[Vision2020] Prosecutors’ Narrative Is Clear: Trump Defrauded Voters.
ngier006 at gmail.com
Sun Dec 9 11:05:27 PST 2018
WASHINGTON (NY Times)— The latest revelations by prosecutors investigating
President Trump and his team draw a portrait of a candidate who personally
directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 election and whose
advisers had more contact with Russia than Mr. Trump has ever acknowledged.
In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and New
York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do
business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian
agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this
account he ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of
impropriety in violation of campaign finance law.
The prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo filed on Friday that they
viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to
squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic
election — and by extension they effectively accused the president of
defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.
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On Saturday, Mr. Trump dismissed the filings, and his lawyer, Rudolph W.
Giuliani, minimized the importance of any potential campaign finance
violations. Democrats, however, said they could lead to impeachment.
In the memo
in the case of Mr. Cohen
prosecutors from the Southern District of New York depicted Mr. Trump,
identified only as “Individual-1,” as an accomplice in the hush payments.
While Mr. Trump was not charged, the reference echoed Watergate, when
President Richard M. Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator by a
grand jury investigating the cover-up of the break-in at the Democratic
“While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election
knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks or found any number of other legal
ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election
from the shadows,” the prosecutors wrote.
“He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two
women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital
affairs with Individual-1,” they continued. “In the process, Cohen deceived
the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a
substantial effect on the election.”
The exposure on campaign finance laws poses a challenge to Mr. Trump’s
legal team, which before now has focused mainly on rebutting allegations of
collusion and obstruction while trying to call into question Mr. Mueller’s
“Until now, you had two different charges, allegations, whatever you want
to call them,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the incoming
Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview
on Saturday. “One was collusion with the Russians. One was obstruction of
justice and all that entails. And now you have a third — that the president
was at the center of a massive fraud against the American people.”
The episode recalled a criminal case brought against former Senator John
Edwards, Democrat of North Carolina, who while running for president in
2008 sought to cover up an extramarital affair that resulted in pregnancy.
He was charged with violating campaign finance laws stemming from money
used to hide his pregnant lover, but a trial ended
2012 with an acquittal on one charge and a mistrial on five others.
Mr. Giuliani pointed to that outcome on Saturday to argue that the
president should not be similarly charged.
“The President is not implicated in campaign finance violations because
based on Edwards case and others the payments are not campaign
contributions,” Mr. Giuliani wrote on Twitter
responsible prosecutor would premise a criminal case on a questionable
interpretation of the law.”
But Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty under that interpretation of the law, and
even if Mr. Trump cannot be charged while in office, the House could still
investigate or even seek to impeach him. The framers of the Constitution
specifically envisioned impeachment as a remedy for removing a president
who obtained office through corrupt means, and legal scholars have long
concluded that the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” does not
necessarily require a statutory crime.
If the campaign finance case as laid out by prosecutors is true, Mr. Nadler
said, Mr. Trump would be likely to meet the criteria for an impeachable
offense, and he said he would instruct his committee to investigate when he
takes over in January.
But he added that did not necessarily mean that the committee should vote
to impeach Mr. Trump. “Is it serious enough to justify impeachment?” he
asked. “That is another question.”
The strategy of Mr. Trump’s lawyers has been predicated on the assurance by
senior Justice Department officials that if Mr. Mueller found evidence that
the president broke the law, he would not be indicted while in office. But
the hush money investigation is being led by a separate office of
prosecutors in New York, and far less time has been spent publicly or
privately trying to protect Mr. Trump from that inquiry.
And while the prevailing view at the Justice Department is that a sitting
president cannot be indicted, that does not mean a president cannot be
charged after leaving office. The prosecutors in New York have examined the
statute of limitations on the campaign finance violations and believe
charges could be brought against Mr. Trump if he is not re-elected,
according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers view that as unlikely if it is based solely on the
At the White House on Friday evening, staff members gathered for a holiday
dinner with Mr. Trump and the first lady as if nothing were wrong. Mr.
Trump’s advisers have told him that the latest filings do not present a
danger to him legally, although they cautioned him that the political risks
were hard to calculate, according to people familiar with the discussions.
One adviser said the president’s team had concluded that Mr. Trump was not
likely to face a threat from prosecution in the New York case because if
Mr. Cohen had more to deliver, then prosecutors would not be bringing him
to court for sentencing in the coming week or requesting substantial prison
time. Another adviser said that the Cohen threat appeared to be over.
For public consumption, at least, Mr. Trump and his Republican allies chose
to focus on the Russia matter on Saturday, arguing again that no wrongdoing
had been proved.
“On the Mueller situation, we’re very happy with what we are reading
because there was no collusion whatsoever,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the
White House. “The last thing I want is help from Russia on a campaign. You
should ask Hillary Clinton about Russia.”
American intelligence agencies have said
Russians were in fact trying to aid Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who will be the top Republican on the
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the new Congress, which
begins next month, said he saw no reason conservatives should walk away
from Mr. Trump given his record of policy achievements and questions about
the impartiality of the president’s investigators.
“I always come back to the facts,” he said in an interview. “To date, not
one bit of evidence of any type of coordination or conspiracy between the
Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election.”
If prosecutors have conclusive evidence of conspiracy, they have not shown
their hand. But the filings in recent days made clear that while Mr. Trump
repeatedly insisted he had no business dealings in Russia, it was not
Mr. Trump’s business was pursuing a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow until
June 2016, while Mr. Trump was locking up the Republican nomination and
long after Mr. Cohen had previously said the project was dropped.
At the same time, Mr. Cohen, starting in November 2015, was in contact with
a well-connected Russian who proposed “synergy on a government level” with
the Trump campaign and proposed a meeting between Mr. Trump and President
Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The Russian said such a meeting could grease
the way for the tower, telling Mr. Cohen that there was “no bigger warranty
in any project than consent” by Mr. Putin.
In his own court memo, Mr. Mueller said that Mr. Cohen’s false account that
the deal had collapsed in January 2016 was designed “in hopes of limiting
the investigations into possible Russian influence on the 2016 U.S.
presidential election — an issue of heightened national interest.”
The president’s lawyers have been deeply concerned that Mr. Trump could be
portrayed as an unindicted co-conspirator in court documents. As he was
preparing to submit written responses to questions from Mr. Mueller last
month, Mr. Trump’s lawyers learned about language the special counsel
wanted to include in a plea agreement with a conservative conspiracy
theorist, who was under investigation for his links to WikiLeaks, which
released Democratic emails that intelligence agencies said were stolen by
The document said that the conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, understood
that one of Mr. Trump’s associates, Roger J. Stone Jr., was “in regular
contact with senior members of the Trump campaign, including with
then-candidate Donald J. Trump,” when Mr. Stone asked Mr. Corsi to find out
from the head of WikiLeaks what he had in store for the Clinton campaign.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers feared that Mr. Mueller was trying to cast Mr. Trump as
an unindicted co-conspirator. Mr. Trump’s lawyers held off sending the
answers and demanded a meeting with Justice Department officials and Mr.
Mueller’s team, according to one person close to the president.
In a meeting at the Justice Department that was presided over by the
principal associate deputy attorney general, Ed O’Callaghan, Mr. Trump’s
lawyers — including Mr. Giuliani and Jay Sekulow — expressed concern to Mr.
Mueller’s team. It was unclear what Mr. Mueller’s team said in response,
but shortly thereafter Mr. Trump sent in his answers.
Mr. Corsi has declined to accept a plea deal and has not been charged with
Although Mr. Trump asserted on Saturday that he was “happy” with the latest
filings, others did not agree. The Cohen information alone “puts
impeachment on the table, and I can’t help but think that that is what this
is barreling toward,” said Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican
strategist who has been critical of Mr. Trump. “Any other presidency at
this point would have been done when their own Department of Justice filed
something like that.”
But while the House can impeach a president on a majority vote, conviction
in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote, meaning that unless at least 20
Republican senators abandon Mr. Trump, he is safe from removal. Despite the
losses in the House last month, Republicans, if anything, have moved closer
to the president.
While liberals are pressing Democrats to move on impeachment, party leaders
remain wary, fearing a backlash. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a
Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, said the standard set during
the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying under oath certainly
puts Mr. Trump “in impeachment territory” because of the campaign finance
“On the other hand,” he added, “in the compendium of Donald Trump’s
offenses against the rule of law and the Constitution, this may not be in
the top five.”
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.
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