This week brought the clearest-cut example to date that President Trump allegedly violated federal law while in office. BuzzFeed reported that Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. Two federal law enforcement sources told BuzzFeed that Trump ordered Cohen to falsely claim that work on the project ended months earlier than it did in order to obscure his involvement.
(Update, 10:30 p.m.: On Friday night, a spokesperson for the Special Counsel’s Office, Peter Carr, took the very rare step of saying that aspects of the Buzzfeed report were false. “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Carr wrote.)
The bombshell article also reported that Trump held “at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen” about the project, that Ivanka and Don Jr. received “regular, detailed updates,” and that Trump was keen to take Cohen up on his suggestion to travel to Russia to meet with President Putin about developing the tower.
Trumpworld is denying the whole story, with Trump, Rudy Giuliani and White House communications staffers smearing Cohen as a fabricator trying to save his own skin and BuzzFeed as an unreliable source.
Anthony Cormier, one of the BuzzFeed journalists, insists his reporting is “rock solid” and that he’s seen the underlying documents bolstering it. The special counsel learned of Trump’s directive through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, internal company emails, and text messages, per BuzzFeed.
Attorney general nominee Bill Barr affirmed that this sort of request would constitute obstruction of justice in his Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In that hearing, Barr pledged he would not fire Bob Mueller without cause or interfere with the special counsel probe.
Barr also said he would make Mueller’s final report public to the extent “the law allows,” releasing to Congress his own version of the report stripped of confidential, privileged or grand jury information.
That wasn’t enough for Democratic lawmakers and even several Republicans, who said the full report must see the light of day. Barr is expected to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.
Trump seems more focused on Cohen than Barr, signaling again this week that Cohen is covering up his father-in-law’s crimes.
That testimony will be severely limited due to Cohen’s ongoing cooperation with multiple federal probes.
Rick Gates is also continuing to cooperate with the feds, Mueller and his attorneys said in a request to postpone his sentencing.
Law firm Skadden Arps reached a civil settlement with federal law enforcement over work it did on Ukraine’s on Paul Manafort’s behalf. Mueller submitted a heavily-redacted filing detailing how Manafort allegedly violated his plea agreement.
ABC reported that more associates of far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and GOP operative Roger Stone have been subpoenaed, including Corsi’s stepson.
And Congress got more investigative fuel following reports that the FBI opened a counterintelligence probe into whether Trump was working as a Russian agent after he abruptly fired James Comey last May.
Trump also reportedly blocked the rest of his administration from accessing briefings on his face-to-face meetings with Putin, even confiscating one interpreter’s notes. Democrats want to dig further and possibly even subpoena the interpreter.