This Is The End

This was the beginning of the end for the Nixon administration. One guy, Alexander Butterfield, decided to tell the truth that Nixon taped all of his Oval Office meetings. A year later Nixon resigned.

We are at that some point with the Trump administration.

The reason is that reports coming out of Cohen investigation indicate three things.

1. Cohen lied about this trip to Prague
2. Cohen kept extensive notes of his conversations with Trump including tapes of phone conversations.
3. The investigation has been going on for months. Emails, phone conversations, maybe even meetings were all captured.

In order to answer the WHY this might be the beginning of the end, we have to back up a little bit.

The Trump organization isn’t really all that it is cracked up to be. It was a small organization run mostly by his two children and Michael Cohen. If President Trump has shown anything, it is that he is not a good manager. He let his kids do it under the watchful eye of his most loyal employee, Cohen.

If you take a look at the sorts of deals that they were cutting, it was with shady characters that couldn’t find more reputable partners. Those who have taken a look at those deals also suggest that the Trump organization sold their brand for far less than they could have received for giving legitimacy to developers that had none.

Here are a few examples.

In Azerbaijan, Trump was part of a hotel project that may have been a money laundering front for oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, Trump partnered with the group that is being investigated for the largest known bank-fraud/money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is up to his knees in dirty politics. His deals in Brazil are being investigated. The FBI is looking into his daughter’s role getting a Malaysian family who have already admitted to financial fraud to provide financial backing for a Vancouver Trump Hotel. The investigation into DTjr and Ivanka’s SoHo Trump Hotel was halted with no notice. His Taj Mahal Atlanta Casino was fined a record amount for money laundering.

As Adam Davidson pointed out in his New Yorker article.

It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme.

The reason why we are near the end is that each of these shady business deals has its own set of risks and questions. But the questions boil down to the same set. How much did Trump and his kids know about the criminal backgrounds of their partners? Did that criminality have any effect on the price they were charging for the Trump “endorsement”? Cohen is the person who knows the answers. Those answers will determine who else besides Cohen goes to jail and for how long.

Some of the other things that the FBI are investigating include a business loan where Cohen used his three taxi companies as collateral. The license to operate a taxi in NY used to be a lucrative business. Cohen’s licenses at one time were worth over $1M. Their value has plummeted because of ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Cohen’s licenses may now only be worth $300,000. So there is interest in what he claimed they were worth when he took out the loan and what he used the loan money for.

They are also concerns about money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

The bottom line is that the authorized search had such a high bar for approval, that most informed observers believe that the NY prosecutor may already have had sufficient evidence to convict at least Cohen.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think that Trump will be indicted on a charge of collusion. First of all, it’s just hard to prove. Second, it is just doesn’t fit with the Trump organization culture. A complex plan with a long-term uncertain payoff. Many reports suggest that Trump wasn’t convinced himself that he could win the election. Why would he ask Russians for help unless there was something else in it for him? The fact that the FBI now says that Cohen DID go to Prague supports a key element of the Steele Dossier. It also indicates that there was a deal in the works, or else Cohen would not have been involved.

That’s what we are going to find out.

With all this as background, it is easy to see why Trump said Mueller would be crossing a red line if he started investigating Trump’s businesses. Mueller not only crossed that line. He obliterated it. Even worse, he turned the business investigation over to the NY federal prosecutor. So even if Trump manages to fire Mueller and Congress does nothing in response, this investigation will continue. Even if Trump manages to dissolve Mueller’s Grand Jury, this investigation will continue. Even if Trump pardon’s Cohen, the information that the Feds already have on Cohen can likely become the basis for charges against Trump’s kids.

It may take a long time for all of this information to become public. We give the President a lot of executive power. If he chooses to use it, and Congress doesn’t hold him accountable, he can fight a very effective rear guard action. Eventually, however, all of this information will come out and Trump will finally be revealed for who he really is – a cheat, a liar, and a thief.

3 Responses to “This Is The End”

  1. Jeff Beamsley says:

    BTW, the spectacle of Sean Hannity slithering around the fact that he misrepresented his relationship with Trump’s attorney was pleasant to watch. He is yet again trying sell some grand conspiracy theory to his viewers. But the only conspiracy is that Hannity is anything other than an apparatchik for the Trump propaganda machine. During the campaign, when he admitted that the was an adviser to the Trump campaign, he denied that there was any ethical conflict with his on-air work at Fox because he was an entertainer and not a journalist. Now it appears that even that thin veneer of character has disappeared.

    Cohen’s lawyer wanted the judge to review the evidence seized by the FBI before it was made available to the Feds. Part of the claim was the Cohen really WAS acting as a lawyer and had other clients besides Trump. Some of the information acquired during the search could pertain to those other clients and should be withheld. We already knew about one of the clients – the Republican fund raiser who used Cohen to pay off his mistress for agreeing to have an abortion. The other client was Sean Hannity.

    So now Hannity is faced with a choice. Either he owns up to the fact that he had a terrible case of conflict of interest in his defense of Cohen, or he throws Cohen under the bus and says he never did business with the guy.

    The class act that Hannity is, he chose the path that served his interests best. He threw Cohen under the bus. In the process, he supports the very case that he was arguing against. Cohen was not acting as a attorney in his relationship with Trump because he had no other clients and much of what he did was operational in nature rather than legal advise.

    Any other “news” organization would have told Hannity to sit down until this whole thing is sorted out. But Fox isn’t any other news organization. Hannity will be on the air again this evening at his normal 9PM slot. It’s the best place for him because they clearly deserve each other.

    PS – I would also be nice to find out just exactly what was the relationship between Hannity and Cohen. If Cohen was doing work for him, how was Cohen being compensated? Given the people involved, it is certainly possible that Trump was paying Cohen to provide services for Hannity in return for Hannity continuing to promote Trump and his agenda. If Cohen was providing services for Cohen as a FAVOR to Trump, what other people were receiving the same “favors”? If Cohen wasn’t doing work for Hannity, why did Cohen’s lawyer say that he was?

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:

    The Atlantic claims that Hannity has used two other lawyers who have also done work for Trump. Not surprisingly those lawyers were also frequent guests on Hannity’s show, one just a couple of days ago.

    Remember your pall Dershowitz? He called out Hannity on his own show for not disclosing his relationship with Cohen.

    On his show, Hannity railed against the Cohen raid but failed to disclose his connection to the attorney, seen by many as a journalistic conflict of interest.

    Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a frequent guest on Hannity’s show, called him out Monday on Fox’s airwaves. Dershowtiz said to Hannity, “you really should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen.”

    “It was minimal,” Hannity replied.

    Dershowitz replied, “and you should’ve said that.”

    “I have the right to privacy,” Hannity said. “It was such a minor relationship.”

    Finally

    The Wash Post reports that he has such a close relationship with Trump and spends so much time with him at the White House that a Trump adviser said “he basically has a desk here”.

    Perhaps those who watch Hannity don’t care that he has such obvious conflicts of interest.

    But in the larger scope of things, this points out the problems with unethical journalism. When pushed about his conflicts of interest, he claims to be an entertainer, or he claims that he has a right to privacy. The real question is whether or not the opinions that he expresses are driven by his own analysis of the situation OR are driven (or at least coordinated) with the Trump administration. If he is coordinating his broadcast position with the Trump administration, that is another example of authoritarianism. Undermining the democratic institutions of a free press. By a free press, that doesn’t only mean that the press can say whatever it wants. It also means that the press is free from external influences which would otherwise color the news that they report. Ethical sources of news disclose when they may have a potential conflict of interest. Whenever NPR here in Michigan runs a story on Embridge, they include the information that Embridge is a contributor to NPR. You don’t hear anything like that from either Fox or Hannity.

    What will ultimately happen is that the truth of his relationship with Trump will come out. Then the public will decide whether to continue to support a guy (Hannity) who is basically a liar.

  3. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Cracks in the Republican foundation are starting to show.

    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/17/mueller-protection-bill-supporters-528390

    Bills in the House and the Senate to protect Mueller are starting to gain support. In the House, that support is coming from a combination of House Republicans who are retiring and moderate House Republicans who are concerned about being too close to Trump in the fall.

    Both McConnell and Ryan are saying that these bills are not necessary. They also both understand that the Republican November strategy is to double down on support of Trump. So any movement away from that position has to be nipped in the bud before it blossoms into a full scale revolt.

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