Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Trump Fights Collusion Threat by Resorting to Obstruction

A stupid man is one who has no grasp of his limitations and, on that score, Donald Trump is an exemplar.

Trump is in trouble. Special counsel Mueller gave the Mango Mussolini a plus sized wedgie Monday with his surprise disclosure of the guilty plea entered by former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos.

As soon as the Papadopoulos fiasco broke somebody in the White House should have taken a ball peen hammer to Trump's smartphone. No such luck. And, as Norman Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer to the Obama administration, sees it, Trump's reactionary tweets attacking Papadopoulos might have given Mueller a stronger case for indictment on obstruction of justice charges.

The president was apparently as surprised as everyone else by the George Papadopoulos guilty plea

Unsealing the plea was a smart advance move by Mueller to rebut the “no collusion” characterization of his investigation that might otherwise have taken hold by just charging Manafort and Gates. Papadopoulos’s admissions offer another, new piece of evidence of collusion. The most striking is that a foreign intermediary told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that he had just returned from Moscow and the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary in the form of thousands of emails. The plea also details Papadopoulos’s many other Russia-related contacts, and his communications about those contacts with other senior campaign officials (according to media reports, including Manafort, Corey Lewandowski and Sam Clovis).

That evidence hits hard because it goes with similar, already known evidence of collusion: the emails between Rob Goldstone and Donald Trump Jr.; the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Jr., Manafort and Jared Kushner and the apparent Russian emissaries; Trump's own public remarks welcoming Russian hacking of emails shortly thereafter; Roger Stone's contacts with hackers and his claims that he knew of forthcoming leaks from WikiLeaks. Can anyone doubt more evidence will follow?

Trump is rightly freaking out, and so Tuesday he pivoted to minimizing Papadopoulos and calling him a liar. 


To say the least, it is very unusual for the president of the United States to attack a witness who is cooperating with the United States an ongoing federal investigation. It raises obstruction of justice and witness intimidation questions, just as it did when the president similarly went after former FBI Directory James Comey. Think about it: When you are a witness in a case that threatens the most powerful man in the world, and he attacks you publicly, that is scary.

Trump’s tweet also creates more problems for Trump with Mueller. By far the biggest personal danger to Trump is that Mueller moves against him for obstruction. That decision could go either way, but there is already substantial evidence that he obstructed justice. The reason Trump's lawyers keep talking about the White House’s efforts to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation is to convince the special counsel of Trump’s good faith, and so to limit further exposure of the president.

Whatever other bad things happened for Trump on Monday, at least the revelations hadn’t wiggled the obstruction needle — until Tuesday morning, when Trump attacked Mueller's cooperating witness. Take it from me as someone who for a quarter of a century worked against and with prosecutors and FBI agents (including Mueller himself): they are fiercely protective of their cooperators. By attacking Papadopoulos as a liar, Trump hardly signals his good faith to Mueller. After all, Mueller is offering Papadopoulos's testimony as true. So Trump is not just assaulting the special counsel’s cooperator; Trump is contradicting Mueller, and maybe even hinting that Mueller is intentionally offering the testimony of a liar.


Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Papadopoulos plead guilty to lying to an FBI agent about his contacts with the Russians? If so, I don't see any problem with hinting that Mueller is intentionally offering the testimony of a liar.


The Mound of Sound said...

Really, Cap?

rumleyfips said...

Well Cap, Papadoupolos has been caught lying and is now trying to find a get out of jail card. He has certainly been warned not to lie again or its years and years in the old hoosgow. He is telling the truth now as if his life depends on it; it may.

Anonymous said...

I get all that. But it remains factually accurate to say that Mueller is offering the testimony of a liar - Papadopoulos admitted that he's a liar by pleading guilty. Whether he lies on the stand or not is a different story, but any competent defence counsel is going to go to town on the credibility of a witness who's been found guilty of a crime of dishonesty towards the justice system.

Papadopoulos is just an early pawn that Mueller is putting in play. He'll be used to put pressure on Clovis, Manafort and others up the chain, but the game doesn't rest on his testimony.


The Mound of Sound said...

No, Cap, you misunderstand. You only attack a witness if it won't cause your client harm. Once you do that you open the floodgates for the other side to bring in evidence that might otherwise never have been allowed. The "any competent defence counsel" you refer to would be extremely wary in dealing with Papadopoulos and for good reason.

the salamander said...

.. well of course he lied.. allegedly
and he almost surely deceived, manipulated.. squirmed
but isn't that almost a defacto part
of such criminal indictments?

Mueller probably has chapter & verse on the guy
has him over a barrel.. Manafort & Gates too.
And we should what ? Defend Donald Trump's stance?
A greasy thug who lies daily & always has..