Special Counsel Robert Mueller is in the final stages of putting together conspiracy charges which are likely to “ensnare” President Donald Trump and at least two members of his family, according to one former federal prosecutor.
Peter Zeidenberg is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) for the District of Columbia and later worked in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Public Integrity Section. While at the DOJ, Zeidenberg also served as a prosecuting attorney during special counsel Patrick Fizgerald‘s investigation into high-level leaks by various members of the George W. Bush administration during the Valerie Plame affair.
Writing in USA Today, Zeidenberg predicts that former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen‘s guilty plea last Thursday suggests that “Mueller’s endgame is likely close at hand.” More to the point, according to the former AUSA, is that Cohen’s plea provides Mueller’s wide-ranging Russia and corruption probe with “a key ingredient–motive.”
For those who long wondered why throughout the presidential campaign Trump could not bring himself to say a critical word about Russian President Vladimir Putin, we now know the answer: Trump was hoping to do business in Russia, and doing so would require the approval of Putin.
The putative Moscow project helps provide motive for Trump to have curried favor with Putin. And once Trump repeatedly and publicly denied having any business interests in Russia, Putin had leverage over Trump, because he knew this claim was an easily disprovable lie.
Cohen’s disclosure exposes not just Trump as having lied about his business interests in Russia, it potentially also exposes his family as well.
As Law&Crime previously reported, Cohen’s guilty plea indeed appears to put the lie to various prior statements emanating from the Trump camp–including certain Trump family members–regarding the 45th president’s alleged and/or would-be business relationships with Russian interests. Of particular note are various under oath statements made by Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr. In fact, various other legal experts and observers believe a Trump Jr. indictment for providing Congress with allegedly false statements is more or less imminent.
But that may not be all, folks. At least to hear Zeidenberg tell it.
“Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner have both testified before Congress,” the former prosecutor notes. “We know Trump Jr. was asked about his role in negotiations about building Trump Tower Moscow … it is hard to imagine that he was not also asked about the Trump Organization’s business ties to Russia. We now know that Cohen ‘briefed family members of’ Trump about the progress of the venture. Did they testify truthfully about this? Mueller either knows or no doubt soon will find out.”
Zeidenberg’s assumption about Kushner’s potential liability here appears to rest on Cohen’s admission of briefing Trump “family members,” plural, about the planned-for-but-ultimately-scrapped Moscow deal which was later denied up and down.
Zeidenberg also fleshes out the perceived case against Trump himself.
“The accumulation of evidence against the president seems to grow each week,” Zeidenberg writes. “Already facing potential charges of obstructing justice, Trump gave Mueller further ammunition this week when he publicly dangled the possibility of a presidential pardon for Paul Manafort.”
As Law&Crime reported at the time, President Trump indeed affirmed that a pardon could very well be forthcoming for his one-time 2016 campaign chair. In an interview with the New York Post, when asked about such a pardon, Trump said, “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?”
Zeidenberg flipped the 45th president’s rhetorical question on itself:
A better question is the one Mueller will likely ask: “Why would the president publicly dangle the possibility of a pardon in front of Paul Manafort, who Trump clearly fears will flip on him?” The answer is obvious.
[image via Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images]
Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher
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