BY: TANNER KENNEY
On Thursday, November 29th, 2018, Michael Cohen, the disgraced former personal attorney and “fixer” for President Donald Trump, pled guilty to one charge of making false statements to Congress regarding the development of a Trump-branded real estate project in Moscow prior to the 2016 presidential elections. Following his brief appearance in a New York City courtroom, Cohen’s plea also seemed to be part of a tentative agreement on deal to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III after sitting for “more than 70 hours in interviews” with his team investigating interference in the 2016 elections.
As such, Cohen becomes the 33rdindividual charged in the Special Counsel’s probe and the lack of additional charges being filed in the hearing indicates that Cohen’s legal representation has a deal in-place with the Mueller Team. Today’s surprise hearing marks just more than 3 months since Cohen’s initial admission of guilt on 8 charges and inking a cooperation agreement with the Southern District of New Yorkto aid its investigation into alleged financial and elections crimes. During today’s appearance, Cohen claimed that he “briefed” President Trump and others numerous times regarding the status of the then-stalled Trump-Moscow project in the run up to the 2016 presidential election.
The reporting of Cohen’s agreement barely marks the midpoint of a week of devastating developments for the Trump Administration and those in its orbit in terms of their exposure to criminal investigations. These developments include, most notably, the Special Counsel’s probe, in addition to the FEC’s investigation into campaign finance violations and the Southern District of New York’s examination of alleged financial malfeasance conducted by both the Trump Foundation and the Trump Organization. In a response to the allegations made by Cohen in court today, President Trump called him a “weak” person trying to get a “much lesser prison sentence.”
Furthermore, it is important to recognize that the details of the testimony given by Cohen earlier this morning are as impactful as the scope of the various ongoing investigations into Trump, his family, and those in his orbit. Just last night, Jerome Corsi, an associate of Roger Stone – himself fearful of an indictment from the Mueller Camp due to his close relationship with President Trump during the campaign – appeared on television to admit guilt in lying to the FBI in professing his desire to help the Trump Campaign in obtaining emails stolen from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
More may become known publicly, in the coming weeks, about the Stone-Assange/Wikileaks relationship as Corsi, radio host Randy Credico, and academic Ted Malloch take the spotlight in the Special Counsel’s investigation. Additionally, only hours prior to Cohen’s courtroom appearance, German authorities raided Deutsche Bank’s Frankfurt headquarters. Previously, the bank had been the monetary backbone of the Trump Empire, loaning billions to bolster the Family’s real estate portfolios and, more recently, was the only large financial institution willing to maintain a relationship with the Trump Organization and its operational faces, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump.
Merely hours later, Chicago Alderman Edward Burke’s offices were raided by federal authorities. As a veteran of Chicago politics and the sitting Chairman of the Finance Committee, Burke has been linked to numerous scandals, but none more prescient than his work for Klafter & Burke as the firm “repeatedly has sought to reduce the property taxes that Trump Tower and other commercial properties have to pay.”
At this juncture, President Trump has resorted to his most base instincts when responding to what he believes are personal attacks against him, his family, and their supporters in erroneously inflating the cost of the Mueller probe, sharing photos of investigators and politicians behind bars, and childish name-calling. Legal experts also agree that this strategy, alongside the joint defense agreements and his propensity to change public-facing accounts of events, will end poorly for all those who employ it.
The results of the 2018 Midterm Elections wherein the Democratic Party regained control of the House of Representatives and won the majority of attorneys generalthroughout the 50 states. The members of the Democratic Party have signaled a strong desire to further the investigations into both the Trump Campaign and Administration via Rep. Adam Schiff(D-CA) and the House Intelligence Committee as well as Rep. Jerrold Nadler(D-NY) and the House Judiciary Committee.
Lastly, perhaps the week’s most impactful story will be that of the allegation made by the Special Counsel that former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort violated his cooperation agreement by repeatedly lying throughout their interactions. There are also more guilty pleas to contend with that have yet to reach sentencing, including Gen. Michael Flynn and former Trump Campaign Advisor Rick Gates, as well as the potential for additional charges to be levied against the formerly cooperative and currently-imprisoned former Trump Campaign Advisor George Papadopoulos. All of these revelations beg the question – what was the purpose of seeking the Presidency, at any and all costs, if Donald J. Trump just wanted to stay in New York City? As Trump tries to deflect by cancelling his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is apparent that the Mueller’s team continues to charge on ahead despite speculation over the Trump administration’s attempts to thwart the investigation. With Trump’s lawyers continuing their negotiations over the President’s testimony, it is only a matter of time before the truth begins to unravel.
Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy.
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