Although the former mayor says that he is acting as Donald Trump’s outside legal counsel, it’s increasingly clear that his main role is that of attack dog. His principal assignment: to bloody Mueller, and, if possible, disable him.
.. During his sitdown with Ingraham, Giuliani extended this argument, arguing that for “the same reason they can’t indict him, they can’t issue a subpoena to him.”
These statements raise an obvious question: If Mueller really has nothing on Trump, and if, in any case, he is barred from bringing an indictment or issuing a Presidential subpoena, why are the President and his attorneys so concerned about the investigation?
.. As the Republican congressman Trey Gowdy remarked to Trump’s former lead attorney, John Dowd, after he called on Mueller to wrap it up, “If you have an innocent client … act like it.”
the special counsel’s team has proceeded methodically for the past twelve months on at least five distinct but connected fronts:
- Russian trolling and voter-targeting on social-media platforms;
- the hacking and release of Democratic e-mails;
- direct contacts between members of the Trump campaign and individuals connected to the Russian government;
- Trump’s business dealings with people and entities connected to Russia; and
- possible obstruction of justice.
.. Strictly speaking, that is a separate probe. But nobody on Trump’s team doubts that if and when Cohen decides to coöperate with the prosecutors, Mueller’s investigators will be all ears.
.. as early as last fall, Mueller’s team demanded information from some of the companies that hired the Trump fixer as a consultant after the election. This suggests that the investigation is running many months ahead of the media, and also, perhaps, ahead of the White House’s knowledge of its activities.
.. we know, courtesy of a leak to the Times by Trump’s lawyers, is that Mueller wants to pose at least forty-nine questions to the President himself. Despite Trump’s constant refrain that there was no collusion with Russia, many of these questions also relate directly to what happened before the 2016 election.
.. “During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media, or other acts aimed at the campaign?” and
“What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”
.. if Mueller found evidence of a serious crime involving the President, and he believed it should be prosecuted in an ordinary court of law, he could go to Rosenstein, who in this case would be the acting Attorney General—and the ultimate decision would fall on Rosenstein’s shoulders.
.. Most people in Washington don’t expect Mueller to bring criminal charges against Trump. If he doesn’t, and Trump doesn’t fire him before he completes his investigation, the key issue—whether or not to impeach Trump—may well be left to Congress. And since Congress operates in the court of public opinion, this would ultimately be a political decision.
That, of course, is another reason that Trump brought in Giuliani—to stick up for him and his family in public, even if that involves defending the indefensible
.. we can rest assured that they won’t be put off by Giuliani’s bluster.
During the presidential campaign, Michael D. Cohen got a Google alert for a breaking story: “Russian President Vladimir Putin Praises Donald Trump as ‘Talented’ and ‘Very Colorful.’”
For most American politicians, that article in December 2015 would hardly have been welcome news. But Mr. Cohen, whose role as personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump has been firmly rooted in the transactional world of his boss, saw opportunity. He emailed an old friend who had been talking about seeking Kremlin support to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and sent him the article.
“Now is the time,” Mr. Cohen wrote. “Call me.”
.. Mr. Trump values few things more than loyalty, but secrecy is one of them. For years, to keep the circle of people involved as small as possible, he chose to have Mr. Cohen serve as his legal attack dog from a perch inside Trump Tower in Manhattan instead of having outside counsel deal with his problems, according to two people familiar with their relationship.
.. In private, Mr. Cohen has compared himself to Tom Hagen, the smooth consigliere to the mafia family in the movie “The Godfather.”
.. The lawyer seemed to relish his reputation as Mr. Trump’s “pit bull” and embraced an aggressive — some say bullying — approach to solving problems.
.. he never got a senior administration job, which people who know him say he expected
.. Another payment that the F.B.I. is said to be investigating, for $150,000, was made by American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer.
.. Mr. Trump, who was from Queens, and the Bronx-born Mr. Pecker viewed themselves as outsiders looking in at an elitist Manhattan establishment.
.. Several people close to A.M.I. and Mr. Cohen have said that the lawyer was in regular contact with company executives during the presidential campaign, when The Enquirer regularly heralded Mr. Trump and attacked his rivals.
.. A.M.I. had shared Ms. McDougal’s allegations with Mr. Cohen, though the company said it did so only as part of efforts to corroborate her story, which it said it could not do.
.. The Times reported that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was looking into a $150,000 donation to Mr. Trump’s charitable foundation from a Ukrainian billionaire that was solicited by Mr. Cohen during the 2016 campaign.
.. Mr. Mueller has examined Mr. Cohen’s postelection role in forwarding to the administration a Ukraine-Russia peace proposal pushed by a Ukrainian lawmaker.
.. Mr. Cohen wasted no time, arranging for Mr. Trump to sign a letter of intent for the Moscow tower deal. But the project seemed to stall in the coming months.
Rather than let it go, Mr. Cohen reached out directly to Mr. Putin’s press secretary in January 2016, asking for assistance. Later, he asserted that his effort was unsuccessful.
This isn’t the worst scandal Trump is facing right now, but there could be serious consequences — particularly for Cohen. If these claims are proven true, he could be disbarred. It all raises the question: Why doesn’t Trump, a billionaire, have a better lawyer?.. Before crossing paths with the mogul in real life, Cohen worked as a personal-injury lawyer, and earned a sizable fortune in the taxi-medallion business in New York and Chicago, and in the Ukrainian ethanol business (he and his brother both married Ukrainian women). As Trump was launching his reality-TV career in the 2000s, Cohen and his family had moved on to real estate, buying up units in various Trump properties... Cohen said that as executive VP he “oversaw business dealings globally.” He described his role as “special counsel” as “family fix-it guy,” but others have used more aggressive nicknames, calling him Trump’s “pit bull,” “Ray Donovan,” or “Tom,” as in Tom Hagen, Vito Corleone’s consigliere in the Godfather films.“It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” Cohen said in 2011. “If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”.. Cohen was instrumental in laying the groundwork for Trump’s political career, launching a website (ShouldTrumpRun.com) in an effort to spark interest in drafting him into the 2012 GOP race, and flying to Iowa on Trump’s private jet to meet GOP operatives there... A source told the Daily Beast that Cohen was disappointed when he wasn’t offered a spot in Trump’s White House.“He wasn’t expecting attorney general, but he was holding out for a senior job that would have also allowed him to continue being an attack dog for the president,” the source said... when underscoring his undying devotion to Trump in comments to reporters (for instance: “I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president”)... “I feel guilty that he’s in there right now almost alone …” Cohen told Vanity Fair in September. “There are guys who are very loyal to him that would have gone in, but there was a concerted effort by high-ranking individuals to keep out loyalists.”
In early January, FBI director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and asked him to rein in his attack dog, Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Nunes, who also attended the meeting, had supposedly “recused” himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, but in fact was running an increasingly vicious counter-investigation against the Department of Justice in an attempt to defend the administration.
.. He has compiled a secret memo making wild allegations of conspiracies and even criminality against all of Trump’s legal antagonists. The entire conservative media infrastructure, goaded on by Trump himself, is foaming at the mouth to publish the Nunes memo.
.. A side effect of Nunes’s campaign to discredit Trump’s investigators is to threaten to burn down the credibility and effectiveness of federal law enforcement. Here is the point that is largely absent from this drama: This is all happening because Paul Ryan wants it to happen.
.. A reporter asked Ryan if he believed the president should cooperate with Robert Mueller if he wanted an interview. Ryan dispatched it very quickly: “I’ll defer to the White House on all those questions. This pertains to them, not this branch.”
.. That has been Ryan’s stance all along. All the icky stuff Trump does, the corruption and disdain for the rule of law, is Trump’s business
.. In fact, there are things Ryan could do — and not just cinematic speeches calling out the president for his misdeeds. The House of Representatives could pass a bill to compel the release of Trump’s tax returns.
.. Given Trump’s unprecedented decision to retain his business interests in office, mere disclosure would be a meager step against the possibility for corruption. Democrats have repeatedly introduced bills to disclose the tax returns. Yet the House — Ryan’s House — has blocked every one.
.. In October, Gayle King asked Ryan how Trump could say that the tax cuts would increase his own taxes without disclosing his returns, and Ryan just laughed.
.. And now, Trump and his allies are circulating absurd lies about the Department of Justice in order to enable the administration to avoid any accountability to the rule of law. The heart of this campaign is the chamber Ryan controls.
It is not only or even primarily Devin Nunes, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and Fox & Friends that are marching into the fever swamps. The invisible man at front of the march is Paul Ryan.