Update, 1/18, 10:30 p.m.: Robert Mueller’s office took the rare step of publicly disputing Buzzfeed’s story, calling their characterization “not accurate.” Buzzfeed is standing by their reporting. The original text of Paste’s story is below.
This scoop comes courtesy of BuzzFeed News’ ace reporting team of Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, who are destined to win a Pulitzer for their reporting on this topic. They have been consistently correct on this saga, and were proven so when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to their reporting in court. If they’re reporting something—especially as it relates to any Trump Tower Moscow plans—there is absolutely no reason to doubt them. Per BuzzFeed News:
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.
As former college football announcing great Keith Jackson used to say, “whoa nelly!” This is…wow. Bill Clinton got impeached over far less than this. In fact, this is so outside the bounds of anything that could be considered normal, that Trump’s nominee for Attorney General said in his confirmation hearing earlier this week that a situation exactly like this would be considered obstruction of justice.
Trump has responded to this latest revelation with his usual incoherence.
If Robert Mueller has all of this in writing, it's game over, folks. Now, what “game over” means is an open question, given that we don't know if a sitting president can be indicted, and besides, Trump could set fire to the Senate while Republicans are conducting business in it and they still wouldn't vote to remove him from office. However, this report sure makes impeachment look inevitable.
Now I know a lot of folks cringe at that topic, given how terrifying it is to potentially set a standard where every president may get impeached, but not impeaching a president who deserves to be impeached sets an even more harrowing precedent, and lets future presidents know that even Donald Trump can get away with this kind of stuff. If Trump gets impeached by the Democratic-controlled House, then the onus will be on Senate Republicans to explain why a transparently corrupt criminal president should remain president. From a pure political perspective, forcing Republicans to defend lying to Congress all so the president could personally enrich himself through a foreign adversary is a really good idea, because it forces them to literally defend something our future GOP Attorney General said is a crime. Buckle up folks, this sure feels like the beginning of the end.
Here are some thoughts from legal and reporting experts on what exactly may be going on here, since Mueller's denial was not a complete denial.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.