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The two most important words in American politics today are these two: “if true.”
“President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter,” Buzzfeed News reported last night.
Importantly, the article adds, “The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.”
NBC News has not yet confirmed the Buzzfeed report. But if true — and if Mueller does have the receipts — why is this news significant?
Well, in 1974, the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon was obstruction of justice for – among other things – “approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counselling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States.”
It also included approving/condoning/counseling “false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings.”
In 1998, the first article of impeachment against Bill Clinton included “efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence.”
And just this week, President Trump’s attorney general pick, William Barr, was asked this question:
KLOBUCHAR: “In your memo … you wrote on Page 1 that a president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?
BARR: Yes… Any person who persuades another…
Bottom line: The chances of impeachment proceedings against Trump — remember, impeachment is the debate about whether a president committed high crimes and misdemeanors, not removal from office — are much higher today than they were yesterday.
Also, if Mueller does have these company emails, text messages and other documents, WHAT ELSE does he know that hasn’t been reported yet?
Trump reportedly instructing his attorney fixer to lie to Congress is a really big deal. But the subject matter of the lie — business dealings with Russia — might even be bigger
While the prospect that the president of the United States asked his former lawyer fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress is a BIG story, let’s also don’t lose sight of what Cohen actually told Congress: that Trump’s business dealings with Russia stopped in January 2016 instead of June 2016.
As Mueller revealed back in November:
“The Moscow Project was discussed multiple times within the Company and did not end in January 2016. Instead, as late as approximately June 2016, COHEN … discussed efforts to obtain Russian governmental approval for the Moscow Project.”
And what was Trump saying about Russia on the campaign trail back then?