Report: President Donald Trump Directed Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress

Cohen

Update: Buzzfeed’s report managed to make Mueller hurry up and issue…a statement against Buzzfeed:

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, in a statement.

It’s highly unusual for the special counsel’s office to provide a statement to the media — outside of court filings and judicial hearings — about any of its ongoing investigative activities.

In response, BuzzFeed said in its own statement, “We are continuing to report and determine what the special counsel is disputing. We remain confident in the accuracy of our report.”

Original post below:

If you went to bed early Thursday, you might have missed Buzzfeed News making quite the splash just after 10p, EST with reporting by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier. If true. You won’t be able to miss it this morning, or in the coming days if proven to be accurate.

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

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.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

But Cohen’s testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.

Couple of things. As this is unnamed sourced reporting the “if true” connotation stands. Mueller has been thoroughly disciplined so assume the sources are not his team but probably affiliated or with knowledge of the SDNY case against the now-sentenced Cohen. And, of course, there is the problem with Cohen being an established liar.

That last bit will be Team Trump’s main line of defense, no doubt, but it’s important to note that the sentencing memo made clear the only information from Cohen himself accepted for his plea were items that were corroborated. Back in December when the Cohen sentencing occurred, NRO’s David French wrote this:

If you read the special counsel’s Cohen memo, you’ll note that the special counsel takes pains to note that Cohen’s false statements to investigators were “deliberate and premeditated” and “did not spring spontaneously from a line of examination or a heated colloquy during a congressional hearing.” His lies were in a “written submission” and a “prepared opening statement.” These lies were allegedly told to “minimize the links” between the Moscow Trump Tower project and Trump himself.

Also — and this is crucial — the memo notes that Cohen has been cooperating in describing the “circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries” [emphasis added].

In plain English, this means that it is highly likely that senior Trump officials reviewed Cohen’s prepared, false testimony before he lied to Congress. This raises two important questions. Was Trump aware of the substance of Cohen’s testimony? If so, was Trump aware that Cohen’s testimony was false?

As much as Trump’s defenders may want to minimize “process crimes,” it remains a fact that the last two articles of impeachment drafted against American presidents featured clear evidence of, yes, process crimes. Process crimes are still crimes. It is an enduring feature of political corruption that politicians will lie about things that aren’t illegal but are politically or personally embarrassing — and when they lie under oath or cause others to lie under oath they violate the law.

The Buzzfeed piece paragraph that is going to get the most attention is this one:

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.

What exactly that information is, and entails, will be the crux of how much of a bombshell this report is going forward. Does it line up with the sentencing memo information, as it appears to do? If it’s true it is undoubtedly a crime on the part of the president, but having committed a crime doesn’t ensure removal from office; that takes impeachment in the House and a conviction in the Senate. Cohen is scheduled to testify to before congress on Feb. 7th. It will be interesting to see what else is reported, leaked, or discovered between now and then. But the drumbeat for congressional action, and the “I” word, will only get louder with more information. Mueller is not going to be pressured to finish until he is good and ready, the president isn’t going to back down, and congress and the country will not be gaining in patience for a resolution. And, oh by the way, you may have heard some folks are starting to run for president in 2020. That is a lot of “ifs”.

This will get much worse before it gets better.

Of that, there is no “if”.


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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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17 thoughts on “Report: President Donald Trump Directed Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress

  1. The Republicans attempted to remove Clinton from office for lesser offenses. We are in some sort of sick parody of life where there really doesn’t seem to be any justice. Instead we get to be administrated by absolutely horrible people that are causing untold pain and suffering by the hundreds of thousands with no end in sight.

    Meanwhile, the entire family separation cruelty saga turns out to be much wider in scope than people thought:

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/17/18186773/families-children-separated-trump-thousands

    I assume George will be around soon to defend this all.

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  2. This is all impressive in of itself but the airtight professionalism of Mueller and his team is what really strikes me. He makes Ken Starr look like the empty suit partisan hack that he was. I’d be quaking in my boots if Mueller and his team were coming after me. The silence that comes out of his group is just astonishing.

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    • I have remarked from time to time that watching Mueller’s investigation is like watching the prosecutors roll up an organized crime family from when I lived in NJ. (After the fact, I learned that I knew someone on one of those grand juries, and heard about the security arrangements for the jurors and witnesses.) Once after I said it, a friend pointed out that Mueller oversaw the Gambino family investigations in the 90s. There’s a part of me that wonders if he ever says to his wife when he gets home, “Feels like old times.”

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    • My impression of senior US officials in general is that they’re largely a bunch of self-aggrandising hacks, probably because senior people in the US government tend to be politically appointed.

      So I have to say, it’s been a real pleasure watching someone with the competence and professionalism of Muller at work – he’s a credit to the Federal government.

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  3. Fascinating… but y’all are doing it wrong.

    If the story is true, don’t impeach Trump for instructing a minion to lie to congress… impeach him for using the office of the Presidency to negotiate with a foreign potentate for personal gain — that’s the offense you are looking for.

    Assuming, of course that Mueller rolls up the financials to back-up the claim. It gets a little foggy if the deal fell through and there isn’t a record of something to the effect of, “when I’m president, I’ll…”, but then it gets less foggy if the financials expose Trump’s real levels of debt to Russian oligarchs… the debt that’s on the second set of books, not the books used for the IRS.

    But sure, if failing all of the above you want to push the rock up the hill for instructing a subordinate to lie to congress – politicians shouldn’t do that – then push away. I’d just push from the side, sort of obliquely like.

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    • If the story is true, don’t impeach Trump for instructing a minion to lie to congress… impeach him for using the office of the Presidency to negotiate with a foreign potentate for personal gain — that’s the offense you are looking for.

      This impeachable offense remains in play regardless of whether Trump directed Cohen to lie to congress or not, an observation which highlights, imo, the specific way things have gone sideways: Trump’s critics are overly reliant on Mueller only because we’ve all internalized the belief that the GOP will not act as a check on Trump’s behavior, that the GOP will continue to go to the mat to protect his presidency and only a finding of actual criminal behavior will suffice to invoke articles of impeachment.*

      Now, I don’t know that Pelosi agrees with that framing, of course. She may invoke articles merely on the BuzzFeed reporting, or on one of the many other allegations against Trump which meet the threshold of a high crime or misdemeanor. But the fact that Trump’s behavior is viewed by the GOP and the conservative base as consistent with the constitutional obligations of his office, and that the bar for impeachment of a Republican president has been raised so high (effectively, that his criminal behavior must be demonstrated before impeachment proceedings begin) is the crisis of the moment, and not specifically that Trump is., eg., an asset of the Russians or whatever.

      *An obvious question on this point: would the GOP – McConnell and McCarthy – agree to impeachment proceedings on such a finding if presented by Mueller? It’s an open question, right?

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      • This is Fox, but NPR said the same thing. Mueller is effectively claiming buzzfeed is putting out fake news (not how they phrased it).

        https://www.foxnews.com/politics/mueller-team-disputes-buzzfeed-report-claiming-trump-told-cohen-to-lie

        Mueller team disputes BuzzFeed report claiming Trump told Cohen to lie.

        Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday issued an extraordinary statement disputing a bombshell news report that claimed President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie about the timing of discussions over a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow.

        “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, said.

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