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    Tuesday, August 1, 2017

    The Obstruction Of Justice Case Against Trump Just Keeps Growing

    While the bombshell story from the Washington Post that Trump himself crafted Don Jr.'s initial, false statement on his meeting with Russians to get dirt on Hillary, further implicating Trump in obstruction of justice, a smaller and equally telling item was hidden way down in the story, indicating that Trump's legal team, and possible Trump himself, planned to blame the Don Jr. meeting on a Democratic plot to entrap the Trump campaign in colluding with the Russians. This contemplation of an additional obstruction of justice corresponds with the revelation by NPR that the White House was aware of the false Fox News report that tried to debunk the Russian investigation by claiming that Seth Rich had actually leaked the DNC emails to the Russians and that the President himself possible signed off on that story.

    Back in March, I wrote that there was already an extraordinary amount of evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. Since that time, we have learned about Kushner's attempt to create a back channel to the Russians and Don Jr's meeting with Russian representatives who were peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton, just to name the most explosive revelations. Meanwhile, everything that Trump does with regard to Russia screams guilt. He has already laid the groundwork for two of his last defenses, first that nothing he did was illegal and, lastly, who cares.

    Meanwhile, the obstruction of justice case against Trump also keeps growing. The Post report describes how the President overrode his advisers and apparently crafted every word of Don Jr.'s initial response to the news of the Russia meeting as an introductory meeting that only discussed Russian adoptions. Within days, that statement had been proved a fiction as the Russians had actually offered up dirt on Hillary, Don Jr. said he loved it, and then invited Kushner and Manafort to the meeting where it is unclear whether any documents were actually delivered by the Russians to the campaign.

    But the Post story also says, "The president’s legal team planned to cast the June 2016 meeting as a potential setup by Democratic operatives hoping to entrap Trump Jr. and, by extension, the presumptive Republican nominee, according to people familiar with discussions." This meshes with other attempts by the Trump team and their media mouthpieces to somehow claim the Democrats were actually responsible for the DNC email leaks, somehow "proving" the collusion story is a hoax.

    The NPR report shows how a wealthy Texas GOP donor and Trump supporter, Ed Butowsky, tried to determine if Seth Rich had actually leaked the DNC emails to WikiLeaks, that the FBI was covering that up, and that Hillary and the Democrats may have actually had a hand in Rich's death. Fox News eventually ran with this story, claiming that a source had seen the FBI file on the Rich case and confirming Rich's contacts with WikiLeaks, but had to retract it within days. An investigator hired by  Butowsky has now sued Fox News, claiming the news outfit attributed quotes to him which he never made.

    As part of that suit, it appears that Butowsky actually had a meeting with Sean Spicer in the White House where he outlined the details of the false Fox News story. Spicer has now confirmed that meeting, saying it was done as a favor to the wealthy donor. Furthermore, the suit claims that Butowsky told the investigator that Trump had read the Fox story and personally signed off on it. Butowsky admits he did make that statement but said he just made that up in order to encourage the investigator to stay "on script", even though the investigator knew elements of the Fox story were false. I imagine that Mueller might want to get Spicer and Butowsky to describe under oath what, if any, interactions they had with the President on this matter, some time in the future.

    Finally, Jared Kushner, who clearly has more skilled lawyers than anyone else in the White House, also manages to keep talking about the Russian investigation, probably to those lawyers chagrin. Kushner, who is Trump's point man on virtually everything important to Trump except Russia and immigration, is constantly trying to depict himself as one of the most forgetful and disorganized successful businessman on the planet. First he forgot his meeting with Flynn and the Russians where he tried to set up a secret back-channel. He forgot the meeting with the Russians and Don Jr.. He forgot the hundreds of meetings with foreign leaders. He claims he didn't read the entire email chain that Don. Jr sent him despite the subject line being "Re: Russia - Clinton - private and confidential". And he claims he showed up to that meeting without really knowing why.

    Now Kushner is reported to have told interns he addressed yesterday, "They thought we colluded, but we couldn’t even collude with our local offices." Of course, that's because the Trump campaign eschewed local offices and instead focused on a data-driven media onslaught run by Kushner and the Mercers. And just because they couldn't coordinate with local offices, doesn't mean they couldn't coordinate with the Russians. As I've noted above, there is enormous evidence to believe that happened, despite Kushner's self-serving statements about his own incompetence.

    While lying to the press and the American people is no crime, the false statement crafted by Trump and the potential Presidential involvement in the false Fox News story are indications of "consciousness of guilt" which is admissible as evidence in an obstruction of justice charge. And you can be sure Mueller will be cataloguing every one of these as he builds his case against Trump.

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