Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He had no comment.

Today, the New York Times published a massive investigative reporting piece on Trump's efforts to subvert, shut down, escape, and discredit the investigation into his and his campaign's culpability in Russia's efforts to sabotage the election on his behalf. Among other previously unreported stories, it shows that:

  • Trump ordered his press secretary to lie about Michael Flynn's departure, incorrectly saying that it had been at Trump's insistence;
  • Trump thought that firing Flynn—one of seven close Trump associates now indicted or convicted—would end the Russia investigation;
  • Trump overruled the White House Counsel's Office when they expressed concerns about the consequences of lying to the public about Flynn;
  • Trump was desperate to get then attorney general Jefferson Sessions to quit, believing that it would allow him to nip the Mueller investigation in the bud, but was afraid to do it himself;
  • Trump even asked his former campaign chair Corey Lewandowski (who had no position in government) to pressure Sessions to resign;
  • Paul Manafort and Flynn were approached by a Trump lawyer to discuss pardons, which would have been witness tampering;
  • Trump recruited vulnerable House Republicans to try to discredit the FBI and Mueller himself; and,
  • Trump and his new lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were "slow to comprehend" the threat posed by Michael Cohen's cooperation with law enforcement.

But the most explosive reveal is that after Trump finally fired Sessions, he pressured the acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, to put a loyalist in charge of the investigation into Cohen. 

Taken as a whole, the piece—sourced to "several dozen interviews with current and former government officials, members of Congress, legal experts and more"—reveals a whole host of new conduct by Trump that would likely have had him indicted for obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and conspiracy, if he were not probably immune from indictment while in office. 

Asked for comment today about, Trump paused, then would only say that the whole thing was "fake news." The White House has not otherwise commented.

UPDATE, 2/20: Trump "elaborated" Wednesday morning in a tweet:

So what?

  • This is the political equivalent of taking the Fifth—which, to be fair, may be Trump's best course of action.