Michael Cohen swore in court that Donald Trump was negotiating with Russia well into the Presidential campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, admitted in court on Thursday that he had engaged in negotiations to build a tower in Moscow for Mr. Trump well into the 2016 presidential campaign, far later than previously known.
Mr. Cohen said he discussed the status of the project with Mr. Trump on more than three occasions and briefed Mr. Trump’s family members about it. He also admitted he agreed to travel to Russia for meetings on the project.
Of course, this shows that Donald Trump repeatedly lied about his business relations with Russia. But that isn’t entirely surprising. Donald Trump is a liar. He has lied constantly about almost everything. What is perhaps even more interesting about this revelation is that it shows again that Donald Trump was being personally kept in the loop about something that was, at the least unethical, and possibly illegal.
In other words, Donald Trump cannot defend against the actions of his underlings by claiming he had no idea what they were doing, a defense that was famously used by Former President Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal, when Reagan’s National Security Advisor John Poindexter testified that he had kept certain details, the illegal details, of what they were doing from being communicated to the President:
Former President Ronald Reagan, in testimony made public Thursday, said he had no recollection of ever being told that profits from Iran weapons sales were diverted to the Nicaraguan contras, and that he ”never had any inkling” White House aide Oliver North was secretly helping the guerrillas.
Reagan, who was subpoenaed by the defense in the upcoming trial of his onetime national security adviser, John Poindexter, neither clearly exonerated Poindexter nor critically undermined his defense. Nor did his videotaped testimony do much to answer questions about who authorized the diversion at a time when such aid to the contras was illegal.
But his deposition did reveal startling gaps in the memory of the 79-year-old former president. In all, Reagan said ”I don`t recall” or ”I can`t remember” 88 times in the eight hours of testimony taken Feb. 16-17 in Los Angeles.
At one point, Reagan said he could not identify Gen. John Vessey, who served for more than three years as his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At other times, he said he could not identify a picture of contra leader Adolfo Calero, could not recall a shipment of Hawk missiles to Iran in November 1985, had no memory of signing one presidential finding relating to the shipment of weapons to Iran and had only the slightest recollection of signing a second such finding.
He also appeared hazy on the identity of Eugene Hasenfus, an American whose shooting down over Nicaragua helped precipitate the unraveling of the then-secret Iran-contra operation. And Reagan seemed totally unable to recall what the Tower Commission-a panel he appointed in December 1986 to investigate the affair-said in its report three months later.
Poindexter, who testified during the 1987 Iran-contra congressional hearings that he never told Reagan about the diversion scheme to allow the president ”plausible deniability,” sat in the courtroom during Reagan`s deposition.
Poindexter, who is charged with lying to Congress, obstruction of Congress and conspiracy, is scheduled to go on trial March 5. His defense appears to rest on the theory that Reagan either approved of or knew about his aides` secret activities on the contras` behalf.
Reagan denied any knowledge of the diversion. But he also emphasized that he repeatedly told his staff he wanted to help the contras in any way possible as long as no one broke the law.
Donald Trump does not appear to have been worrying about “plausible deniability” when his lawyer was speaking with Russia about opening a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. Michael Cohen has sworn in court that he had briefed Donald Trump personally about the details on multiple occasions. This is also not the first time Michael Cohen has sworn in court about how he had personally spoken with Donald Trump about potentially unethical and/or illegal actions he was taking. Recall that in late August, Michael Cohen swore in court that he had made illegal campaign contributions, in the form of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, in coordination with and at the direction of Donald Trump:
Michael Cohen, the former longtime fixer and personal attorney for Donald Trump, appeared in federal court in New York Tuesday afternoon, pleaded guilty to eight counts and said that he made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.”
The “candidate” Cohen referred to was not named in court or in the criminal information charging document but one of Cohen’s lawyers, Lanny Davis, later said that Cohen had “testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime.”
The campaign finance violations are associated with Cohen’s role in alleged hush money agreements with two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who claim to have had affairs with Trump.
To further substantiate his sworn statement, Michael Cohen also released a recording of him speaking with Donald Trump about those illegal payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal:
Trump’s involvement in the details of unethical and/or illegal actions is not an aberration. It hasn’t only been Michael Cohen who has been shown to have discussed the details of potentially unethical and/or illegal actions with Donald Trump. Recall that in July of 2017, when news broke of a meeting that had taken place in June 2016 in Trump Tower NYC between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and some Russians, a meeting that involved discussion of information the Russians may have had about Hillary Clinton, and involved discussion of sanctions that the Russians wished to have removed, the initial and untruthful response given by Donald Trump Jr. was in fact dictated personally by his father, Donald Trump:
The lawyers’ memo acknowledged that President Trump had indeed dictated an initial statement to the New York Times. It went on to defend the president’s message as “short but accurate.”
“You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr.,” said the Jan. 29, 2018, letter from attorneys Jay Sekulow and John Dowd.
However, the original explanation for the meeting was not as accurate as the lawyers’ asserted.
The statement from Donald Trump Jr. said the meeting focused “primarily” on Russian adoptions. But while the adoptions were indeed mentioned at the meeting, there is evidence that the broader topic of sanctions against well-connected Russians under the Magnitsky Act received significant attention.
So, after the latest revelations from Michael Cohen, we now know that Donald Trump was personally involved in talks that were being made during the Presidential campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, just as we know that Donald Trump was personally involved in making illegal hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and just as we know that Donald Trump was personally involved in dictating an untruthful explanation of the purpose of the Trump Tower NYC meeting between Russians and his son, son-in-law, and campaign manager.
Considering how involved Donald Trump was in the details of those acts, are we to believe that Donald Trump had zero knowledge at the time of the Trump Tower NYC meeting itself? Are we to believe that Donald Trump had zero knowledge of the actions of his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who appears to have been illegally negotiating with both Russia and Turkey before and after the campaign? Are we to believe that Donald Trump had zero knowledge of the deep associations his Campaign Manager Paul Manafort had with Russian oligarchs, including attempts Manafort was making during the campaign to settle a multi-million dollar debt with one of them? Are we to believe that Donald Trump had zero knowledge of the actions that were being taken by his Campaign Advisor George Papadopoulos, who was busy meeting with Russian associates about Hillary Clinton’s hacked e-mails? Are we to believe that Donald Trump had zero knowledge about his longtime associate Roger Stone’s attempts to coordinate with Wikileaks about the release of Hillary Clinton’s hacked e-mails? Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have attempted to maintain any plausible deniability with regards to potentially unethical and/or illegal actions undertaken by Michael Cohen. Why would he have done so with all of the other potentially unethical and/or illegal actions undertaken by his other close subordinates?
Ronald Reagan was able to claim plausible deniability of the illegal actions that took place as part of the Iran-Contra scandal. People who worked under Ronald Reagan, like John Poindexter and Ollie North, took all the heat instead. It’s becoming more and more difficult to imagine Donald Trump being able to do the same.