Report Alleges That President Trump Directed Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress

A new blockbuster report implicates the President in no less than five Federal crimes.

Overnight, Buzzfeed dropped what amounts to a huge potential bombshell report that alleges that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the nature of the President’s business dealings with Russia and his efforts to construct a Trump Tower-like building in Moscow even while he was a candidate for President:

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

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.

On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.

(…)

Attorneys close to the administration helped Cohen prepare his testimony and draft his statement to the Senate panel, the sources said. The sources did not say who the attorneys were or whether they were part of the White House counsel’s staff, and did not present evidence that the lawyers knew the statements would be false.

An attorney for Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel who reportedly gave about 30 hours of testimony to the special counsel, told BuzzFeed News: “Don McGahn had no involvement with or knowledge of Michael Cohen’s testimony. Nor was he aware of anyone in the White House Counsel’s Office who did.”

The Buzzfeed report also alleges that Trump, along with his eldest son and eldest daughter were far more directly involved in the Moscow project than they have previously admitted, that they stood to take important management positions in the building should it eventually be built, and that they were being kept aware on a regular basis regarding the progress of the negotiations, including proposals that Cohen and possibly even the President himself might visit Russia to try to get the deal closed even as Trump was campaigning for the Republican nomination. This was coming, of course, at the same time that the President was telling reporters and others that he had no ties to Russia, that he had no business deals with Russia, that he had no property interests in Russia, and that he had no ties to Russia. We now know all of that was untrue and that even as he was running for President he was directing his private attorney, and apparently others in The Trump Organization to move forward with the Moscow project, a project that had reportedly been a long term goal of his since the mid-90s after the Soviet Union collapsed and Moscow opened up for business.

In any case, since the report dropped last night the reaction to it so far is still somewhat limited. Nonetheless, Members of the House Intelligence Committee, which is one of the Committees that Cohen testified before regarding the Trump Tower Moscow deal, are vowing to investigate these charges further, and it is likely to come up on February 7th when Michael Cohen testifies before Congress. Additionally, it’s likely to place additional pressure on the White House and Republicans who have spent the better part of the past two years doing their best to both try to defend the President and to undermine the Russia investigation itself. Finally, the fact that the President would take the seemingly extraordinary step of directing his attorney to lie to Congress is, if true, an indication that in his mind his ties to Russia were of far more important than he’s let on and linked far closer to the underlying issues of Russian interference in the election, collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the allegations that the President has attempted to obstruct Justice and undermine the Russia investigation.

Reports like this are, of course, best taken with a grain of salt. For one thing, we have not seen the supposed evidence that Robert Mueller and his team might have that might corroborate what Cohen is apparently saying. The report from Buzzfeed indicates that the Mueller team first became aware of this allegations not through Cohen directly, but through “ interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.” This is important because Cohen’s testimony, by itself, would not be sufficient to withstand scrutiny in a Court and, thanks to Cohen’s own admissions that he has lied in the past, would raise serious credibility issues given the source of the information. If that is true, and we don’t know that it is or what the nature of that corroboration might be, then this could be the most serious allegation to date against the President, and potentially the beginning of a road that could lead to impeachment or other legal consequences for a President that is already under siege. Until we see that evidence, though, we cannot really be sure what all of this means. Former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who is by no means a political ally of the President’s put it this way last night on Twitter:

All that being said, if these allegations are true and can be sufficiently corroborated then they are among the most serious that have been made against a sitting President since Richard Nixon was in office. Among other things, urging and instructing a witness to lie to Congress and helping that person craft the nature of that lie would be a violation of no fewer than five Federal statutes.

This would include obstruction of justice as defined by 18 U.S.C. 1505 and 18 U.S.C. 1512, which deal with obstruction of investigations by department or agencies of the Federal departments or agencies and Congressional committees and witness tampering respectfully. Subornation of perjury under 18 U.S.C. 1622, which prohibits procuring another person to commit perjury in a government investigation. Aiding or abetting perjury under 18 U.S.C. 2, which makes it a crime to aid or abet another person in the commission of any of the crimes listed in Title 18 of the United States Code. And, finally, Conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. 371, which makes it a crime to conspire to commit any of the crimes listed in Title 18 or to defraud the United States. It’s also worth noting that it was this kind of obstruction that formed the basis of the first Article of Impeachment drafted against President Nixon before he resigned.

Clearly, then, these charges are serious and need to be investigated. And, if they’re true, well, there’s really only one option available.

Update: A spokesperson for the Special Counsel is disputing the Buzzfeed report:

Update #2 (1/19/2019): Further details and thoughts about the Special Counsel’s statement can be found here.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Trump Tweeted about this 28 minutes ago:

    “Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!”

  2. Teve says:

    Coming up at noon:

    MSNBC- DID TRUMP SUBORN PERJURY?

    CNN- DOES MUELLER HAVE EVIDENCE TRUMP INSTRUCTED PERJURY?

    FOX NEWS- ARE YOU GETTING TOO MANY VITAMINS?

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  3. charon says:

    Drip drip drip.

    Tick-tock, MF.

    This will knock a wee tat off Trump’s approval numbers, add a wee tat to his disapproval. At some point, it gets to the tipping point where enough GOP from purple constituancies realize he needs to go for their own survival.

    Deteriorating numbers affect the GOP ability to prolong the shutdown foolishness, too. And once those guys get their cherries popped abandoning Trump on his wall, they will stay popped for other matters like impeachment.

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  4. charon says:

    @CSK:

    Watch father-in-law!

    Winess tampering, just keep it up MF.

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  5. Jen says:

    And Republicans in Congress will continue to do not a d@mn thing.

  6. CSK says:

    @charon:

    Trump keeps babbling in deranged fashion about Cohen’s father-on-law, whose name he either doesn’t know or can’t remember.Nor has he specified what crimes this person might have committed. Feeblest attempt at deflection yet.

  7. charon says:

    @Jen:

    And Republicans in Congress will continue to do not a d@mn thing.

    Yeah, but only for the ones from red districts. The ones that have the general election to worry about, not just the primary, are between a rock and a hard place.

    Apart from that, inaction affects the reputation and credibility of the GOP with swing voters, inattentive people who do not pay much attention, etc. I don’t see “GOP” as an attractive long term investment.

    Consider it’s not just Trump who is compromised. Lots of Russian money spread around to GOP pols, directly through dual citizen Russian-Americans and through the NRA, Christian Right etc.

    I think this Mariiya Butina thing is a bigger story than most people have noticed, lots of GOP and supporters are pretty dirtied, because the Russians like to acquire Kompromat when spreading the cash around.

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  8. Teve says:

    Steve Peoples
    @sppeoples
    Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley repeatedly refuses to deny central allegation in BuzzFeed report that Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress about Russia: “I’m not going to give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen.”

    Fox News Host: “That was not a denial.”

  9. rachel says:

    @Teve: Mr. Gidley won’t commit to a full-throated defence of his boss. Is our White House spokespeople learning?

  10. Teve says:

    I expect some really dumb deflection all day along the lines of “Who could possibly trust Michael Cohen?” That’s a deflection. If the BuzzFeed article is correct, there is an extensive paper trail documenting all the communication. And Mueller has it.

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Question for Republicans; when is enough, enough? When do you decide the country is more important to you than Dennison?

    We have a President who is free from jail, only because he is the President. That’s how banana republics operate.
    His charitable foundation was a criminal enterprise.
    He built his fortune on tax fraud.
    He is an un-indicted co-conspirator in election fraud.
    He has suborned perjury.
    I guess the only way Republicans will get upset enough to actually do anything, is if he gets a blow job in the Oval Office. Hey Lindsey…

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  12. CSK says:

    Trump’s two latest Tweets:

    “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
    “AMERICA FIRST!”

    Unreal.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: Not a deflection. It’s a threat. Cohen’s father in law is connected to the Ukranian/Russian mob. Trump is implicitly telling Cohen to lay off or he’ll make sure the Feds go after his family.

  14. Teve says:

    Shit, trump may be mentally fracturing. His actual last two tweets:

    Donald J. Trump
    @realDonaldTrump
    AMERICA FIRST!
    11:00 AM · Jan 18, 2019 · Twitter for iPhone

    Donald J. Trump
    @realDonaldTrump
    MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
    10:59 AM · Jan 18, 2019 · Twitter for iPhone

  15. Teve says:

    Csk beat me to it. Sad!

  16. CSK says:

    @Teve:

    Low energy.

  17. Kathy says:

    At this point, the goose is in the oven claiming it’s not hot.

  18. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Or, worse, that the Ukrainians-Russians go after them.

  19. Paul L. says:

    This comes from the same guy Jason Leopold who reported that Karl Rove was indicted. Retracted by Truthout as “getting too far out in front of the news-cycle”.

    If no evidence is put forward on this, I will add it to the list of stories progressives got wrong such as the Ted Stevens conviction, Duke Lacrosse and UVA Frat gang rapes.

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  20. Kylopod says:

    @charon:

    The ones that have the general election to worry about, not just the primary, are between a rock and a hard place.

    It’s not the House Republicans who have the most to worry. Being under Democratic control and requiring only a simple majority, the House can impeach Trump without Republican votes. It’s the Senate where any attempt to convict Trump will likely run against a hard wall of Republican opposition. I looked at the list of current Republican Senators, paying particular attention to those up for reelection in 2020, and came up with a list of ones who just might possibly be willing to vote to remove Trump from office in an extreme scenario (though I still think most of these are a stretch):

    Lisa Murkowski (AK)
    Martha McSally (AZ)
    Cory Gardner (CO)
    Marco Rubio (FL)
    David Perdue (GA)
    Joni Ernst (IA)
    Pat Roberts (KS)
    Susan Collins (ME)
    Ben Sasse (NE)
    Thom Tillis (NC)
    Rob Portman (OH)
    Pat Toomey (PA)
    Mitt Romney (UT)
    Ron Johnson (WI)

    By my count, if all the Dems in the Senate (including vulnerable red-state Dems like Joe Manchin and Doug Jones) plus every single Repub above votes to remove Trump, that’s still 6 short of what would be needed for conviction. None of the other Repubs in the Senate come from purple states or are special cases like Murkowski, Romney, or Sasse. I just don’t see a path here–and I’m being very generous.

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  21. Franklin says:

    Wow, that’s quite the list that the troll has compiled. I’m floored.

    /note: I’m not talking about Kylopod

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  22. charon says:

    @Kylopod:

    Thanks for the analysis, you have more ambition/energy for that sort of thing than I do.

  23. charon says:

    @Kylopod:

    a hard wall of Republican opposition.

    Not something that would make the GOP attractive to anyone who is not already part of the cult. I do not see a very sanguine future for Team GOP.

  24. Hal_10000 says:

    I’ve probably said this a million times, but being elected President may be the worst thing that ever happened to Donald Trump (and his minions). For decades, he was able to get away with breaking the law because he was rich and connected. Then he made the mistake of getting elected. The opposition party started through everything he’d ever done and, lo and behold!, there were crimes a plenty.

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  25. charon says:

    @Hal_10000:

    The plot of “The Producers” in real life. Discussion of this at Hoarse Wisperer and at LGM.

    https://twitter.com/HoarseWisperer/status/1086175905402232838

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2019/01/the-producers

    “Springtime for Hitler” comes to real life.

  26. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000:

    And the great irony is, he didn’t expect nor intend to win. The campaign was just a branding exercise. He was going to start Trump TV.

  27. charon says:

    @CSK:

    The GOP used Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Mark Levin, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. etc. to create a mass of gullible credulous suckers and now the chickens have come home to roost.

  28. Scott F. says:

    @Hal_10000:

    For decades, he was able to get away with breaking the law because he was rich and connected.

    This is the only reality he and his circle of moneyed friends/family have ever known. Add to that Trump’s demonstrated inability to consider any idea with nuance and sophistication and it’s not surprising he would make such a monumental mistake.

    Trump Derangement Syndrome aside, I hope The Donald goes to jail for this mistake. Wouldn’t it be good in a Democracy if a Trump conviction started creating fissures in the structural advantages that allow the rich and connected to be criminal and corrupt with impunity?

  29. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    There’s the political calculations to consider, too.

    1) Most obvious: if impeached, can El Cheeto be removed?
    2) If he can’t be removed, will impeachment hurt or help his chances for reelection?
    3) If he can be removed, would that help or hurt Pence’s chances for reelection? (Also, I think he could have two full terms in addition to the rump term).

    And then you have to consider the effects in the Senate and House for each scenario as well. All of this assuming El Dennison doesn’t resign for some reason (like in exchange for avoiding prosecution), which would require enough Senate votes to remove him, but changes the optics, too.

  30. Kylopod says:

    @charon: This idea’s been floating around since before he even won the GOP nomination, let alone the presidency. I’m surprised the LGM post didn’t mention the Feb. 2016 Jimmy Kimmel skit “Trumped” with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, which I’ve linked to before here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OemqVWi_R0k

  31. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: There’s additionally the question of whether Pence would pardon him. That would be the same thing that killed Ford’s chances of winning in 1976 (I was going to say “chances of winning reelection,” except that terminology isn’t quite accurate in this case since Ford was never elected to begin with)–but it might be the only way to convince Trump to resign.

    Of course we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here.

  32. charon says:

    @Kylopod:

    Still. the Russians have shown they are the real deal as con artists and the Trumps are the gullible easily fooled patsies. Consider, as one example, the bait and switch of implying they could get emails from HRC server and delivering stuff obtained by phishing the DNC.

  33. Teve says:

    Friend of a friend online, a few minutes ago, with respect to this story:

    I went over to Breitbart to see the comments on their report of this story. The following is a summary:

    “Fake News!”

    “Deep state!”

    “But the Hillary!”

    “I trust Trump over everyone else.”

    “It’s just lying liberal FBI agents.”

  34. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    I just don’t see a path here–and I’m being very generous.

    You’re absolutely right about that.

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  35. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Kylopod:
    I would put Steve Daines from Montana on the list IF Bullock decides to run for Senate instead of for POTUS. Right now he’s leaning towards POTUS but at a certain point I would think running for Senate in your home, purple-ish state would be more attractive then trying to clear a field of (approximately) 6,000 candidates.

    We might be able to add Lindsay Graham to the list of possibles. He has Snape like tendencies, but it’s really hard to tell when he will or will not show up with a spine.

    If Sasse votes to convict, that may give Debbie Fischer sufficient political coverage to vote to convict. She’s deeply conservative, but to my knowledge not exactly a partisan hack.

    That puts us within 3 votes. Who else may have a modicum of a spine, or respect for the institution of the Senate? Hard to tell in 2018. Maybe Chuck Grassley and Richard Shelby (who I am doubtful will run for re-elect.) That puts us within 1, but at this point everything would have to come together just right to flip anyone else. Richard Burr? He’s not up for re-election until 2022, but his state is trending purple and he’s done a respectable job (for a Republican) leading the Senate investigation committee. There would definitely be more political pressure for him to do the right thing than many others in the Senate. And I would put Pat Toomey on the list as well, especially after the results in Pennsylvania in 2018.

    Your point remains–it’s going to be threading a needle. But if a true smocking gun emerges–documents (or recorded phone calls, thank you Mr. Cohen), then a very narrow path does emerge.

    TL;DR: If a smocking gun emerges, we are in uncharted territory. Past results will not indicate future success or failure.

  36. Kylopod says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I should emphasize again that I have doubts that even the people I listed would go forward with this. Pat Toomey, for example, while he represents a purple state, does not strike me as being truly vulnerable. Maybe that’ll change, but I’m skeptical.

    In any case, your analysis just brings out the fact that looking for potential votes against Trump is an exercise in trying to squeeze every last drop of a nearly empty tube.

    During Watergate, Dems not only controlled the Senate but were just 11 seats from the 67 mark needed to convict. Of course, back then there wasn’t the absolute partisanship of today. That’s demonstrated by the 1972 election, where despite Nixon winning his massive 49-seat landslide, the Repubs actually lost Senate seats. There was a lot more ticket-splitting than today, so individual House and Senate members weren’t as beholden to the president of their party as they would be today. That worked in both directions: if Nixon hadn’t resigned I expect there’d have been Dems who voted against impeachment or removal in addition to Repubs who voted for it.

    I should add one caveat to all this: despite my skepticism I’ve been expressing, my gut feeling is that Trump’s presidency is truly in a Nixonian tailspin and that there’s going to be one huge revelation after the next until his removal becomes inevitable. If that sounds like I just contradicted everything I’ve been writing up to now, you’re right. My gut contradicts my brain, and has for a while now.

  37. KM says:

    @Kylopod:

    I just don’t see a path here–and I’m being very generous.

    That’s because the path doesn’t end there. If the House really does impeach, watch Senators start pressuring the ever-living hell out of Trump to resign. Trust me, they don’t want to be in that position of damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Instead, we’ll start seeing a lot of heavy hinting that Mitch and others know where all the bodies Mueller didn’t find are buried and it would be better for the country if Trump “did the right thing and resigned”. They might even offer him something to go away *cough bribe cough* if he starts being stubborn.

    The GOP wants power. Congress critter cover their own asses first. An impeached Trump is and extreme threat to their power. Even if they vote to keep him on the island, it’s going to cost them dearly. A Senate that doesn’t finish off an impeached Trump is a blue Senate and a likely blue WH in 2020. If it gets to the point where Trump’s too much of a risk, they’ll go with President Pence.

  38. Guarneri says:

    Of course the Buzzfeed “reporters” haven’t actually seen evidence, and one formerly reported on Karl Roves imminent indictment. But hey, you guys get to whack off again for a couple days. Remember, hose down the rubber room from time to time.

    OTB – political analysis from a completely thoughtless, factless and bizarre perspective.

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  39. Lit3Bolt says:

    @charon:

    “Thank you for coming to our little secret meeting. Of course, if you don’t cooperate, we’ll tell the world you came to our little secret meeting.”

    Such an easy trap and they walked into it wide eyed stupid.

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    …they will stay popped for other matters like impeachment.

    From your lips to God’s ears. But I’m still not persuaded that impeachment does sufficient damage to the GOP to preclude the possibility of a President Cruz (or worse) in the future.

  41. Gustopher says:

    I can imagine a scenario where every Monday, the House files new articles of impeachment, and tossed them over to the Senate. Genuine new articles, for new crimes, on a regular basis. Maybe monthly, if they want to consolidate.

    It would not be particularly good for our country, but the information is coming out at that rate.

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @rachel: Or, maybe Gidley knows the truth and is worried about future perjury of his own–either proactively or reactively.

    ETA: “Question for Republicans; when is enough, enough? ”
    Answer: America first! (We’ll pillage the rest of the world when there’s nothing left here.) TL/DR: There is no “too much power.”

  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: Well, Marco and Mitt would convict for the political opportunity it affords, but they would need cover or the role of “heroic defectors” to get there. They can’t do it from principle.

  44. Kylopod says:

    @KM: The crucial factor missing from this analysis is the Cult of Trump. That’s one of the big differences with Nixon, who was at one point a lot more popular than Trump has ever been, but who was never really a cult of personality. Trump’s core fan base will never abandon him, no matter what gets revealed. They’ll deny or rationalize away anything that comes out about him, and they’ll say it was the Deep State out to get him.

    Of course this base of cultists isn’t the entire Republican electorate by any stretch. But it is a large enough segment that voting to remove their Dear Leader would essentially be tearing the GOP apart. That is the main reason why elected Republicans have stuck with Trump through thick and thin. They may privately prefer a more standard Republican like Pence. But they live in abject terror of the Trump cult. That’s why they mostly rallied around him after he won the GOP nomination. That’s why they refused to abandon him even after the Access Hollywood fiasco. That’s why they’ve stayed tightly in his corner throughout his presidency, to the point of going along with things that under other circumstances they would hate, like the tariffs, the Russians, the shutdown. They’ve tried to rein some of his tendencies in a little, and they’ve ignored some of the stuff he’s proposed (infrastructure, nuking the legislative filibuster, and of course getting rid of the Mueller probe), but for the most part they’ve done everything in their power to protect him.

    And I think they’ll continue on this path, even if poses political risks. They’ve been weathering that risk up to now, and like a drug, it’s become a habit where breaking free from it is scarier to them than the alternative.

  45. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod: Good stuff, dude.

    (I know my reputation around here these days so forgive me if I’m damning you with praise.)

  46. JohnSF says:

    @Kylopod:
    That’s what puzzles me.
    It must have been plain to the Republican establishment as the primaries progressed that Trump was gaining traction with the (dimwit) Party base, and that he was so deeply compromised and stupid as to pose a massive potential collateral damage risk to them going forward.

    I mean, even a Brit like me only had to google and LexiNexi about a bit for it to become screamingly obvious. And then just ask a few people with passing familiarity with NY.
    – Extremely opaque financial base (to put it mildly)
    – Three degrees (or less) of separation from mobsters.
    – Bankrupt casinos.
    Multiple bankrupt casinos.
    – Denied casino licence in Australia 1980’s.
    – Non payment of contractors.
    – Petty grifts like TrumpU.
    – Deutsche Bank & Russian “investors” & real estate transactions.
    – etc. etc.

    So, why in hell didn’t the Republican leadership (and I mean NOT just other candidates but the RNC, McConnell, Ryan etc) not destroy Trump before he won the nomination?
    It’s what I’d have done in their shoes.

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  47. Blue Galangal says:

    @JohnSF: I think that’s a great question and I have a couple of hypotheses. 1 – the epistemic closure David Frum wrote / warned about, what, 6 years ago now? We see that in evidence among many Republicans who don’t venture outside the Fox bubble. They genuinely seem to have no idea that alternative ideas exist outside their own experience. 2 – and related to 1 – the rise of the conservatainment complex. The tail is wagging the dog. Rush Limbaugh, for example, has been trying to sow chaos since the mid 90s – with the rise of Fox, and an audience willing to let Rush and Sean do their thinking for them, Rush among others has created a base far too fear-filled for any one Republican to go against any more.

    3 – How long has Putin had this in train? I still can’t forget how absolutely gobsmacked Karl Rove was in 2012 when Fox called Ohio for Obama. He literally couldn’t believe it. It was very odd at the time, but in retrospect it’s suspicious. He was *convinced* Ohio was going to go R, and it didn’t.

  48. JohnSF says:

    And I missed out, largely because it didn’t come to my attention until after he was nominee, but which R. leadership must have been aware of before: his behaviour towards women, which is as indicative of moral degradation, and consequent political risk, as his other dealings.

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  49. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    Of course we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here.

    Just a tad. But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for as many alternatives as possible.

    My nightmare scenario is the Pervert in Chief wins reelection. Try and stop him or get him to behave in a human-like fashion after that.

    The runner-up scenario has Pence taking over, being even worse as I’m assuming he’s not half as incompetent as Dennison, and then winning election and reelection.

  50. gVOR08 says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    I still can’t forget how absolutely gobsmacked Karl Rove was in 2012 when Fox called Ohio for Obama. He literally couldn’t believe it.

    I was living in OH. Yeah, Rove sure looked like he thought the fix was in. IIRC they took him backstage and he argued with the analysts. There was a fair amount of ratfracking in OH, but I sure had the impression it was not as much as someone had promised to Rove. At the time, of course, there was no thought of Russians. But Russians are not a precondition for Republican cheating.

  51. James Pearce says:

    @JohnSF:

    So, why in hell didn’t the Republican leadership (and I mean NOT just other candidates but the RNC, McConnell, Ryan etc) not destroy Trump before he won the nomination?

    17 Republicans and Hillary Clinton tried to publicly shame Trump into oblivion.

    It didn’t work.

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  52. JohnSF says:

    @Blue Galangal:
    Yes , in part.
    Media ecosystem helps explain base appeal (in both senses 🙂 )

    Along with messaging almost perfectly shaped to appeal to segments of Republican base that felt slighted eg paleoCon, evangelical, racist, pro-tariff econo-Nationalist, isolationists etc.

    But does it explain the passivity of the leadership?
    What were they thinking to be so strategically inept?
    So blind to their own self-interest?
    Anyone setting up decision tree paths of a Trump presidency must have been able to see the potential downside for them of Trump tap-dancing his way into a minefield.
    If my analysis of American politics is right (it may well not be):
    Holding Congress has more “inertia” in the Senate than the House, but OTOH the Senate is less gameable via districts, so more prone to backlash from moderate/floating voters if scandal level gets high enough.
    So to be safe from impeachment fallout at Senate level they had to hold the House with it’s powers of investigation and impeachment.
    That’s one hell of a gamble.
    Safer surely for a comfortably dug in R. Senator to torpedo candidate Trump early in the primaries?

  53. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnSF: You’re on to something thst makes me crazy. We’ve learned a lot of detail and seen a lot more evidence, but in broad outline, everything we know now, we pretty much knew before the election.

    But the press was having too much fun with Hillary’s email and the Clinton Foundation to revisit what to them was old news about Trump. And there’s what Paul Simon said, “The man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Seem like poor excuses for experienced political leaders, but I find I’m often surprised by just how dumb some of our supposed elite are.

    Many of them probably saw Trump for what he is, but subscribed to, I think it was Grover Norquist’s theory, that all they needed was a hand to sign the bills they sent up. They didn’t care about the women, racism, and corruption, and they didn’t think he was serious about the silly wall and trade war stuff. After all, they lie to their voters all the time, why would they expect any different of Trump?

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  54. JohnSF says:

    @James Pearce:
    I’m not talking about “shame”; I’m talking about “destruction”.

    By any means available to the Republican leadership.
    Did they really lack the means? Or did they miss the potential threat? Or did they for some reason lack the will to act?

  55. Teve says:

    @JohnSF: the leadership of the GOP is Fox news. Fox tells GOP primary voters what to think.

    Look at the shutdown. The house passed reopening the government, the Senate unanimously passed reopening the government. Ann Coulter goes on Fox and calls Trump a cowardly loser if he signs it, and probably hannity says something similar, and Trump refuses to sign. McConnell is now refusing to even bring bills to the floor that will pass, for fear that fox will turn on him, because he’s up for reelection.

    People on the internet have documented probably 20 times how a talking point will be on Fox at 7:33 am, and Trump will tweet the same thing at 7:41 am.

  56. JohnSF says:

    @Teve:
    I wonder if Rupert Murdoch expected this in the history books:
    “… and then Fox News fundamentally reshaped America by enabling the auto-asphyxiation of the Republican Party…”
    🙂

  57. Guarneri says:

    Heh. 7:40PM Mueller office debunks.

    You guys can stop masturbating now. Doug, CNN, NBC and MSNBC too. Get the hoses and clean up….

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  58. Aa I noted in an update, a spokesperson for the Special Counsel’s office is disputing the report.

  59. @Guarneri:

    They’re not debunking per se but whatever floats your boat Trumpidian.

  60. James Pearce says:

    @JohnSF:

    Did they really lack the means? Or did they miss the potential threat? Or did they for some reason lack the will to act?

    They did lack the means. Trump kept winning primaries and we Americans have such an aversion to backroom deals and party bosses that there is really no mechanism to stop the person who keeps winning primaries.

    Once Trump got the nomination, it was too late. Hillary Clinton was supposed to stop him, not the Republican party leadership.

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  61. An Interested Party says:

    …but whatever floats your boat Trumpidian.

    I’m curious if any of Trump’s admirers can, at this point, explain why he is so great and how he is doing such a wonderful job as president…using facts, of course, and not their own deranged fantasies…

  62. Kathy says:

    I thought the Mueller probe was a witch hunt(TM). How can we possibly take it seriously?

  63. Teve says:

    Rick Wilson
    @TheRickWilson
    ·
    9m
    I’m totally calm about this.

    The Mueller statement talks about the *characterization* being wrong, not the content. This isn’t a sweeping “no.”

    They *declined comment* on the front end and issued a wordsmithed statement.

    Breathe.

    We won’t know the full details until we get the report. And any Trump Chumps praising Mueller’s team tonight will certainly turn on them then.

  64. James Pearce says:

    @Guarneri:

    Doug, CNN, NBC and MSNBC too.

    CNN all day has been “Buzzfeed says…” and on Twitter I saw a lot of people saying “If this is true…”

    I think there are a lot of people are waaaaay to eager to believe in conspiracy theories about Trump, but I also think a healthy skepticism about this Buzzfeed report has been on display too. (It would be nice if those news outlets got the Special Counsel’s statement before they talked about it all day, but, you know, they’re not heroes.)

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  65. To be clear, the statement from Mueller’s office is not disputing the claim that Michael Cohen told his investigators that Trump told him to lie to Congress. It is disputing the part of the report about corroborating evidence.

  66. Teve says:

    @JohnSF: conservatives have a very big systemic problem right now, in that the people who are giving the base marching orders, Fox news etcetera, are only in it for the eyeballs and clicks. They don’t give a shit about the long-term consequences for the GOP, and if it keeps going the way it’s going, those consequences are dire. Generation z, we can see from the polls, is even more liberal than the millennials. And the Republican base voters are having increasing difficulty dragging their replaced hips to the voting booths.

  67. MattBernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Ben Smith of BuzzFeed just tweeted the following:

    In response to the statement tonight from the Special Counsel’s spokesman: We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.

    And in a “Who would have predicted it” moment, red hats are suddenly deciding the Mueller is credible and the SCO statement means the report is a hoax. This want lost on Jay Caruso

    Amusing watching all the people who have smeared Robert Mueller as a tool of the “deep state,” a liar and Democratic hack among other insults, now using him as a means of dunking on Buzzfeed.

    That’s the type of analysis that gets you fired from redstate.com.

    There just isn’t enough popcorn.

  68. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: They don’t care about his dealings with women and such. Moreover, they ran against Trump in the primaries as more Trump than Trump is. He simply IS the GOP writ large and vulgar. The only thing they find off putting is the vulgarity. Even Mitt said so in his NYT editorial.

  69. Teve says:

    How hard would the conservatives be freaking out if Mueller’s investigation lasted as long as the Whitewater investigation?

  70. Guarneri says:

    @James Pearce:

    Look, I’m just busting people’s chops.

    The number of dour faced, oh-so-seriously intoned claims of being on the doorstep of impeachment or obstruction or treason the past two years is just looney and laughable. People are making absolute fools of themselves.

    Its no more than that, but its no less either. Otherwise smart, reasonable, or formerly so, people just behaving like clowns over political animus. You can’t make this shixt up.

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  71. Teve says:

    I’m reading, right now, the New Yorker article from three weeks ago, about Adam Schiff.

    Schiff says his investigation is going to be kind of like Mueller’s, but much more probing and comprehensive. Schiff says he’s going to investigate every financial transaction he can get his hands on. 😛

    One of the dumbest things Trump ever did was insist that Mueller stay away from his finances.

    Officer: got any contraband in the car?
    Driver: No, and absolutely don’t look in the trunk.

  72. Teve says:

    Chris Hayes Retweeted

    emptywheel
    @emptywheel
    ·
    15m
    Mueller has spent 1.5 years ensuring they never get accused of leaking. If BF’s sources were SDNY, then SDNY just endangered that effort. And THAT is prolly why SCO made a statement, not (primarily) bc of what BF said.

  73. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Aww cut him a break Doug. He’s mailing these comments in from some noisy smoky saloon where the light is poor and the beer is worse. He can’t help but to be off his game.

  74. Guarneri says:

    But if its true………… But if its true……. But if its true……

    You know, if its true worms had machine guns, birds wouldn’t eat them…….

    But I’m thinking its not true…………..

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  75. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Yay, it’s all over and you won! Hurray for you! Oh frabjous day, callooh, callay!

    You’re so transparent. So weak. So lost.

    Just wait, little Drew, just wait.

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  76. Modulo Myself says:

    I think it’s gotten to the stalwart Trump fans. I’m skeptical that there’s concrete evidence corroborating Cohen’s account, but unless you’re a mobster on trial, pretending that this is exonerating in a meaningful way is like saying a jury letting some guy in the ‘construction business’ with a Mob lawyer walk means he’s not in the Mob. The next two years is going to be tough on these defective losers, I’m thinking.

  77. Modulo Myself says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    They know what’s coming. They’re literally hanging their credibility on it being ‘crazy’ that Trump wanted his lawyer to lie before Congress. For Guarneri’s sake, I’m hoping he doesn’t like this in public. You can walk away from anything on the internet. In the real world, it’s not so easy.

  78. DrDaveT says:

    @Teve:

    How hard would the conservatives be freaking out if Mueller’s investigation lasted as long as the Whitewater investigation?

    I was thinking “Benghazi!!!” myself. Except that the House won’t need to launch eight or nine official investigations into collusion with Russia.

  79. Bill says:

    If OTB had remembered posts here 13 years ago, we could have called the story probable bs from the start.

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/rove_indicted/

    and

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/no_charges_for_rove/

    Jason Leopold’s reporting was discredited 13 years ago. He did it again and I’m surprised nobody picked it up after the rove business.

  80. Ben Wolf says:

    This has happened so many times it’s become a “shame on you” for the people falling for it.

    Anonymous sources with no evidence CANNOT BE TRUSTED.

    Remember the “Manafort meets with Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy” bullshit? You all fell for that too, and the dozen previous smoking guns that ended up being bullshit and you’ve forgotten about.

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  81. Eric Florack says:

    If I were you guys I’d be holding off on that celebratory dance just yet.

    BuzzFeed? Are you freaking serious?
    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/mueller-team-disputes-buzzfeed-report-claiming-trump-told-cohen-to-lie

    remember these are the ones that posted the unverified and totally fabricated Steele dossier paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

    I’m rolling on the floor over here I tell ya…

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  82. Eric Florack says:

    “Buzzfeed News Bombshell Reporter: No We Have Not Seen the Evidence Supporting Our Report:”
    https://www.mediaite.com/tv/buzzfeednews-bombshell-reporter-no-we-have-not-seen-the-evidence-supporting-our-report/

  83. Eric Florack says:

    Hmm…

    One of the authors, Jason Leopold, has quite the history when it comes to bad reporting. Most folks know of his claim that multiple sources told him Karl Rove was going to be indicted in 2006 and how it turned out to be utterly false.

    But, as Columbia Journalism Review noted back then, it wasn’t his first problem with facts.

    When Leopold’s story was first called into question a few weeks ago, Salon’s Tim Grieve reminded readers of Leopold’s checkered history with the publication. Salon removed Leopold’s August 29, 2002 story about Enron from its site after it was discovered that he plagiarized parts from the Financial Times and was unable to provide a copy of an email that was critical to the piece. Leopold’s response? A hysterical rant (linked above) which claimed that Salon’s version of events was “nothing but lies,” and that “At this point, I wonder why Salon would go to great lengths to further twist the knife into my back. I suppose the New York Times will now release their version of the events. I can see the headline now ‘Jason Leopold Must Die.’”

    LOL.

  84. JohnMcC says:

    @charon: “I do not see a very sanguine future for team GOP”. You know, there are secondary meanings to that word ‘sanguine’ that derive from (I suppose) the Latin root.

    @gVOR08:”…they took (Rove) backstage (during the OHIO results arrival) and he argued with the analysts…” That was Meghan Kelly’s finest hour. Delicious.

    Gosh, the SCO press release sure led lots of Trumpets to take to their keyb’ds, dinnit? It was kind of cryptic sounding to me. Kind of lawyerly. But they have their shamans who’ve reassured them that they can safely resume trolling.

    Whoever laughs last, however….

  85. Further details and thoughts about the Special Counsel’s statement can be found here.

  86. Teve says:

    @JohnMcC: Marcy wheeler’s best guess about what the sco statement means is that they’re afraid they’ll be consider the leakers, when the leakers were actually SDNY.

  87. @Teve:

    FWIW the SDNY has been known to leak like seive.

  88. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    The runner-up scenario has Pence taking over, being even worse as I’m assuming he’s not half as incompetent as Dennison, and then winning election and reelection.

    Not only that, but he’s constitutionally eligible to win reelection twice. He could in theory be president until 2029.

  89. JohnSF says:

    @Eric Florack:
    You may be right about Leopold.
    I’ve been backlooking since I first asked about confidence levels and Leopold is iffy.
    But you are very very wrong about Steele.
    First off, the Fusion GPS investigation was already underway funded by Republicans before Steele became involved.

    There is zero reason to disparage Steele’s professionalism and integrity.

    He was quite plain that his report was NOT verified data but a collection of what he got back from his contacts in Russia.

    It is “raw” reportage, not filtered, verified, analysed; and once it became known he was asking some is pretty obviously disinformation. Though nothing has so far been proved untrue, I’d bet some provably is false. Because FSB.

    Which is a tell in itself: why would anyone be pushing disinformation re. Trump? Just pure amusement? Not altogether unlikely, Russians being Russians. But repeated?

    What alarmed him (IMHO) was the pattern: first lots of sources have a story about Trump (why would his Russian contacts even know who the hell Trump was?)
    Then disinformation.
    Then sources start being very reluctant to talk at all.
    And some (suspected) sources start turning up dead.

    So Steele in Summer 2016 starts contacting UKIS & FBI and saying something stinks like a month old kipper wedged behind a radiator.

    But the thing is, if you look, it is obvious Steele data is a (now public domain) side issue compared to what various intelligence sources know. Mostly relating first to money laundering, then to campaign/RIS contacts.
    Mueller’s task is finding evidence that can be presented in court of what intelligence knows but is not evidential. Cue Cohen, Manafort, Flynn, Gates, Nader, Pinedo, Patten, Papadopoulos, Weisselberg, and arguably more important than testimony, the documents related to these persons.

    And once any of these matters are provable, it looks like Mr Trump has walked himself straight into an obstruction of justice quagmire. Ooops.

    Perhaps not enough for a court conviction; but then impeachment isn’t a purely judicial process, but a political one with judicial draperies.
    And if the evidence/opinion piles up enough on the contra-Trump side, GOP gets to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea: sacrifice Trump and incur the wrath of the Trumpeteers, or stick with Trump and the Trumpvangelicals and get hammered by the wholesale defection of floating voters.
    Oh dear.

  90. Eric Florack says:

    I wasn’t wrong about steele, and neither were the British. the report was paid for by the Democrats and a pure fabrication. That’s been proven several times now.

    I’m hardly a flat-out trump supporter. He was never my God prior to the election. but I do value the concepts of right and wrong and the Democrats have invariably and without exception been wrong on this