Closing in on the president
On the Special Counsel’s Investigation
If Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is a “total witch hunt” — as President Trump insists in increasingly frantic terms — it’s the most productive sorcery crackdown this side of Salem. Despite incessant efforts to impede the inquiry, court filings on top former Trump associates this week revealed more evidence of serious crimes in his inner circle drawing ever closer to the president himself.
Sentencing documents filed Friday by Mueller’s team and U.S. attorneys in Manhattan provided more information about crimes acknowledged by Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, and the president’s role in them. Mueller’s office indicated that Cohen detailed his contacts with White House intermediaries and the preparation of his false testimony to Congress about the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a real estate deal in Moscow. Federal prosecutors in New York, meanwhile, alleged that Trump directed Cohen’s secret payments to the thencandidate’s alleged paramours in
violation of campaign-finance laws.
Cohen’s cooperation with authorities included seven interviews with Mueller’s office and information about the campaign’s contacts with Russia dating to 2015. While prosecutors typically recommend more lenient sentences for defendants who assist other investigations, the Manhattan prosecutors recommended that Cohen serve substantial prison time for crimes that went beyond his lies to Congress and campaign-finance transgressions. The government lawyers noted “a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life” — a disturbing characterization of a man who was once so close to the president.
Mueller’s office has accused another prominent former Trump associate, onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort, of double-dealing even after he agreed to cooperate with the probe. In a heavily redacted memo filed in that case Friday, prosecutors said Manafort lied about his contacts with an associate suspected of Russian intelligence ties as well as with administration officials as recently as this year.
Friday’s filings came days after Mueller’s team filed another sentencing memo documenting extensive cooperation by Michael Flynn, the shortest-serving national security adviser in American history. As much as what it revealed, its row upon row of redactions should concern the president and his country.
The case against Flynn was strong enough that he went from calling for Hillary Clinton’s extrajudicial detention to serving as a model state’s witness. He sat for 19 interviews and provided information pertinent to three investigations: Mueller’s probe of the campaign’s relationship with Russia and two other matters that, due to the redactions, are anyone’s guess — although possible subjects include the Cohen crimes and attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation.
The campaign against the investigation continued Friday with Trump’s nomination for attorney general, a critic of the probe; the outgoing House Republican majority’s last-gasp interrogation of former FBI Director James Comey regarding, of all things, Clinton’s emails; and another Twitter tirade about Mueller and his team. Particularly after the week’s revelations, though, the cries of “witch hunt” sounded like so much hocus-pocus.