Individual 1 is at it again. This morning, he went to the old reliable: ‘AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!’ But the filings yesterday from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in New York indicate that this is an unintentionally self-deprecatory statement. For once, Trump is being far too modest about his abilities. He and his fellow colluders were colluding so much that they have already helped rack up no less than 192 criminal charges. So perhaps Individual 1 should take a step back for a moment from frenetic tweeting to admire his greatest handiwork before it collapses entirely.
It’s the very sweep of his schemes that is likely to prove his undoing. There are too many collaborators to pardon. Like Saul Bellow’s protagonist Henderson the Rain King, Trump’s credo was, ‘I want, I want, want!’ There were plenty of associates around who tried to fulfill those wants. Now their misdeeds are coming into view.
For a start, the Justice Department states that Trump himself ordered illegal payments to several women, which would be a federal crime. According to the court filing, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen executed hush money payments ‘in coordination with and at the direct of’ numero uno. Expect to learn more about the role of Trump’s buddy David Pecker, the chairman of America Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer. Enquiring minds will want to know what Pecker, who received an immunity deal in August, is telling federal authorities about Trump’s maneuverings.
Then there is Paul Manafort. Mueller says that Manafort told ‘multiple discernible lies’ to prosecutors, most notably about his ties to Russian intelligence. That ‘discernible’ should be a red flag for Trump, as it indicates that Mueller was able to discern with ease when Manafort was offering up bogus information. Manafort also apparently dissembled about his links to the Trump White House after January 2016. It seems that he has been what the Washington Post delicately puts as ‘in contact’ with a senior administration official after he was indicted in October 2017. Which official? What did they talk about? According to Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norm Eisen, in a probing op-ed, ‘considering public statements about potential pardons, it is not hard to imagine they could implicate the president and others in a conspiracy to obstruct justice or witness tampering if, for example, they suggested a potential pardon if Mr Manafort protected the president.’
Like Manafort, Cohen had direct contacts with Russians. One friendly fellow from Russia apparently offered Cohen the chance for ‘political synergy’ with the Trump campaign, an offer that Cohen may not have followed up because he was already wheeling and dealing with Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press spokesman, about building a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen also sought to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin in 2016 during the election campaign.
So this much seems clear: Trump and his cohort were in contact were with Russians even as they were hacking the Democrat National Committee. Much of their dealings revolved around Trump’s business affairs, which continue to remain occluded from public view. And Trump was only too happy to play ball with Moscow.
By the time this is over, Trump may make Benedict Arnold look like a patriot.