Congress Can’t Let a President Suborn Congressional Perjury

Back in May, when BuzzFeed first broke the Moscow Trump Tower story, I wrote that just based on the lies Trump had told about his lack of business interests in Russia during the campaign, the news warranted impeachment and removal from office. In truth, however, I was also taking into account the obvious fact that Trump had been compromised by the Russians since they could have contradicted his disavowals of business interests at any time. I didn’t even consider the possibility that he had also suborned perjury on the matter before Congress. But that’s what BuzzFeed is now reporting. It still needs to be confirmed, but, if true, it is without question an impeachable offense.

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Remember that Michael Flynn lost his job as national security advisor because he was telling a story to the public and other members of the administration that the Russians knew not to be true. That opened him up to blackmail and other forms of coercion, and that’s the exact same problem Trump created for himself by signing a letter of intent to build a skyscraper in Moscow in October 2015 and then insisting all throughout the campaign in 2016 that he had no business with Russia. He couldn’t allow Michael Cohen to testify truthfully and it looks like he may have crossed a line and done it in a way that can be proven.

For starters, even though he’s not a very credible witness, Michael Cohen apparently says that Trump told him to lie to Congress.

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

Then there’s the fact that the special counsel’s office has reportedly assembled a lot of corroborating evidence.

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

We can try to rank the levels of concern about President Trump, but it should be beyond dispute that we can’t have a chief executive who is compromised by a foreign power. That’s a clear and present danger, and it’s even more serious than the possibility that he may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy with them to help him win the office. Directing someone to lie to Congress is probably next in line, and then we can talk about evidence of tax fraud, bank fraud, felonious campaign finance violations, and examples of graft, corruption, and criminal business practices.

In a way, though, Congress will have the hardest time shrugging off the suborned perjury. They can try to define some things as low crimes that don’t reach the impeachable standard, but they can’t allow a president to direct people to lie to them. At a minimum, they’d have to censure him. And that might be what would happen if a popular and competent president told his lawyer to lie to Congress, but this president is not popular and he is not competent. More importantly, censuring him over the perjury wouldn’t make the rest of the problems go away. How many times would they censure him, and for how many different reasons?

Trump is still holding on to the fact that his approval with Republican voters remains strong, but even that is slipping. And by pursuing an endless government shutdown to maintain that support, he’s quickly losing support among the Republicans in Congress.

Just consider, things look this bad for Trump and Mueller isn’t done indicting people. He hasn’t yet issued a report. The Democrats have not yet held a single hearing.

Do you want to place a bet that Trump will survive?

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com