstruction."

Crucially, this skepticism of the "corrupt intent" model is shared by the man who is likely to be overseeing Mueller by the time he issues his final report: William Barr, the president's nominee for attorney general. Last summer, Barr wrote a lengthy memo to top Justice Department officials arguing that case exactly: that Trump had been exercising lawful Article II constitutional powers when he fired Comey, and that finding a crime in an otherwise lawful action by probing for corrupt intent would rely on "a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law," one that would "have grave confines far beyond the immediate confines of this case and would do lasting damage to the Presidency and to the administration of law within the Executive branch."

"It is well settled that statutes that do not expressly apply to the president must be construed as not applying to the president if such application would involve a possible conflict with the president's constitutional prerogatives," Barr argued. As a result, the standard of "corrupt intent," taken alone, would be insufficient to establish a charge of corruption for President Trump.

And here is where the new Buzzfeed story comes in.

Because if true, the allegations in the new report render the legal debate between the Mariotti view and the Barr-Wisenberg view moot. If this Buzzfeed report is accurate, and there is hard evidence to show that Trump ordered Cohen to commit perjury by lying to Congress, that would be obstruction, open and shut.

Buzzfeed's anonymous sources suggest there is indeed hard evidence. "The special counsel's office," the report states, "learned about Trump's directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents."

The importance of these allegations simply cannot be overstated: If this is true, and Mueller can prove it, that's the whole ball game.

Posted by at January 18, 2019 12:02 AM

  

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