There are a lot of details that of course need to come out, but based on what we now know, it is really hard to imagine that the Democrats in the House will be able to avoid Impeachment Hearings for President Trump and frankly, again, based on only very preliminary evidence, it is hard to imagine how a normal president would survive.
But Trump at least for conservatives seems to get graded on a curve, his presidency has been anything but normal and it is equally hard to believe that the Senate would vote to remove him.
That leaves the Democrats in a bind as to what do – and they largely prior to Friday said they would not be inclined to impeach him – but I’m not sure they can keep to that any longer.
What is interesting is that the release came at the end of the day on Friday – a time normally reserved for announcements you don’t want in the news – but that seems almost coincidental at this point.
Prosecutors wrote that payments made by Mr. Cohen and other actions were taken “with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election” and pursued “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1” — that is, Mr. Trump.
As one commentator noted in the NY Times: “In light of these disclosures, the likelihood that the company and the Trump campaign face charges is now high.”
Trump himself may avoid being indicted on this, but he could be named as an unindicted co-conspirator, as was President Richard Nixon.
Worse yet is the emerging evidence of collusion with Russia. This includes an unreported phone conversation in November 2015 between Mr. Cohen and a contact in Moscow. This conversation was “explicitly political” and focused on creating a potential partnership.
There is also emerging evidence implicating the president and others in conspiracy to obstruct justice or to suborn perjury.
Then there’s the potential for exposure under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for activities relating to a potential Trump Tower Moscow. Mr. Cohen apparently floated the idea of giving Putin a $50 million luxury apartment in a Moscow Trump Tower.
The President and his supporters have spent a lot of time on the issue of collusion, but I have always believed that the bigger issue was going to be obstruction of justice – now it may be both.
The prosecutor would appear to have Mr. Trump dead to rites on the issue of hush-money to the women to avoid exposing affairs – hush-money that in the full context of the campaign seems odd given the wide-knowledge that people have and had about Mr. Trump’s affairs and the apparent lack of concern by his core voters.
Regardless, the quote is damning: when Mr. Cohen he paid the hush money he “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” – Individual-1 being Donald Trump.
Randall Eliason, a GW Law Professor in an op-ed this morning however, points out that the law here is “more complication.” For instance, in order for a campaign finance violation to be criminal, it “must be ‘willful'” and ” the government must prove the defendant knew he was breaking the law. If Trump directed Cohen to pay women off but was not aware of the campaign finance implications, he may not be criminally liable, although conspiracy to defraud the United States, which does not require willfulness, might also be in play.”
The Professor could well be right on this point – but the President directing his attorney to pay hush money to women supposedly in affairs with him doesn’t have to break criminal law to become part of the calculus here – moreover the Professor ignores that both Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump repeatedly lied about the hush money.
Moreover as the Washington Post points out: “One of the defenses that might have been offered by Trump is that he regularly had his attorney pay off women to keep their stories quiet.” The key here is that the President and Mr. Cohen apparently began discussing making such payoffs as early as 2014 and also the key is that the payment were made “at the direction” of the candidate.
Writes the Post: “Given that Cohen indicated that the payments were meant to influence the election and that they came at the direction of Trump, Lawrence Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, told The Post, “there is little question Cohen, the campaign and the candidate are liable for the campaign finance violations.””
At the same time Professor Eliason calls the hush-money payments something of a side show.
He writes, “The key is Russia, and Cohen has joined the ranks of other cooperators providing Mueller with extensive information on those issues. We now know Trump was secretly negotiating a deal with Russia worth hundreds of millions of dollars while running for president and while Russia was actively working to help him get elected. There is mounting evidence of substantial connections among Russia, the Trump campaign, and Trump’s business interests, and of a possible criminal conspiracy to conceal those connections.”
As early as November 2015, Mr. Cohen made contact with a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation “who could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”” Mr. Mueller writes: “The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well,” referring to the Moscow Project, because there is “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of [the President of Russia].” Cohen, however, did not follow up on this invitation.”
Furthermore, Mr. Mueller writes, “Cohen provided the SCO with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with [The Trump Organization] executives during the campaign.”
The key here is that Mr. Mueller seems focused on Russian ties to Trump’s business including a Moscow Project: “If the project was completed, the Company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues. The fact that Cohen continued to work on the project and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and SCO investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.”
The Washington Post notes: “This is Mueller laying out a rationale for why it would be fair game to look into Trump’s attempt to do business in Russia, and why it matters in the collusion investigation.”
The filings raise many more questions than answer. But what is clear is that the President is now implicated in some of this – there appears to be evidence of Russian involvement, Trump-circle collusion, and an active effort to cover things up.
—David M. Greenwald reporting