Michael Cohen to Trump: I will flip on you if I need to

“Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my new counsel, Guy Petrillo, for guidance,” Cohen said.

Pressed on his past commentary about being willing to do anything for Trump, Cohen again hinted at flipping: “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty.”

..  he was unhappy with Trump for not helping with his legal bills.

..  Then Cohen resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee by citing not just the investigation he faces, but his disagreement with the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border.

.. And Cohen’s interview came with another big signal: the reported end of a joint agreement between Cohen and Trump’s legal team to share information. Such things often presage a more antagonistic relationship or even cutting a deal to inform on someone else. Michael Flynn’s lawyers stopped sharing info with Trump’s lawyers, for example, shortly before he flipped.

..  if we’re really reading between the lines, it could also be significant that Cohen declined to downplay criticisms of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. “I don’t like the term ‘witch hunt,’” he said.

Cohen faces problems unrelated to the Russia probe, but if he flipped he would be providing evidence for that investigation.

.. And in fact, the opposite seems to have occurred. Trump and the White House have minimized Cohen and suggested that his legal problems have nothing to do with it. Asked by Stephanopoulos about that treatment, Cohen grew rigid and assured. “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” he said. “I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way.”

.. Does he not think he can pardon Cohen or pay his legal bills, politically speaking? Or is this just part of the intense (if thoroughly and strangely Trumpian) public negotiations that are going on around this whole thing right now?

Why are Republicans hiding Peter Strzok’s testimony?

He testified in a closed session before the House Oversight and Judiciary committees on Wednesday.

The president and his supporters argue that Strzok’s early involvement in the Russia probe taints the entire investigation. On Thursday Trump tweeted that Strzok “was given poor marks on yesterday’s closed-door testimony” and that Strzok’s role in the Russia investigation was further evidence of the “witch hunt” against him. But although the president himself had called for Strzok’s testimony to be public, Congress did not agree.

Strzok certainly doesn’t act like someone with anything to hide. He offered to testify publicly and without a subpoena. He didn’t take the Fifth or demand immunity. Unlike the president in his dealings with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Strzok did not haggle for months over the terms or scope of an interview.

.. based on a few dozen text messages out of more than 40,000 that he and Page exchanged on FBI devices.

.. “We’ll stop it” text message? Most have assumed that “we” means the FBI. But it’s at least as likely that Strzok, in a personal message to his girlfriend, was referring to we the voters, or we the American people. That would have been an unremarkable sentiment shared by about half the people in the country

.. It’s quite a leap to go from that text message to a claim that Strzok tried to use his official powers to tip the election.

And there’s no evidence that he did.

.. Maybe Strzok really was part of a “deep state” conspiracy to take down Trump — even though everything the FBI did during the email investigation actually ended up hurting his opponent.

.. Maybe that same conspiracy now infects Mueller’s probe. If that’s the fear, what’s the argument for keeping Strzok’s testimony secret?

.. These congressmen who claim to be interested in transparency and full disclosure should be eager to make Strzok’s testimony public — particularly since the president claims that testimony will provide evidence of the “witch hunt” against him. So what are these Republicans hiding?

.. Strzok’s text messaging habits, however imprudent, have nothing to do with the merits of the Mueller investigation. Keeping his testimony secret leads only to selective leaks, spin and speculation.

The Baptist Apocalypse

Such a God might, for instance, offer political success as a temptation rather than a reward — or use an unexpected presidency not to save Americans but to chastise them.

.. so far the Trump presidency has clearly been a kind of apocalypse — not (yet) in the “world-historical calamity” sense of the word, but in the original Greek meaning: an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.

.. That exposure came first for the Republican Party’s establishment, who were revealed as something uncomfortably close to liberal caricature in their mix of weakness, cynicism and power worship. It came next for the technocrats and the data nerds of the Democratic Party, who were revealed as ineffectual, clueless and self-regarding ..

.. And then it came for a range of celebrated media men, from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer ..

.. It has come as well for figures whose style anticipated him (Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, that whole ménage) and for figures who have deliberately attached themselves to his populist revolt. The sins of Roy Moore were more exposed by the Trump era, and now likewise the racist paranoia of Roseanne Barr.

.. a similar moral exposure has come to precisely the sector of American Christianity where support for Donald Trump ran strongest — the denominational heart of conservative evangelicalism, the Southern Baptist Convention.

.. The main case is Paige Patterson, the now-erstwhile president of a major Baptist seminary in Fort Worth, who was eased into retirement over revelations that he’d counseled abused women to return to their husbands and allegedly shamed and silenced at least one rape victim.

.. Patterson is a beginning, not an end.

.. Late last year I wrote an essay speculating about the possibility of an “evangelical crisis” in this era, driven by the gap between the older and strongly pro-Trump constituency in evangelical churches and those evangelicals, often younger, who either voted for the president reluctantly or rejected his brand of politics outright.

.. “the big story behind the story of Patterson’s fall is a high-stakes showdown between two generations of Southern Baptist leaders.” Both generations are theologically conservative, but the figures raising their voices against Patterson have been — generally — associated with a vision of their church that’s more countercultural, less wedded to the institutional Republican Party, more likely to see racial reconciliation as essential to the Baptist future and intent on proving that a traditional theology of sex need not lead to sexism.

.. Whereas Patterson’s defenders represent — again, to generalize — the more pro-Trump old guard in the Baptist world, with a strong inclination toward various forms of chauvinism and Christian nationalism.

.. It is not a coincidence that Russell Moore, perhaps the most prominent anti-Trump Baptist, provided early support to Patterson’s critics — while Robert Jeffress, whose Dallas church sets “Make America Great Again” to music, labeled the calls for Patterson’s resignation a “witch hunt.”

.. it’s wiser to regard an era of exposure like this one as a test, which can be passed but also failed. A discredited “old guard” doesn’t automatically lose power; a chauvinism revealed doesn’t just evaporate. And the temptation to dismiss discomfiting revelations as fake news, to retreat back into ignorance and self-justification, is at least as powerful as the impulse to really reckon with the truth.

.. So the question posed by this age of revelation is simple: Now that you know something new and troubling and even terrible about your leaders or your institutions, what will you do with this knowledge?

The Nation Will Pay if Trump Fires Mueller

President Trump resembles a Geiger counter: When he emits increasing howls, he is signaling that we’re approaching some radioactive or explosive truth.

Trump is said to be near a “meltdown” in his fury at what he describes as “an attack on our country” — by which he means the ongoing criminal investigation of him. It’s a phrase that he has not used about Russia’s interference with our elections

.. Americans by a 69-percent-to-13-percent majority oppose the firing of Mueller. Even Republicans say by more than a two-to-one ratio that Trump shouldn’t fire Mueller.

.. It may be that Republicans in Congress would get over their indignation, form a protective circle and try to move on, for that’s what has happened every time Trump has committed some new outrage.

.. In any case, that would not automatically end the separate investigation that led to the raid on Michael Cohen’s files, and it might even fuel state investigations and prosecutions in New York.

.. If Trump were to recklessly end an investigation into whether he is obstructing justice, that would seem prima facie evidence of obstruction of justice. Trump should have learned something from firing James Comey; that misstep didn’t stop the investigation but assured that Comey’s book will be a best seller when it comes out next week, and handed Comey the ABC interview in which he apparently compares Trump to a mob boss.

.. the political price of pardons will be increasingly costly — and they won’t provide protection from state prosecutions.

.. Trump says he’s the victim of a “witch hunt,” but it’s actually a “criminal hunt” — one presided over by Republicans, most of whom he has appointed.

 

Trump attacks Mueller ‘witch hunt’ as WH source calls investigation ‘out of control’

President Trump reacted angrily Monday to news that federal agents had raided the office and home of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen — calling the action “disgraceful” and describing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as “an attack on our country.”

.. “It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt,” said Trump, who claimed that he had “given over a million pages in documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward … and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. Actually it’s much more than that. You could say right after I won the [2016 Republican] nomination it started.”

Trump also accused Mueller’s investigators of being “the most biased group of people [with] the biggest conflicts of interest” and said Attorney General Jeff Sessions “made a terrible mistake for the country” when he recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation last year.

A source close to the White House told Fox News’ John Roberts that the raid showed that the Mueller investigation “is out of control” and was a “demonstration of bad faith” on the part of the special counsel.

.. Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, said Monday’s raid was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and was based at least partly on a referral from Mueller.

.. A source close to the Trump legal team told Fox News’ Catherine Herridge that the raid on Cohen was “aggressive” and designed to “squeeze the president.” The source, who has knowledge of talks between Mueller and the president’s legal team, added that the raid “puts a fork in” the prospect of Trump agreeing to be interviewed by the special counsel.

.. Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller is required to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then would determine whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or another part of the Justice Department.

.. “Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” asked Trump, repeating a reporter’s question to him Monday night. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens, but I think it’s really a sad situation when you look at what happened.

“And many people have said, ‘You should fire him.'” Trump added. “… So we’ll see what happens … this is a pure and simple witch hunt.”