Thursday, May 23, 2019

"And Then He Had The Meeting After"

In a "conversation" published by Salon on May 22, Malcolm Nance suggested "it turned out that (Special Counsel Robert) Mueller was an institutionalist. He literally tuck to every guideline that was given to him in the face of all the evidence. Then Mueller pulled every punch that was thrown." (He then speculated whether Rosenstein or Barr instead was to blame.)

On that very day, President Trump held a news conference in the Rose Garden in which he famously claimed "I don't do cover-ups"- and in which he appeared to verify that he does participate in cover-ups, and confirming Nance's suspicion about Mueller.

This is not about the payoff Trump ordered shortly before the presidential election, made to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about their brief affair. It goes to the very heart of the collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself. It involves the June 9, 2016 get-together at Trump Tower, about which Philip Bump recently recalled

In his written testimony for Mueller, Trump said he didn’t remember whether he knew about the meeting in advance. In attendance at the meeting were several key members of his campaign team: Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“I have no recollection of learning at the time that Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Jared Kushner was considering participating in a meeting in June 2016 concerning potentially negative information about Hillary Clinton,” Trump’s response to Mueller reads. “Nor do I recall learning during the campaign that the June 9, 2016 meeting had taken place, that the referenced emails existed. or that Donald J. Trump, Jr., had other communications with Emin Agalarov or Robert Goldstone between June 3, 2016 and June 9, 2016.”

The suspicion that Trump knew beforehand of the meeting had been "stoked," The New York Times snarked four months ago, by Democrats "pointing to phone calls that Donald Trump Jr. received from a blocked number around the time of the meeting." However

investigators have phone records showing that Donald Trump Jr. spoke with two family friends who used blocked numbers — Brian France, the chief executive of NASCAR, and the investor Howard Lorber — as the meeting was being set up, according to the people.

Mr. Lorber had significant investments in Russia and traveled to Moscow in 1996 with President Trump as they considered building a Trump Tower there.

For the younger Mr. Trump, the revelation that he had not called his father was seen among Trump allies as a victory over Democrats at a crucial moment in the investigation, according to people close to the White House.

In the same vein, Mueller wrote in the Special Counsel's report

According to written answers submitted by President Trump, he has no recollection of learning of the meeting at this time, and the Office found no documentary evidence showing that he was made aware of the meeting or of its Russian connection- before it occurred.

However, we now should be grateful to the President for demonstrating the worthlessness of a written interview, for on May 22 his memory appeared to clear up in the Rose Garden. Trump admitted

The bottom line is they say there's no collusion- no collusion with Russia. You heard so much talk about phone calls that my son made to me from this meeting that was set up by GPS Fusion, it looks like, which was the other side, for those who don't know.

And for a year I heard about phone calls went to a special number, unauthorized, and it would have been my son Don, who is a good young man, who's gone through hell. And they were calls that must have been made by him before and after the meetings- three calls. After massive study and work, they finally found who made the calls. One was a friend of ours, a real estate developer, great guy, most of you know him, a nice guy, loves our country. And the other one was the had of NASCAR, two of them.

So of the three calls that were so horrible, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after and he made three calls and they were written about like this little little line, a couple of lines, no one wanted to admit it....

In this Twitter thread, MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang argues "It appears to be obstruction of justice, a lie, it’s perjury and [Trump] obstructed the Mueller investigation by lying to the Special Counsel." Others disagree, believing that Trump was stating that one call involved the real estate developer and two, the head of NASCAR.

That's interesting, but not nearly dispositive. The conventional and prevailing wisdom has been that only two calls were made. Moreover, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after suggests that candidate Trump himself was called by his son- both before and after the infamous meeting.

Give Donald Trump credit, however, for pointing out during the news conference that the Special Counsel's investigation was expensive, though it cost only $15 million gross, not the $25 million he claimed, and with the dough ordered recouped from Paul Manafort, should be a net plus for taxpayers. It nonetheless cost millions of dollars (gross) and Robert Mueller, maintaining he found "no documentary evidence" that Trump knew about the meeting beforehand, could not find what the President now has admitted to, in full view of the nation.

Trump was surprisingly candid on another matter. "So here's the bottom line," the President began at 5:47 , "there was no collusion, no obstruction. We've been doing this since I've been President." Yes, that's right- he has been obstructing and colluding since he has been President.

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