Last week was not a good one on the legal front for the President of the United States.
On Tuesday evening, CNN leaked the audio of a recording Michael Cohen made while discussing a payoff to Playmate Karen McDougal with then-candidate Trump.
Fast forward to Thursday, and just after lunchtime, the Wall Street Journal reported that longtime money man and Trump Foundation CFO Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury as part of the Michael Cohen criminal probe. “Allen” was mentioned several times in the leaked audio tape. As a reminder, Weisselberg was also deposed last year in connection with the investigation into alleged shenanigans at the Trump Foundation.
Hours after the Weisselberg news hit, CNN reported that Cohen is prepared to tell Robert Mueller that the President knew ahead of time about the infamous Trump Tower meeting during which his son, his son-in-law and Paul Manafort met with Russians promising political dirt on Hillary Clinton. If true, that would contradict more than a dozen explicit denials from Trump, his lawyers and his surrogates and would also appear to suggest that Don Jr. lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year.
In the final insult of the week, Don Jr. accidentally crossed paths with Mueller at Gate 35X at Reagan National Airport, a scene that would have been right at home in a Saturday Night Live sketch.
Rudy Giuliani has been tying himself in knots over the past four days trying to figure out how to spin the Cohen news. That’s been a disaster for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Trump has variously praised Cohen on any number of occasions and, as it turns out, so has Giuliani. Which means that when it comes to discrediting Cohen’s account, you end up with absurd juxtapositions like this:
On Friday, the President doubled down on his claim that he was unaware of the Trump Tower meeting ahead of time. No one believes that. Not his detractors, not his supporters, not anyone with a shred of common sense.
Generally speaking, it was a quiet weekend for Trump’s Twitter account as the President was seemingly content that his theatrics around the “amazing” second quarter GDP data would be enough to carry the administration through to Monday. But on Sunday morning, he poked the New York Times hornet’s nest, by recounting a meeting he had on July 20 with publisher A.G. Sulzberger.
That elicited a response from the Times, which in turn triggered a response from Trump. At the tail-end of a series of tweets about the media, Trump lashed out at the Mueller probe, calling the special counsel investigation “an illegal Scam!”
Fast forward exactly 37 minutes and the President said this:
Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.
Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side-Podesta, Dossier?
That, right there, is some high octane “covfefe” and would appear to suggest the President is particularly concerned about what Michael Cohen might be prepared to tell the special counsel.
This also marks one of the most pointed attacks on the probe yet and certainly seems to be a serious escalation in the administration’s attempts to undermine Mueller’s credibility in the court (get it?) of public opinion.
Back in January, the New York Times reported that Trump ordered Mueller fired last June but backed down when Don McGahn threatened to resign. When Trump became aware that Mueller was looking into obstruction of justice, the President made three arguments, according to the Times:
- First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership
- The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner
- Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.
That’s what Trump is referencing in his Sunday night broadside.
Subsequent reports suggested the President also considered firing Mueller in December.
For now, I’ll leave you with this classic clip from Davos when Trump was asked by a reporter whether he attempted to oust the special counsel last summer.