Late last night Buzzfeed posted an article claiming that Comrade Trump ‘directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.’ If this is true — if the reporting is accurate — then this means Trump suborned perjury, which is a federal felony. It’s also classic obstruction of justice. We’re talking textbook ‘high crimes’ folks.
If it’s true. If the reporting is accurate. So clearly the first thing we need to do is look at the folks who wrote the article: Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier. Cormier has been an investigative reporter for about 15 years. A couple of years ago, when he was writing for the Tampa Bay Times, he won a Pulitzer for reporting on violence and neglect in Florida mental hospitals. Leopold’s career has been somewhat more controversial. He’s done investigative reporting for some serious news outlets (like the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian), but he’s also done work for online venues that have occasionally been sketchy (TruthOut, Counterpunch, Raw Story). He had a story on the Enron scandal pulled from Salon because he failed to adequately attribute part of his report to another source and he slightly misquoted a suspect email. The facts of that story, however, were accurate. The book on Leopold is that he’s an aggressive reporter who has occasionally made mistakes in how he gathers information, even though the information has been reliable.
So the reporters seem solid. What about the content of their reporting? We know from court documents (and his own guilty plea) that Cohen lied to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. We know he consulted with Trump’s legal team before he testified falsely to Congress. We also know Cohen kept Trump and members of Trump’s family informed about the negotiations with Russian officials regarding the deal. What Cormier and Leopold have added to the story is that Cohen has apparently told Mueller that he lied to Congress at Trump’s direction. It’s the first direct link between Trump and a crime.
According to the Buzzfeed report, this new information came from a pair of law enforcement sources, apparently connected to the Mueller investigation, both of whom have chosen to remain anonymous. Anonymous sources have to be treated with skepticism, of course. We should also be skeptical about any alleged leaks apparently coming from Mueller’s team, which has been famously tight-lipped. However, the Buzzfeed report also states Cohen’s claim that he was directed by Trump to lie to Congress is supported
through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.
But again, we have to rely on the integrity of the reporters to assess the reliability of that claim. It’s important to approach this revelation with caution.
The Twitterverse, of course, erupted after the Buzzfeed revelation last night. There was an pyroclastic flow of speculation. What does it mean for Comrade Trump? How will Republicans in Congress respond? Will this lead inevitably to impeachment? How will Trump himself respond in the morning?
Trump responded this morning by tweeting mostly about the border with Mexico, blaming Democrats for not supporting his wall, castigating Nancy the Knife for wanting to visit NATO and the troops in Afghanistan while the government is shut down, and re-tweeting a FoxNews report that Cohen pleaded guilty to perjury. This could be a strategy of distraction — trying to focus attention elsewhere. Or, perhaps more likely, it’s just Trump repeating whatever he sees on FoxNews, which has largely ignored the Buzzfeed story.
But here’s the thing. Even though the Buzzfeed story fits in with the pattern of Trump’s behavior, and even though the story makes logical sense, and even though the reporters have an overall good reputation, it’s a good idea to approach the story with some hesitation. We’ve seen other ‘this has GOT to be the last straw’ stories before, and Trump has always managed to produce more straws.
BUT IF it’s true, then Comrade Trump is fucked. IF it’s true, there’s a good chance Ivanka and Don Jr. are fucked. IF it’s true, then the only thing left between Comrade Trump and impeachment (or resignation) is how to begin the process.