As several of Trump’s closest allies during the 2016 election find themselves accused or convicted of criminal wrongdoing, the net around the President continues to tighten, says Glenn Houlihan.
On the same day James Alex Fields Jr. was found guilty of killing Heather Heyer after ploughing his car into counter-protesters at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, special counsel Robert Mueller revealed that Trump advisor Michael Cohen spoke with a Russian during the 2016 campaign to explore the possibility of setting up a Trump-Putin meeting. It may be by chance that these two incidents overlapped on Friday, but there is nothing coincidental about the events themselves. They are the symptoms of a scuzzy presidency which treats itself as above the rule of law; happy to place “blame on both sides” as an innocent woman is murdered by a domestic terrorist while bleating senselessly that a legal investigation “should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States!”. Trump on Trump: always the victim, never the aggressor. Indeed, only successful presidents describe former members of staff – who they themselves handpicked – as “dumb as a rock”and lacking the necessary “mental capacity” for the job. If it wasn’t so dangerous it would almost be funny.
As it stands, Muller’s net is closing, and closing fast. Federal prosecutors have now asked a judge to sentence Cohen, the President’s former right-hand man, to a “substantial term of imprisonment” – potentially around four years – for his role inTrump’s election campaign. Alongside the allegations of Russian association in2016, Cohen is alleged to have made illegal payoffs to two women – adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom have claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump – at the behest of‘Individual One’, as Trump is referred to in the documents.
This is the first time prosecutors have alleged that MichaelCohen acted at the direction of Donald Trump, and, in doing so, may implicate the president in the violation of campaign finance laws. Cohen, who told VanityFair last September he’d “take a bullet” for the president, lostTrump’s support – and most likely any chance of a pardon – when his lawyer released audio of a conversation he had with Trump about the Stormy Daniel payment.Cohen has also admitted lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project, which Muller describes as a “lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government” and that Cohen continued to provide Trump with updates on “well into the campaign”.
Senator Diane Feinstein underlined the significance of these developments, saying in a statement that “these legal documents outline serious and criminal wrongdoing, including felony violations of campaign finance laws at the direction of President Trump”.
It isn’t just Cohen who Muller’s investigation has caught up with. Trump’s former national security adviser and campaign aide, retiredUnited States Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty in December last year to lying to the FBI after giving erroneous accounts of telephone calls in 2016 with Russia’s ambassador about Obama era sanctions imposed onMoscow and a United Nations vote regarding Israel.
However, it may be Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who is the investigation’s most damning source of evidence. In August Manafort was found guilty of eight of the eighteen charges against him, which included multiple charges of tax fraud. Muller ripped up Manafort’s plea deal and accused the political consultant of repeatedly lying to investors even after promising to cooperate. It is Manafort’s work for the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine which is of most interest to the investigators, and remains under close scrutiny.
It’s important to note that Manafort’s convictions and charges currently relate only to his private business and tax affairs and have no immediate relation to Trump. That said, it is alleged that Manafort was in the room during Donald Trump Jr’s notorious meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in which Trump Jr. was offered dirt on HilaryClinton.
Wherever Muller’s investigation finishes, one thing is clear: some of Trump’s closest allies during the 2016 election are now accused or convicted criminals. To assume Trump knew nothing of their activities is harder to believe as each day passes. His presidency is built on sand, and it won’t be long until it finally crumbles.