There is a new report out today that President Donald Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The sources are described as two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter. It is not clear if that means two officials currently involved or previously involved (which would include some of the fired or removed officials like Andrew McCabe or James Comey). Nevertheless, if true, such an allegation could easily be translated into a criminal allegation or article of impeachment. It comes down to the proof. What is clear is that, if the proof is Cohen alone, they have work to do on this one. Cohen is a serial liar and felon. I have written that I agree with the Democrats in calling him to testify and that his testimony could prove useful in giving needed details. However, Cohen is about as credible as a mob torpedo without being thoroughly and completely verified by more credible sources. There are also some gaps in the story as well as obvious defenses.
The Buzzfeed story says that, while he was denying any business deals in Moscow, Trump supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign and to meet with President Vladimir Putin. He is quoted as saying “Make it happen” to Cohen. Cohen says that Trump later told him to lie about the timeline and the effort to build a Trump Tower worth hundreds of millions in Moscow.
Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, though he could claim that this was not a business deal but simply one of many prospective deals. Later (when Cohen flipped and revealed the alleged details) Trump gave the answer that he should have given from the outset: “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”
That is plausible for a developer. However Cohen is saying that after the election he was directed coached to lie to Congress by Trump and further implicates Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. in misleading statements about their claims of minimal roles. Yet, again, perjury and false statements prosecutions must be based on something a bit more tangible than Trump Jr. referring to being “peripherally aware” of the project. That is a subjective description and a prosecution would normally involve more concrete false statements that can be proven objectively to be untrue.
Nevertheless, the story only highlights the significance of the testimony of Cohen on February 7th. Cohen however may be getting cold feet after no allegations arose his week over his arranging to rig polls and pocketing money illegally from the Trump organization. Lying the public in a campaign is not a crime or most of Congress would be dealing with constituents from the federal pen. However, encouraging a congressional witness to lie is a crime. You just have to prove it.