“For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia,” said Donald Trump on July 26, 2016.
That “the record” on which he swore was Twitter rather than, say, before congressional investigators, ultimately may prove beside the point.
Trump was lying to the constituents he sought to serve as president.
A question from a constituent: Why lie?
As many a fact-checker attests, when Trump’s lips are moving, untruth generally emanates. Some lies, however, are of more consequence than others.
This whopper now has Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress. Cohen, who was negotiating with Russian interests about building a Trump tower in Moscow (to be named Zero Investments Tower?), acknowledged misrepresenting the extent to which he and his boss were working with Russian interests on the matter.
If Ken Starr went after Bill Clinton for the definition of “is,” Robert Mueller now is interested in Donald Trump’s definition of “zero.” As every American should be.
More important is for us all to understand why Trump would lie about it.
After Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump said of his Moscow dealings that “everybody knew. I mean, we were very open about it.”
You mean the Russian empire-building designs of which there were “zero”?
Cohen admitted that the Trump Organization was pursuing the project as late as June 2016, the same month of the Trump Tower meeting with Russians meant to share “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
In written responses to questions from Robert Mueller, Trump has said he didn’t know about that meeting.
In his tower. Attended by his son. Attended by his son-in-law. Attended by his campaign manager.
Trump didn’t “know” about this – zero knowledge – until he dictated, aboard Air Force One, a letter providing a contemptuous story that the meeting was to discuss the adoption of Russian children – a tale that Donald Jr. later admitted wasn’t true.
Regardless, Trump has said that it isn’t a crime to get dirt on an opponent.
So why didn’t he simply insert himself into the meeting, maybe have the speaker phone squawking? Did he have “Fox and Friends” to watch?
Following this train of thought: If someone far away, on some couch somewhere, hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s computer system, who wouldn’t use dirt that emerged against the nasty, rotten Dems?
Richard Nixon’s boys were asking the same back before there were emails to hack.
Trump biographer Tim O’Brien says that with Trump’s trail of deception, “the unforgiving force of the U.S. justice system, which (Trump) has tried to undermine since becoming president, is encircling him.” Mueller appears to have locked in, writes O’Brien, on the “fact pattern” of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
This could include the apparent engagement of two key Trump insiders, Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, with Wikileaks, the vessel for the sharing of those hacked DNC emails.
Then there were Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in a July 2016 press conference.
That same month, Mueller asserts in the indictment of Russian hackers, those clandestine figures attempted to “spearphish” email accounts at a domain used for Clinton’s personal emails.
It’s significant that the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has already wrapped up its investigation and concluded that, as Trump says, there was “no collusion.”
Democrats who will run that show in 2019 have more questions, though. One person they want to testify is the now-forthcoming Michael Cohen.
Can Cohen be trusted? Here’s what Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said, “Obviously, you have to be a little bit ginger with anybody who’s been lying for a long time,” while calling him now, “a truth-telling refugee in Trump world.” Call him Patient Zero.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.