Trump continues to claim vindication as Mueller closes in

Trump is tweeting that he has been vindicated even as more damning reports leak out

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 9, 2018 9:45AM (EST)

James Comey (Getty/Carsten Koall)
James Comey (Getty/Carsten Koall)

Even as President Donald Trump continues to claim that he is being vindicated when it comes to the Robert Mueller investigation and Russia scandal, the reports coming out are raising additional questions about whether the president and his advisers broke the law in order to win the 2016 election.

"On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) - didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!" Trump tweeted on Sunday morning.

He added, "Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!"

Trump expressed similar thoughts on Saturday, tweeting that "'This is collusion illusion, there is no smoking gun here. At this late date, after all that we have gone through, after millions have been spent, we have no Russian Collusion. There is nothing impeachable here.' @GeraldoRivera Time for the Witch Hunt to END!'"

During his congressional testimony last week, former FBI Director James Comey repeated that Trump had not been the subject of a 2016 counterintelligence investigation involving four people linked to his campaign, according to CNBC. Comey also discussed his controversial handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Yet while Trump attempts to shift the national focus to Comey's testimony, the threat to his presidency may be coming from other directions as well. A report on Saturday by The New York Times succinctly summed up the consensus view on the direction being taken by the special counsel's probe, as well as the investigation by the prosecutorial team from the Southern District of New York:

In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and New York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this account he ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety in violation of campaign finance law.

Federal prosecutors have recommended a "substantial" prison sentence for Cohen for tax fraud and campaign finance-related crimes, equally roughly four years of total prison time, according to CNN. Mueller's office has also accused Cohen of lying to them about his connections to Russia and claims that a Russian national who described himself as connected to the Kremlin discussed creating "political synergy" with Trump's campaign during a 2015 conversation with Cohen.

In a memo released by the prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, Cohen was depicted as a right-hand man and fixer for Trump (described as "Individual 1") during the latter's years as a businessman and political candidate. Despite those close ties, though, Cohen's power seemed to have diminished once Trump became president. As the memo described, Cohen attempted to parlay his longstanding professional relationship with Trump into a consultancy business in which he would sell himself to clients based on his access to the president. Because his relationship with Trump was no longer that close, however, Cohen was unable to deliver results.

"In January 2017, Cohen formally left the Company and began holding himself out as the
'personal attorney' to Individual-1, who at that point had become the President of the United States," the memo wrote. "In January 2017, Cohen also launched two companies: Michael D. Cohen and Associates, P.C., a legal practice, and Essential Consultants LLC, a consulting firm. (PSR ¶ 152.) Both businesses were operated from the offices of a major law firm located in New York, and that firm paid Cohen $500,000 per year as salary. (Id.) Cohen also secured a substantial amount of consulting business for himself throughout 2017 by marketing to corporations what he claimed to be unique insights about and access to Individual-1. But while Cohen made millions of dollars from these consulting arrangements, his promises of insight and access proved essentially hollow. Documents obtained by the Government and witness interviews revealed that Cohen performed minimal work, and many of the consulting contracts were ultimately terminated."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Presidential Election Donald Trump James Comey Michael Cohen Robert Mueller Russia