Trump aides colluded with foreign governments. This is a simple, straightforward statement, and by this point, it ought to be an uncontroversial one. There’s ample evidence on many fronts, from legal documents to reliable reporting. This doesn’t mean that a crime was committed, because, as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others have pointed out, collusion is not a crime per se. But it does mean that attempts to dismiss the Russia investigation as a witch hunt that lacks any evidence are not merely disingenuous—they’re simply wrong.
There was collusion. There was the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, the August 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Papadopoulos’s contacts (which triggered the FBI’s investigation) and more. Manafort was serving as campaign chairman while angling to repay a Kremlin-tied oligarch for outstanding debts, to say nothing of allegations that Manafort was committing a raft of financial crimes including money-laundering. This doesn’t rule out the possibility of overreach and abuses by the intelligence community, but it gives a plausible reason why the FBI was interested in the Trump campaign. There are many questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election that remain unanswered. Whether there was collusion between Trump aides and foreign governments is not one of them.
Even compared with the numerous reports about murky dealings between the Trump administration and governments of countries such as Russia, China, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, the transaction described in a new BBC report between Ukraine’s government to Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen involve incredibly brazen, direct dealings. They also suggest that Cohen and his associates were playing on both sides in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. According to the report, Cohen had been paid $400,000 (though another source says it was $600,000) to arrange a White House meeting between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Trump last June. Shortly after the meeting, the Ukrainian government shelved a bribery investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Ukraine has been locked in conflict with Russia since 2014, when pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, Russia annexed Crimea, and the Kremlin began supporting pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. During the 2016 U.S. election, the Ukrainian government was deeply alarmed by Trump’s pro-Putin rhetoric and promises to lift sanctions on Russia. During the campaign, the New York Times reported that the Ukrainian government was investigating off-the-books payments from Yanukovych’s party to Manafort. Those reports led to Manafort’s ouster from the campaign. According to the BBC, Poroshenko had authorized a leak of the investigation, believing that Hillary Clinton would win the election. When she didn’t, he scrambled to reach out to Trump. When Ukraine’s embassy in Washington and registered lobbyists couldn’t secure a meeting, he reached out to Cohen through backchannels.
The BBC reported Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 from Ukraine to help fix talks with Trump. Citing sources close to those involved, the BBC said the payment was set up by people acting on behalf of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine, which would be required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act if such a payment took place. The BBC said the payment, which Cohen denied, was made ahead of Poroshenko’s White House visit last June. Shortly after Poroshenko returned to Ukraine, the BBC reported, the nation’s anticorruption agency pumped the brakes on its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has since been indicted in the US as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer told the BBC that, before Poroshenko’s White House visit, Cohen was brought in because the country’s lobbyists couldn’t secure a substantive Oval Office meeting with Trump. One source told the BBC that Cohen was paid $400,000, while another said he was paid $600,000.
A significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Under the deal reached with the New York attorney general’s office, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, specifically agreed to assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter. The broadened scope of Mr. Freidman’s cooperation may prove worrisome not only to Mr. Cohen, who is the target of a continuing federal investigation, but also Mr. Trump. The president’s lawyers are already resigned to the strong possibility that the inquiry into Mr. Cohen’s businesses could lead him to cooperate with federal prosecutors. That likelihood may now be greater, with Mr. Freidman potentially sharing what he knows with federal prosecutors in New York and the special counsel.
In short, Trump’s theatrics bear little resemblance to the progress of the investigation, which continues to ferret out details of mysterious meetingsin the Seychelles between Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater; Kirill Dmitriev, the director of one of Russia’s sovereign wealth funds; and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. (“The inquiry into the meetings in the Seychelles suggests there is growing interest on the Mueller team in whether foreign financing, specifically from Gulf states, has influenced President Trump and his administration.”) These meetings were apparently brokered by none other than George Nader, who also played a role in a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., an Israeli social media guru and a representative of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The number of witnesses and leads is growing, not shrinking. Trump is now seeing two of his closest associates (Stone and Cohen) being squeezed (although not yet indicted) and a whole new source of foreign money and influence-peddling apart from Russia being probed. Mueller’s prosecutors, who are expert in financial investigations, are, quite bluntly, having a field day as they track money and witnesses around the world. This sure doesn’t seem to be wrapping up. And finally, Giuliani’s notion that Mueller should stick to Russia — not investigate possible obstruction — is ludicrous. Presidents can commit crimes in office (although the timing of indictments remains an issue); no prosecutor having come across a pattern of obstruction can ignore it. In sum, Giuliani and Trump are flailing away, trying to contain the prosecutors. They are fighting a losing battle. Mueller is chasing down each and every lead, just as he should.
See the big con illustrated in the-big-con-a-visual-history-o
Former White House chief ethics counsel Richard Painter said there is more evidence to charge President Trump with a crime than there ever was against President Nixon, who resigned amid the threat of impeachment. Painter told CBS News on Monday that there is plenty of evidence of abuse of power and obstruction of justice against Trump. Painter said there is also “very strong evidence” to suggest that Trump’s family business dealings have violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bans presidents from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments. “Going after President Trump’s abuse of power and violations of the Constitution needs to be the number one priority,” Painter said. Trump’s behavior is “unprecedented,” he added. “I think this president is a great risk to our democracy and he has shown that since he was elected,” Painter said. Painter served in the George W. Bush administration from 2005 to 2007.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper writes in his new book that he has “no doubt” Russians swung the 2016 presidential election to President Trump. “Of course the Russian effort affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point,” Maddow read from Clapper’s book. “Less than 80,000 votes in three key states swung the election,” the excerpt continues. “I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.” Clapper’s book was released on Tuesday. Clapper said he didn’t plan on writing a book but changed his mind because of Trump’s presidency.
The coordination even smacks of collusion: james-clapper-suggests-paralle
Clapper warns of the threat posed by Trump’s dismissal of inconvenient facts as “fake news.” “I don’t believe our democracy can function for long on lies, particularly when inconvenient and difficult facts spoken by the practitioners of truth are dismissed as ‘fake news,’ ” Clapper writes. “I know that the Intelligence Community cannot serve our nation if facts are negotiable.” Clapper does not go so far as to state that Trump colluded with Russia, but he describes the president’s attitude in face of evidence of Russian interference as one of “aggressive indifference.” On Tuesday, he criticized the president for demanding the Justice Department investigate allegations that the FBI placed a mole in the Trump campaign. “When the president—this president or any president—tries to use the Department of Justice as kind of a private investigatory body, that’s not good for the country,” Clapper told CNN.
The former U.S. ambassador to Panama just likened President Donald Trump to a “velociraptor” who destroys any obstacles in his path. “In private, he is exactly like he is on TV, except that he doesn’t curse in public,” John D. Feeley told the New Yorker. “He’s like a velociraptor. He has to be boss, and if you don’t show him deference he kills you.” Former Marine Corps helicopter pilot and career diplomat John D. Feeley announced his resignation from his diplomatic post earlier this year, saying he could no longer serve under the Trump administration. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “Why I Could No Longer Serve This President,” Feeley explained that Trump had “warped and betrayed” what he considered as “the traditional core values of the United States.” He wrote, “America is undoubtedly less welcome in the world today.” Discussing the president’s leadership style in a new interview with the New Yorker, Feeley similarly expressed that he was troubled that the country was taking up an attitude that was increasingly detrimental t
o diplomacy. “If we do that,” he told the New Yorker, “my experience and my worldview is that we will become weaker and less prosperous.” Feeley said that in his first meeting with Trump, in June 2017, the president asked him: “So tell me—what do we get from Panama? What’s in it for us?” It was not just the president’s policies that troubled him, however. In the Post, Feeley wrote, “My values were not his values.” Over time, Feeley said he felt that he could no longer serve in the administration. He said, “as time went on, I thought to myself, Dude, there’s only so long you can skate along with that.”