Trump Directing Cohen to Lie Might be the Tipping Point

While you were busy with the rest of your life on Thursday evening, the online news site BuzzFeed dropped a bombshell of a report on the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Donald Trump and Russia that may very well be the tipping point for a flailing administration.



As Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier report for BuzzFeed, President Trump directed former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump’s business dealings in Russia — specifically regarding efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow:

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. [Pols emphasis]

There is no precedent for the endless stream of bad news coming out of the Trump administration, so it’s fair to wonder if any particular iceberg is sharp enough to sink this ship. But…this is really, really big news. House Democrats quickly pledged to investigate this claim specifically. headline (1/18/19)


Here’s Chris Cillizza of CNN:

The BuzzFeed story also claims that Cohen confirmed this information to special counsel Robert Mueller after “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.”

It’s hard to overstate what a big deal that is. [Pols emphasis] No other major outlets have confirmed the BuzzFeed report. But if the BuzzFeed report is right, then the President of the United States directed an underling to lie under oath — which is, in and of itself, a crime.

As Cillizza and others have noted, this exact topic came up during William Barr’s confirmation hearings for Attorney General this week. In response to questions from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Barr acknowledged that persuading a person to commit perjury is obstruction of justice — which is a federal crime in and of itself.

Bloomberg News headline (1/18/19)

As Aaron Blake writes for the Washington Post, the key to this new report could be the presence of direct evidence implicating Trump:

Predicting President Trump’s imminent demise has made fools of people since the moment he launched his presidential campaign. But the latest blockbuster story about the Russia investigation is different.

If Robert S. Mueller III has the evidence he reportedly has — that Trump asked Michael Cohen to lie to Congress for him — it could present something that’s been missing thus far from the public domain: an event so cut-and-dried that even Republicans would be hard-pressed not to consider impeachment.

“Asking someone to lie,” as Blake writes, “is not a gray area.” It is a federal crime. Period.

There are 14 current Republican Senators who publicly supported ousting President Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice in 1999; if the BuzzFeed reports are verified, it will be more than complicated for the GOP to skate around the issue. And as Politico reported on Thursday — well before the BuzzFeed bombshell — potential targets of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump collusion/obstruction are already rushing to turn on each other in a desperate bid for self-preservation.

We may not have to wait long to learn more about these accusations. Cohen is scheduled to publicly testify before Congress on February 7.

26 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JohnInDenver says:

    In the grand scheme of things, February 7 is not far away.  But in Trump Time, it is a LONG time.

    If Democratic leaders aren't going to Afghanistan and Belgium, and apparently there will not be a full week off for the MLK, Jr. "District Work Period," I hope some of the time will be devoted to clarifying how committees should proceed to find more detail on how witnesses for Congressional Hearings were prepared by the White House.

  2. RepealAndReplace says:

    Michael Cohen has stud-like qualities!

  3. davebarnes says:

    Not even close.
    Impeachment is a political process (not legal) and the GOPers in the Senate will not vote to convict.
    I am not sure they would vote to convict even if The Dumpster® had a GOPer member of the Senate executed for pissing him off.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Doesn't the House vote on impeachment too.  One out of two will do serious damage to the Lance Armstrong of politics.  This would be like Lance riding down the road with needles hanging off his skin.

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        Doesn't matter. It would be like Lance riding down the road with needles sticking out of his skin and some of his more devout followers thing it's a new form of acupuncture.

      • Pseudonymous says:

        The House impeaches (impeachment is effectively the charging of offenses); the Senate convicts.  Bill Clinton was impeached, and it barely scuffed him up.  If I remember correctly, there are a lot of folks that suggest Gore's problem was insufficiently embracing Clinton.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        I’m certain that’s pretty much exactly what Newt and the House Republicans were thinking in 1998??

        • RepealAndReplace says:

          Who can ever forget the surreal sight on that Saturday morning in December 1998 when the House was debating the impeachment articles, and Bob Livingston – who was supposed to replace Newt as speaker – going to the podium, confessing to adultery and dropping out of the race for speaker only to be replaced by a pedophile wrestling coach.

          I seem to recall that Larry Flynt was threatening to "out" a few other philandering Republican House members as part of his civic responsibility.

    • Early Worm says:

      It is a process, and this is how it will likely play out. The Democrats will investigate and have hearings. Cohen's testimony on February 7 is just a start. The evidence will mount showing that Trump committed multiple crimes. Those crimes involve obstruction of justice and soliciting the assistance of a hostile foreign power to win an election. With that evidence, possibly bolstered by Mueller's findings, the House will bring impeachment proceedings. A simple majority is all that is required out of the House, and if the current allegations are true, the Democrat majority will vote to impeach. The Constitution requires a 2/3 majority in the Senate to convict, and that will be difficult to get. But, that is where the "political process" kicks in. The Republican Senators will evaluate whether they want to impeach Trump (or convince him to resign), and risk a primary from the right, or not impeach (in the face of the damning evidence) and face a difficult re-election with a party led by a proven criminal. Just like the current Trump shut down, the Republican may very well stick with Trump, but it is not going to go well for them.

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        I have no doubt that if the evidence is bad enough, a few of the GOP senators would have to break with their leader (i.e., those up in 2020 in states that Hillary carried or Trump narrowly carried – ME, CO, AZ, NC and IA). Assuming Manchin votes to convict – and that's a big "if" – that gets the pro-removal crowd up to 52. Throw in Mittens, Little Marco Rubio, Murkowski and maybe Rob Portman and Ben Sasse, and it gets as high as 57. But that is where the movement runs out of steam.

  4. DavidThi808 says:

    A.G. designate is clearly a smart guy. He knows there's a 99% likelihood that Trump will ask him to reign in or fire Mueller. And he has already weighed out each side of the decision and knows what he will do.

    And as someone who has worked in Washington a long time, and clearly takes pride in his legacy, he knows what he does here will matter more than everything else in total.

    My guess is he'll do the right thing and refuse Trump – because that's how he'll want to be remembered.

    With that said, it's just a guess…

  5. notaskinnycook says:

    As C.J. once said on The West Wing, "Don't you think I  know I'm living the first line of my obituary right now?” I think that can be said of all the key players in this drama. How do they want history to remember them?

    Robert Bork, failed Supreme Court nominee has gone down in history as the guy who committed the Saturday Night Massacre.

  6. Davie says:

    Slate brings back the Impeach-o-Meter

    The president’s advisers being sleazeballs is one thing; the president himself getting nailed for something his attorney general just described as a 100-percent no-doubt-about-it crime is another. Will this be The Thing, the Big One that finally, finally, finally starts to crack Trump’s deep-red Republican fortress? Folks, I’ll tell you what: I don’t know, and no one else does either! But it seems like it’s time to start talking about it again.

    • DENependent says:

      Impeachment may come. Right now this is just one story that has everyone stirred up and I think it a bit early for moderates to get on board with the idea.

      Investigating may turn up enough evidence to convince the 20% or so in the middle who would like to see the president censured to join the 39% of people who want him impeached already.

      What happens then? Do Republicans stand by him? I somewhat expect them to do so. I think the likelihood that Trump will leave office before the end of his term is lower. I would put it at around 20% right now.

      My reasoning is this: Nixon's approval rating was about the same as Trump's in July of 1973. (Source: 538, of course) If it takes a long for events to unfold and his party to abandon him we have at least a 13 more months of this to go. In addition Trump is no more unpopular now than he has been for the whole length of his presidency. So… I think it likely that this will be taken care of through the political process rather than removal or resigning. When Trump’s approval is under 25% then we’re in impeachment territory.

  7. Early Worm says:

    I guess there is a reason only Buzzfeed was reporting this. Spokesman for Mueller says: “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,” Carr told BuzzFeed.

  8. Genghis says:

    Meh. Another day, another musing about an imminent blockbuster revelation of criminal misconduct bringing down the Dump administration. I'll believe it if it happens.

  9. Diogenesdemar says:

    Trump’s defense?  Simple . . .

    ”I was lying when I told Cohen I wanted him to lie.”

    Try finding a judge or jury anywhere who would doubt that!

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