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How much could BuzzFeed News’s Michael Cohen story hurt Trump?

For Republican lawmakers, the question will not be whether but when to abandon the president they have so sedulously shielded for the past two years

January 18, 2019

9:05 AM

18 January 2019

9:05 AM

On Thursday CNN reported that Donald Trump was taken aback that his nominee for attorney general William Barr and special counsel Robert Mueller are old chums. ‘I have known Bob Mueller for 30 years,’ Barr said during Senate testimony on Tuesday. ‘And I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of service.’ Now Barr’s statements are about to create much bigger problems for him. Barr unequivocally affirmed, in response to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham, that it would be a crime if the president sought to tamper with the testimony of a witness: ‘yes, under an obstruction statute. Yes.’

Oh, no, is what many in the Trump White House must be thinking as the revelation sinks in that Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has told federal investigators that Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower deal that he and his associates sought to broker during the 2016 campaign. BuzzFeed broke the story last night. Cohen reportedly met 10 times with Trump to discuss the deal. In addition, Trump signed off on a plan for Cohen to visit Moscow and meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin. ‘Make it happen,’ Trump said.

Rudy Giuliani, late of proclaiming that there was collusion but Trump never had anything to do with it, responded, ‘If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.’ Bridge, shmidge. It’s getting time for Trump to cut his own deal before Congress starts impeachment hearings. Already Democrats are demanding an investigation. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted, ‘The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.’

If it was just a matter of Cohen’s word, it would be one thing. But Mueller, who is sitting on a mountain of evidence, none of it conducing to Trump’s case, apparently has multiple witnesses, text messages, emails, and other information attesting to the truth of Cohen’s statements. When Cohen appears before Congress on February 7, his testimony is sure to be a doozy, one that even Trump, for all his skills at prestidigitation, won’t be able to obscure with a manufactured crisis for the day.

That Trump would lie about his finances and instruct his subordinates to prevaricate about them should almost be taken as a given. He lies so consistently that the remarkable thing is when he utters a veracious statement. As Mary McCarthy once observed about Lillian Hellman, ‘every word she writes is false, including “and” and “but.”’

As Susan Glasser observes in the New Yorker, ‘we do not yet know whether Trump himself is actually Putin’s man in Washington or merely a sycophant with a distinctly un-American affinity for autocrats in general and Putin in particular.’ … Trump’s own affection for Putin is well established, and his record of advancing Putin’s agenda is about as subtle as Putin’s resurrection of the Soviet anthem.’

For Republican lawmakers, the question will not be whether but when to abandon the president they have so sedulously shielded for the past two years. Vice President Mike Pence, who has assumed as obedient a posture as the old RCA Nipper dog listening to His Master’s Voice, may hope that he can bound into the Oval Office, but the extent of his own links to Russia during the campaign are also sure to be subject to inquiry.

One Trump stalwart who may already be looking for the exits is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He’s mulling over a run for Senate in Kansas. Soon Republicans may discover that the further their distance from Trump, the more prosperous their political fortunes appear.

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