President Trump once joked that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and still retain the support of his base. That proposition may soon be tested.
The Thursday night report from BuzzFeed News cites two unnamed federal law enforcement officials who say Cohen acknowledged in interviews with the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that the president directed him to deceive Congress about key facts linking Trump to the proposed deal in Russia. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying under oath about those details. Democrats said that if the report is accurate, Trump must quickly be held to account for his role in the perjury, with some raising the specter of impeachment.
No one has a real understanding of “collusion,” because it is a non-legal, vague term. A conspiracy can be complicated, hard to prove. “Suborning perjury,” a phrase known to anyone who’s watched “Law & Order,” is specific and simple.
In this case, if the report is accurate, the charge of suborning perjury would not rest merely on former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony. (“BuzzFeed says that Mueller’s office has more evidence than just Cohen’s testimony that Trump directed him to lie to Congress. Per the report, Cohen’s testimony is backed up by ‘interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.’”) Trump’s hapless TV attorney Rudy Giuliani can smear Cohen all he likes; multiple witnesses and documents are not so easily dismissed. Moreover, one has to wonder if this conversation — like the discussion about former Playboy model Karen McDougal — was taped.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tweeted Friday morning:
Interestingly, this exact fact pattern came up more than once in the attorney general confirmation hearing for William P. Barr, once with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and once with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.):
The question then is not if such action was illegal, or if it is impeachable, but if it can be proved. None other than Graham told us in the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings in the House that we simply cannot allow a perjurer to remain in office:
The assertion that Senate Republicans would never break with Trump and never vote to impeach has rested primarily on the assumption that the evidence would never be so conclusive and the crime would never be so serious that senators would lack excuses to avoid conviction. All of that goes out the window if multiple pieces of evidence demonstrate Trump suborned perjury. At that point, public opinion may present Republicans with a choice: Get Trump out of office now, or we’ll vote all of you out in 2020.