Last night, BuzzFeed dropped a bombshell that two law enforcement sources report that the federal government has evidence that President Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The sources also report that Trump directed Cohen to set up a personal meeting with Vladimir Putin regarding the Moscow Trump Tower deal during the campaign, even as he denied having business dealings with Russia.
The allegations center around the Moscow Trump Tower. In previous court filings associated with Michael Cohen’s guilty plea, Special Counsel Mueller has noted that Cohen falsely claimed the project was ended in January 2016 in an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1 in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.” Individual 1 is understood to be Donald Trump. Evidence has shown that Trump’s dealings with Russia on the Moscow project lasted until June 2016, well into the campaign.
Buzzfeed says that the two sources told them that investigators have evidence that Trump personally directed Cohen to lie and make claims that the Trump Tower negotiations ended much earlier than they did in an effort to cover up Trump’s contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign. Per the report, the evidence against Trump includes the testimony of “multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
Donald Trump is well known for his casual relationship with the truth. Yesterday we noted the evolution in Team Trump’s denials of the Russian collusion story. The Trump Administration line has gone from blanket denials to carefully parsed statements that no laws were broken by the president after the blanket denials were shown to be false. Thus far, however, there has been no direct link between Donald Trump and Russian contacts.
While previous allegations about Donald Trump’s involvement fell short of criminal activity, if there is evidence that the president directed Cohen to lie about the Moscow deal, it would implicate Trump in a felony. Micheal Cohen pled guilty last November to a charge of making false statements to Congress. The charge was brought by the Special Counsel’s office and it was reported at the time that Cohen was cooperating with Mueller. If President Trump directed Cohen to lie under oath, he would be guilty of suborning perjury.
The big question is whether the Buzzfeed report is accurate and the government has evidence that Donald Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress. Mueller has not shown his cards yet, but we do know that the FBI raided Cohen’s office in April 2018. Three months later, several recordings of Trump and Cohen meeting together emerged. The recordings apparently were made by Cohen and were part of the material seized by the FBI. If Cohen was in possession of emails, text messages, or other written communications from Trump directing him to break the law in an effort to cover up his dealings with Russia, those communications are almost certainly in the possession of the FBI as well.
However, as Erick Erickson pointed out this morning, BuzzFeed is a less than credible outlet. So far, no other outlets have corroborated the story and John Santucci, senior editorial producer for ABC News, tweeted that he is unaware of the Mueller team interviewing anyone within the Trump Organization. Some BuzzFeed reporting, such as the pee tape story, has not been supported by evidence while other stories, such as the revelation that the Moscow Trump Tower dealings continued during the election, have ultimately been proven true.
Many conservative pundits note that if the allegations against Trump are proven true, it dramatically increases the chances of impeachment. Suborning perjury is a charge that even most Republicans would be hard-pressed to overlook.
At the very least, the story will give new life to the numerous investigations into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia and make it harder for the president to claim that collusion is “fake news.” As we grow close to Groundhog Day, the Russia investigation will continue to dog President Trump and we can expect more than another six weeks of investigations and hearings.
Originally published on The Resurgent