While everything about the Trump Crisis is deeply abnormal and frustratingly opaque, we can often rest assured knowing that, no matter what, Trump always makes things worse for Trump. The closest thing to normalcy in this ongoing sack-full-of-monkeys is the predictability of Trump’s lies and the assumption that the truth is the exact opposite of everything he blurts.
Along those lines, it’s a safe bet that Robert Mueller has successfully checkmated Donald Trump. We don’t know for certain, of course, because we’re mostly unaware of the precise nature of the special counsel’s evidence against Trump, nor do we know exactly the complete scope of the Russia investigation. But we know enough today to backstop the conclusion that Trump lied his way into the dreaded perjury trap.
First we learned this week that Paul Manafort’s attorneys have been in contact with Trump’s attorneys, passing along valuable information about what Mueller’s been up to, while also very likely coordinating their lies. Naturally, the Red Hats will scream fake news if not for the reality that the source for the New York Times bombshell was none other than Rudy Guiliani, who was quoted in the article.
The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.
We also know that Mueller delayed a scheduled update for the judge in Manafort’s case by around ten days, during which time Trump submitted his written responses to Mueller’s office. So, it appears, at least, that Mueller might have delayed telling the court that Manafort has been lying and coordinating with Trump’s lawyers in order to keep his awareness of the coordination quiet until after Trump submitted his answers. It’s entirely possible, therefore, that Mueller set a trap for Trump to see whether Manafort’s lies to investigators are duplicated in Trump’s written responses.
Imagine for a second the legal ramifications for Trump if both he and Manafort told the same lies to Mueller, and then imagine if Mueller has both testimonial and documentary evidence to prove that Trump and Manafort lied. That’d be checkmate for both men, especially the president. Again, Trump’s responses were presented in writing, therefore wiggle room for the president would remain minimal at best.
Perjury trap successfully sprung.
Then, on Wednesday, we learned from CNN that Trump denied knowing about the infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian operatives to receive stolen information — nabbed by agents working with Russian military intelligence — about Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Trump’s denial was included in his written responses to Mueller’s team of untouchables.
We should assume Trump is lying about that, too. In this case, as with so many others, there’s evidence to back up our assumption.
Between June 3 and June 7, 2016 we know from Don Junior’s emails (published by Junior online) that the June 9 meeting was being planned and discussed by Junior and Rob Goldstone, a flamboyant emissary for Emin and Aras Agalarov.
On June 6, Junior’s phone records indicate he called a blocked number between two different calls with Agalarov. There was another longer call to the blocked number afterward as well. CNN noted that Corey Lewandowski once said Trump’s home number was blocked — the number doesn’t show up on caller ID and so forth. It’s possible, therefore, that the so-called “blocked” calls were between Junior and Senior.
The phone calls of course are a bit speculative. What happened next, however, isn’t nearly as speculative.
Plans for the Trump Tower meeting were locked the next day, June 7. Junior told Rob Goldstone that the roster of Trump officials in the meeting “will likely be Paul Manafort my brother in law and me.”
On the same day, June 7, Trump won the New Jersey primary. During his victory speech, Trump blurted this:
“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” Trump said. “I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”
Is it me or does this sound like Trump was giving his disciples a sneak preview of what’s coming up next on his “show”? Tune in Monday, same Trump time, same Trump channel, because we’ve got dirt on Hillary!
Specifically, Trump announced he had new dirt on Hillary on the same day the Trump Tower meeting was locked. And the date for the announcement of the dirt was set for Monday, June 13, the next possible viable day for a big scoop from the Trump team.
Earlier this year, Michael Cohen confirmed that Trump knew about the meeting ahead of time. Junior apparently told Senior on or around June 8, prior to the official gathering. When he was told, Senior provided his greenlight for Manafort, Junior, and Kushner to move forward with the Russians.
The upshot here is that Trump clearly knew about the meeting and, fast forwarding to the past couple of weeks, perjured himself about his knowledge of the meeting within his written answers to Mueller’s questions about collusion-slash-conspiracy. It’s also possible that Trump elaborated with details similar to Manafort’s responses during questioning by the special counsel. This alone constitutes an entire array of federal crimes: perjury, conspiracy, witness tampering, obstruction, and so on.
The only remaining questions here are, 1) whether there’s further evidence that Trump knew about and greenlighted the meeting, and 2) whether Trump will be indicted for these crimes or whether criminality will be left up to the House Democrats. And ultimately, what began as an investigation into events that transpired beginning in 2016, has come down to stupidity and lies told within the last two months. The cover-up has amplified and augmented the seriousness of the crimes.
Conclusion? Check and mate.
Photo: Mark International