Trump Is Compromised by Russia.

One of the chief questions in the Trump-Russia scandal has been whether Vladimir Putin has leverage over the president of the United States, and, if so, what that leverage looks like. The significance of the fabled "pee tape," after all, is not that it would reveal Donald Trump to be a pervert bent on defiling the place where Barack Obama slept. Rather, the tape matters because, if real, it would show the president to be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

That's also why evidence of Trump's business involvement with Russia would be significant, as Trump himself acknowledged shortly before his inauguration, when he tweeted, "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

We still don't know for certain if Russia has used leverage over Trump. But there should no longer be any doubt that Russia has leverage over him.

On Thursday morning, Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen — the former executive vice president of the Trump Organization — pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about efforts to build a Trump-branded property in Moscow that extended into the 2016 presidential campaign.In an August 2017 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees, Cohen said that the Moscow project ended in January 2016. He claimed not to recall contacts with Russian government officials about a potential deal. Cohen told Congress that he spoke about the project with Trump — identified as "Individual 1" in the criminal information document that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, filed on Thursday — only three times. He said he never briefed Trump's family.

According to Mueller's filing, all of this was false. Efforts to obtain Russian government approval for a Trump-branded development in Moscow went on until "approximately June 2016," after Trump had effectively secured the Republican nomination for president. Cohen, Mueller's document said, "discussed the status and progress of the Moscow project with Individual 1" more than three times. He also "briefed family members of Individual 1 within the company about the project."

In January 2016, according to Mueller's document, Cohen had a 20-minute conversation with the assistant to a Russian official in which he sought Russia's help moving the project forward. The next day, Felix Sater, a Trump associate identified in the court filing as "Individual 2," wrote Cohen to tell him he'd heard from Putin's office. Cohen made plans to travel to Russia, calling them off only on June 14, which happened to be the day that The Washington Post first reported that Russian government hackers had penetrated Democratic National Committee computers. At one point, Cohen and Sater were also coordinating with figures in Moscow about a potential Trump visit in connection with the project.

So we now know that Trump lied to the American people about at least one part of his business relationship with Russia, a geopolitical foe that interfered in our election process on his behalf.

In a Jan. 11, 2017, news conference, Trump said that the "closest I came to Russia" was in selling a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. While we're just learning precisely how dishonest this was, Putin has known it all along. That means that throughout Trump's campaign and presidency, Putin has had the power to plunge him into political crisis.

"If the Russians are aware that senior American officials are publicly stating things that are not true, it's a counterintelligence nightmare," Adam Schiff, the California Democrat in line to take over the House Intelligence Committee, told me.

As he points out, this issue contributed to former national security adviser Michael Flynn's downfall. Flynn, you might remember, appeared to have lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. This alarmed Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, because the Russians would have known that Flynn was deceiving Pence, and could have used that knowledge against him. "Logic would tell you that you don't want the national security adviser to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him," Yates told the Senate last year.

The same, said Schiff, "is true in spades for the president of the United States."

Speaking to reporters before flying to Argentina on Thursday, Trump justified his pursuit of a Moscow project this way: "There was a good chance that I wouldn't have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?" This could be read as a confession of motive.

In the 2016 campaign, Russia wanted to humiliate Hillary Clinton and delegitimize America's election. Trump wanted help building his brand.

Michelle Goldberg, New York Times, November 30, 2018


November 30, 2018

Post Script. The 3 articles of impeachment against Nixon were obstruction of justice, abuse of power, which includes self enrichment, and contempt of Congress, which includes actions like refusing a congressional subpoena.

Put checks next to those 3.

Then, will Trump’s lies about his relationship to Russia which started in the campaign but continued into his term of office constitute an impeachable offense? As Bob Bauer points out in The Atlantic, October 22, 2018, “A clear precedent is the article of impeachment on obstruction passed by the House Judiciary Committee in the proceedings against Richard Nixon. It included a charge that Nixon had made ‘false and misleading public statements,’ which were ‘contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government.’”

Some other issues to keep in mind. Trump is already an “unindicted co-conspirator" for a felony charge in NYC.

It is also illegal for an American business to offer bribes to foreign officials to get business. Penthouse in Russian, Mr. Putin?

Manafort and Trump directed the change to the RNC Platform in 2016 to weaken the condemnation of Russia's invasion of the Ukraine. Whose national interests were they serving, Mr. Putin?

Oh, did anyone remember Pence was picked by Manafort?

What do you think the articles of impeachment against Trump will be? Or will he resign first? #TheEndBegins

After January1, Nancy Pelosi will be third in line.

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