(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
Donald Trump has never visited a war zone, and beyond having teargas canisters fired at women and children and threatening exhausted refugees with lethal force the Commander in Chief has no record of military accomplishments, but this week there were some explosions around him. It started relatively innocent, with Trump making the usual pompous statements on assorted topics. About his upcoming meetings with Xi, Muhamed bin Salman and Putin at the G20 the president declared that he didn’t need preparations, because he had prepared for these things all his life. About the climate change report his administration released on Black Friday that predicts serious damage to the US economy during the rest of this century Trump simply said: ‘I don’t believe it,’ clarifying his opinion with the remark that ‘highly intelligent people like me see that the water and the air are getting cleaner.’ Unhappy with Federal Reserve policies he blamed for a decline in stock prices the president attacked the chairman he himself appointed with the words ‘I have a gut that tells me more than someone else’s brain can.’ It’s unclear if his gut also announced the market’s speedy recovery.
But then the bombs started dropping. The Guardian published an article saying that Paul Manafort had visited Julian Assange multiple times, most recently at the beginning of his formal involvement with the Trump campaign. If true, this would expose a direct link between Wikileaks, the Russians Manafort used to work for and the campaign, and bolster the collusion investigation. Next, Robert Mueller withdrew Manafort’s plea deal, because Trump’s former campaign chairman had lied to the FBI even after becoming a cooperating witness. Things got worse when Rudi Giuliani, Trump’s TV lawyer, issued the statement that thanks to a joint defense agreement Manafort’s lawyers had shared information about their client’s interactions with Mueller with team Trump. Hizzoner should get his law school tuition reimbursed, because since Manafort pleaded guilty to all charges he doesn’t have a defense anymore, and therefore cannot have a defense agreement. What it comes down to is that Trump’s lawyers used a convicted felon to spy on the Mueller probe, and that Manafort participated because only a presidential pardon can keep him out of jail. For this his lawyers can get into serious trouble.
As much as Giuliani should stop talking and pretending to be a lawyer, Trump did him one better by telling an interviewer that he had not taken a pardon for Manafort off the table. Dangling a pardon in front of a witness is an attempt at witness tampering, which qualifies as obstruction of justice, and adds to the list of felonies Mueller can eventually charge the president with. Even though Trump cannot be indicted charges can be filed for a trial after his presidency. Alan Dershowitz, in spite of firmly residing in the Trump camp, predicted that Mueller’s report would be ‘devastating’ for the president.
As if to prove the professor right, on Thursday Michael Cohen pleaded guilty of lying to Congress about his involvement, and that of Trump and his family, in the attempt to have a Trump Tower built in Moscow. It involved interactions with the office of Putin’s closest aide, Peskov, and went on until June 2016, three months before the presidential election. Immediately after this news broke Trump canceled his scheduled meeting with Putin, allegedly because of the Russian agression against Ukraine, but very few believe him.
On his way to Airforce One Trump called Cohen ‘weak’ and ‘a liar,’ and subsequently Giuliani said that the president’s answers to Mueller’s questions and Cohen’s confession were in sinc, which is at least confusing. The whole affair shows that the Russians had leverage over Trump since before the elections, and opens a Pandora’s box of collusion possibilities. The wait is now for Mueller to drop the next bomb, possibly even today.
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