Donald Trump certainly didn’t need to get any more bad news on the legal front this week.
On Tuesday, CNN leaked aÂ secret recordingÂ of Michael Cohen and then-candidate Trump discussing the details of a planned payoff to Playmate Karen McDougal. That audio featured the following allusions toÂ Allen Weisselberg,Â longtime Trump money man and CFO of the Trump Organization:
Iâ€™ve spoken toÂ Allen about how to set the whole thing up. I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing.
Just after lunchtime on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Weisselberg has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury as part of the Cohen criminal probe.
According to experts on Trump’s businesses, that potentially representsÂ the most grievous blow yet to the President. “Alan knows everything and anything about all the financials. He knows every dollar that goes in and every dollar that leaves”,Â a former Trump Organization employee toldÂ the Washington Postâ€™s White House bureau chief Philip Rucker.
Just hours later, CNN reports that Cohen is now prepared to tell Robert Mueller that Donald TrumpÂ knew in advance about the infamous June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, attended by Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton by a publicist who arranged the pow wow with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Of the alleged Clinton “dirt”, Trump Jr. famously said this:
If it’s what you say, I love it.
CNN goes on to remind you (in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past year) that “Cohen’s claim contradicts denials by Trump, Trump Jr., their lawyers and administration officials who claim then-candidate Trump was unaware of the meeting until he was approached about it by the New York Times in July 2017.”
The network’s analysis shows that between Trump, Don Jr., Huckabee Sanders and the President’s lawyers, there have been no fewer than 15 explicit denials of Trump having prior knowledge of the meeting.
Apparently, there are no “tapes” (“lordy!“), but Cohen is willing to regale Mueller with his (Cohen’s) account.
If Cohen’s claim is true, it would not only mean that Trump and his associates have lied to the American public, but would also mean that Don Jr. lied to theÂ Senate Judiciary Committee last year when he said the following about his father’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of the meeting:
It looks like Steve Bannon might have been right when he told Michael WolffÂ that “the chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to this fatherâ€™s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.â€
You’re also reminded that this strikes at the heart of the absurd effort on the part of the administration to contend that the President did not in fact dictate a statement about the meeting to his son. Here’s CNN recounting that (from a piece out early last month):
In July 2017, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, who remains on the President’s legal team, was conclusive about his boss’s role in the crafting of that statement from Don Jr. — which insisted the meeting had primarily been about adoption policies. (We learned later that was not the reason the meeting was called or its main goal.)
“Let’s focus on what the President was aware of: nothing,” insisted Sekulow on CNN’s “New Day.” “I wasn’t involved in the statement drafting at all nor was the President. I’m assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr. and his lawyers. I’m sure his lawyer was involved, that’s how you do it. To put this on the President, I think, is absolutely incorrect.”
By the following month, the White House hedging began. “The President weighed in as any father would, based on the limited information that he had,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about Trump’s involvement in the statement.
Neither of those statements were accurate, it turns out. How do we know? Because the Trump legal team, in a 20-page January memo to special counsel Robert Mueller, first obtained by The New York Times, said they weren’t accurate.
“You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to The New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.,” the memo read.
Trump’s legal team was thrust into damage control mode on Thursday evening, with Rudy Giuliani taking the lead. Suddenly, Michael Cohen is an unreliable source who “has been lying his whole life”. Watch this:
“He has lied all his life… a person who is found to be an incredible liar, he’s got a tremendous motive to lie now… I don’t think anyone believes that.” Rudy Giuliani dismisses report Michael Cohen claims Trump knew in advance of 2016 Trump Tower meeting https://t.co/xd4PFYYpcQ pic.twitter.com/9gxjNGWLRA
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) July 27, 2018
That’s pretty interesting considering what Donald Trump tweeted on April 21, when that same Michael Cohen was “a fine person with a wonderful family”:
Also note that final tweet from the same string, which finds Trump sarcastically apologizing to his detractors on behalf of Cohen who would never – ever! – turn on his boss.
Well guess what, Mr. President? This is when we get to say this:
Sorry! We see Michael doing that.