Trembling Ground: Updates on the Mueller Probe
With every new revelation from the Mueller Investigation, the President has to fight back on more and more fronts.
As the year ends, more problems mount
The past few weeks have not been easy for Trump’s administration. We have seen new information in case of Paul Manafort, the release of Michael Flynn, and conviction of Michael Cohen. All of which worked closely with Donald Trump during his campaign, and, indeed, after he became President. Additionally, another hush money payment was admitted, this time by American Media Inc., parent company of the National Enquirer. Payment of $150 000 was meant to stop the publication of a story of former Playboy model, Karen McDougal. How is Donald Trump keeping up with all this news, and how does he defends himself?
Hotel of friendship
A few months ago, when asked about talks on building a hotel in Moscow, Trump said that the negotiations ended at the beginning of the Presidential Campaign and did not have any effect on his platform. A few weeks ago, Michael Cohen’s testimony revealed that the talks continued well into the Campaignand were at an advanced stage when finally scrapped.
This news has resonated because of how Trump was referring to Russiathroughout the campaign. His policy of creating friendship and burying the hatchet came was a big contrast to the current sentiment towards Russia, including other candidates for the Presidency. It transpires that Trump’s call for ‘Russian hackers’ to find Hillary Clinton’s emailscame less than a month after the talks concluded.
The President dismissed any collusionfrom his side. In his view, it was a business deal and a business deal only, and as he was not sure whether he will win the Presidency, he wanted to secure his interest. As much as this statement makes sense, the negotiations were potentially damaging enough for Michael Cohen to lie about its ending date to Congress. A lie which clarifying Trump did not feel was in his interest at the time.
A helping hand
This week Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has been spared jail timebecause of his extensive cooperation with the Mueller investigation. One of the first indictments of the probe was charged by making false statements to the FBI, back in 2017, about his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Since then he has been cooperating with FBI and proved to be very valuable.
At the same time, we learn new stories about Paul Manafort and his role in the scandal. Reports show that he held a meetingwith the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, in an Ecuadorian embassy. The two men met each other at least three times, including once during late stages of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
From a document released last week by the Mueller, counsel came information giving evidence on how Manafort may have beenworking as a middle-manbetween the Russian hackers (e.g. Konstantin Kilimnik) and the Trump Campaign. Manafort, whose list of lies to FBI has now expanded, has been praised by Donald Trump in August this year, for ‘refusing to break’and refusing to cooperate with the Mueller probe.
Freedom in jail
As the latest revelation to the story comes an information that the former lawyer of Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, has plead guilty to eight charges, including violation of campaign funds. By this, the investigators mean the hush money paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels to keep silent about the affair she had with Donald Trump in 2006. What is even more damaging is that this allegedly was done “at the direction of a candidate running for federal office”, implicitly meaning Donald Trump.
The ruling is that Cohen is to be imprisoned for three years, which is less than originally suggested, because of his cooperation with the Special Counsel. However, Cohen seems more relieved than filled with dread because of this. Over the past few months he has been dragged through the mud by his former employer, calling him weak and disloyal, while the lawyer himself stated that “the only weakness he had was his blind loyalty to Donald Trump”, which resonated what he said before about his willingness to a take bullet for Donald Trump.
The years Cohen has worked for Trump seem to have had a great impact on his mental health. He stated that after being convicted he will finally gain freedom from Trump, who in his mind has put him in a state of “personal and mental incarceration”.
Ever since the allegations started Donald Trump, first as a candidate, then as a President, dismissed them. Independent on whether they were concerning the collusion with Russia, paying hush money to former lovers, he has been consistent in denying wrongdoing. Over the time the stories were changing and with every new piece of information the public learned, the stories were adjusted. The same thing happened this time.
Amid recent news, Donald Trump fired back both at Robert Mueller, the investigation itselfand at his former lawyer. He deems the findings to be either not true, and coming out of pressure from the prosecutors, or not relating directly to him, making them irrelevant. This is a strategy the President used from the beginning with every titbit of new information clearing his name instead of incriminating him.
The President has even recently acknowledged the efforts for his impeachment when asked about it in the Oval Office. He is confident it will not happen, but he said that if it did, people would revolt; indeed, the polls work in his favour on that. Currently, his approval rating is at about 42% which has been more or less stable over the past year, while a poll conducted by SSRSshows that 50% do not think he should be impeached. Despite new findings, the support for his impeachment is predicted to fall with time due to incoming elections.
It seems that every week there comes a story that is finally going to put all the pieces together and bring more confidence to the investigation. However, with President Trump denying all allegations, despite multiple challenges, the support for the Special Counsel investigation seems to decrease. Jeff Flake pushing for protectingthe investigation may not be enough, especially that he will also soon be gone from Congress.