Meanwhile, on the latest episode of “World’s Dumbest Conspiracies”…
It turns out Donald Trump (who, you’re reminded, is the real-life President of the United States) instructed Michael Cohen (who, you’re reminded, is now hell-bent on making sure Donald Trump doesn’t stay President of the United States) to lie to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow, a project which looks increasingly like it was at the center of Trump’s bungled attempt to commit high treason.
As you’re aware, Cohen confessed in late November to negotiating on behalf of his then-boss to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow as late as June of 2016. Here’s a quick refresher, excerpted from our full coverage of Cohen’s plea:
Long story short, that means he lied to Congress in an effort to keep everybody on the same page about when those negotiations purportedly broke off. The implication is that Trump was still openly dealing with Russia when they (Russia) were engaged in an effort to influence the U.S. election.
Cohen also said he briefed Trump and “family members” about the project’s status and confessed that he agreed to take a trip to Moscow in the interest of advancing the deal.
Cohen’s admission came during an ad hoc hearing in Manhattan during which he pleaded guilty to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee in the course of perpetuating the narrative that negotiations for the real estate project had broken off in January of 2016. As it turns out, those negotiations went on through June, after Trump clinched his party’s nomination for the White House.
That plea brought the world the infamous “Individual 1” meme. “I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1”, Cohen said.
“Individual 1” has of course vehemently denied everything, and the Trump Tower Moscow is something he really – really – hates talking about. Here’s what he said after Cohen implicated him in court late last year:
Got that? No? Me neither.
Well, as it turns out, Robert Mueller has evidence to support the contention that Trump literally instructed a subordinate to mislead lawmakers about his involvement with Russia.
According to two federal law enforcement officials who spoke to BuzzFeed, Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations and, amusingly, was really excited about about Cohen’s idea “to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiation.” According to BuzzFeed’s sources, Trump told Cohen this:
Make it happen.
Go that? During the campaign, Trump was all-in on a plan to meet personally with Putin (who we know was in the process of interfering with the election at the time) to negotiate the construction of a Trump-branded building in Moscow.
And while Trump repeatedly insisted (in public remarks) that he had no business deals with Russia, the law enforcement officials who spoke to BuzzFeed say “Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen.”
Cohen told Mueller that Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about the negotiations, but that’s not the kicker. The kicker is that Mueller already knew. Here’s BuzzFeed:
The special counsel’s office 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. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.
So, we already knew Cohen lied to Congress and his efforts to get that stupid Trump Tower Moscow built have been in the news since May. But now we know Trump himself instructed his lawyer to lie about his own ties to the Kremlin.
BuzzFeed goes on to say that Cohen gave Mueller detailed information about exactly what he told Trump, Ivanka and Don Jr.
“The White House did not return detailed messages seeking comment, nor did an attorney for Donald Trump Jr. or the Trump Organization”, the article dryly notes, in the obligatory nod to having at least tried to get some kind of meaningful rejoinder from America’s first family.
You can just add this to last weekend’s reports that the FBI once opened a counterintelligence probe into Trump (an investigation which was passed to Mueller and which, you have to think, is ongoing alongside the collusion and obstruction probes). You can also add it to Rudy Giuliani’s accidental Wednesday evening admission that the campaign might have colluded with Moscow.
Cohen is of course set to testify publicly before Congress next month, which should be a spectacle to end all spectacles.
It’s also worth noting (and we’ve mentioned this before) that Mueller likely knows/thinks Don Jr. lied to Congress as well, something he’s already suspected of in relation to a Trump Tower meeting (that would be the other Trump Tower).
As noted above, Cohen said in his plea that he “briefed family members in the Company about the project”, but Jr. appeared to deny any involvement and/or intimate knowledge in his own statements to lawmakers.