When special counsel Robert Mueller issues his final report regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and whatever connection the Trump campaign might have had to it, it is highly likely that President Donald Trump and at least two of his children will be caught up in the mix, according to a former deputy special counsel and federal prosecutor.
Peter Zeidenberg wrote in USA Today that the latest developments in Mueller’s investigation are “ominous” for the president, and Americans should “expect to see a case of conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election to be laid out in court.”
Defenders of the president have, despite the obvious progress of the Mueller investigation — more than 30 indictments or guilty pleas, including Trump’s campaign chairman, personal lawyer, national security adviser, deputy campaign manager and foreign policy adviser — consistently argued that “no collusion” has been proved. While it is true that the charges made public have not alleged conspiracy (there is no crime of “collusion”) it should be clear to all but the most obtuse by now that the endgame is drawing near. Mueller is laying out the predicate for a wide-ranging conspiracy case that will likely ensnare the president’s family and, quite likely, Trump himself.
Cohen’s plea on Thursdayprovides a key ingredient — motive. For those who long wondered why throughout the presidential campaign Trump could not bring himself to say a critical word about Russian President Vladimir Putin, we now know the answer: Trump was hoping to do business in Russia, and doing so would require the approval of Putin.
The putative Moscow project helps provide motive for Trump to have curried favor with Putin. And once Trump repeatedly and publicly denied having any business interests in Russia, Putin had leverage over Trump, because he knew this claim was an easily disprovable lie.
The issue of Trump’s business prospects in Russia could also pose a problem for his son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Cohen’s disclosure exposes not just Trump as having lied about his business interests in Russia, it potentially also exposes his family as well. Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner have both testified before Congress. We know Trump Jr. was asked abouthis role in negotiations about building Trump Tower Moscow, and while a transcript of Kushner’s testimony has not been made public, it is hard to imagine that he was not also asked about the Trump Organization’s business ties to Russia.
We now know that Cohen “briefed family members of” Trump about the progress of the venture. Did they testify truthfully about this? Mueller either knows or no doubt soon will find out.