“…internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
This might be the most important phrase you will read today, perhaps in many days, maybe even in your lifetime.
It comes from the BuzzFeed report Thursday night that President Donald Trump told his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow — because he didn’t want it known that he was negotiating a lucrative project with Russia and Vladimir Putin while he was campaigning for, and winning, the Republican presidential nomination. Cohen gave this information to special counsel Robert Mueller, but reportedly only after Mueller already knew and had it in writing.
Cohen’s checkered history and many lies have always meant investigators would need documentation to back up his statements. And now, if the BuzzFeed report holds up, it appears they have it, obstruction of justice and suborning perjury on a platter. If you didn’t believe yesterday that impeachment was inevitable, you should start believing it today.
As former Clinton administration lawyer Ronald Klain tweeted Friday, answering a question on articles of impeachment from MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, “I don’t know how many is too many, but I do know that one is enough.”
Read more commentary:
Ex-GOP rep to Democrats: Gear up to impeach Trump. It’s your constitutional duty.
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Watergate lawyer: Michael Cohen is no John Dean but he still might bring down Trump
I would not ask Republicans in the Senate to commit at this point to trying and convicting Trump if in fact, as seems increasingly likely, the Democratic-led House impeaches him. But I think it is fair to ask Republicans right now: Do you really want to continue this record-long government shutdown because of a preposterous and largely symbolic campaign promise by a presidential candidate who never thought he’d win? A candidate who then and now puts his business interests and material wealth ahead of the national interest? Who insists on shutdown chaos that is hurting American workers, taxpayers, national security and the economy, even as it shakes trust in democracy and warms Putin’s heart?
Where will congressional Republicans draw the line and start making their own best judgments, for their constituents and their nation?
A turning point for Trump and GOP
BuzzFeed produced a bombshell, all right, and for more than one reason. The report clues us in to what Mueller may know. It could well be a turning point in this presidency and, one can only hope, within the GOP. And it was a revelation. Unlike so many other possible crimes, like asking Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails and saying he fired FBI director James Comey over “this Russia thing,” Trump hadn’t already announced this on Twitter or TV.
So here we have a presidential candidate whose lawyer and children are reportedly negotiating a profitable ($300 million) real estate deal with Russian officials, whose party is making its platform friendlier to Russia, whose aides and advisers (at least 16) are meeting with Russians, who conveys he’s eager for Russian help, and who constantly makes clear he admires and trusts Putin.
All through the campaign and into 2017, Trump dishonestly denies any business dealings with Russia. Then the investigations begin, and so does the lying about the Moscow project, and so does the speculation about its possible role in Trump’s embrace of Putin. The Russian president knew Trump and Cohen were lying and could expose them (the kompromat theory)? Trump still hopes to do the project and make the money? As he said himself, if he hadn’t won, “why should I lose lots of opportunities?”
BuzzFeed bombshell not the only one
The awful thing is that BuzzFeed’s potentially earthshaking nugget wasn’t the only shocking information that came out Thursday. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen offered a tech firm $50,000 to rig CNBC and Drudge poll results in favor of Trump — at Trump’s direction, Cohen claimed in a tweet after the report appeared. We also learned that many more migrant children were separated from their parents than originally known.
A day earlier, a top Housing and Urban Development official quit, in part over Trump attempts to divert Puerto Rico hurricane aid to Florida and Texas, based on his false claim that Puerto Rico was using the money to pay off its debt. As Vox noted Thursday, Congress directed the money to Puerto Rico so it would have been illegal to take it away.
This came the same week the Washington Post reported that Trump has gone to great lengths to hide details of his talks with Putin. And that was a day after the New York Times report that when Trump fired Comey, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether the president had been influenced or compromised by Russia.
The Trump presidency has seemed unsustainable since the day it began. Yet two years later, Trump is still in office and moving steadily toward realizing the deeply pessimistic vision he laid out in his inaugural address. Each new court filing and investigative report is a step toward making it stop. And each Republican who breaks with Trump can help.
In times of trouble, when things get scary, “look for the helpers,” Mister Rogers said. We’re looking at you, Republicans, and hoping. Hard.
Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY and author of “The Art of the Political Deal: How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock.” Follow her on Twitter: @JillDLawrence