By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
Today, Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Trump, admitted to lying to Congress ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46390368 ). In his statement, he claims he lied about the Trump negotiations with Russia regarding opening a Trump property well into the 2016 election, not only after Trump was the Republican front runner, but also after he won the primary to become the party’s nominee. These negotiations continued while members of the Trump election team knowingly met with Russian agents to discuss dirt on candidate Hilliary Clinton.
Trump denied the allegations, adding that, even if it were true, he broke no laws because, as a candidate, he was within his legal rights to continue to run his business. Meanwhile, he continues to undermine the investigation, calling Mueller’s efforts a “witch hunt”, a distraction from “real crimes”, and “fake news”. He fired his Attorney General Jeff Sessions immediately after the midterm elections and installed a new AG friendly to his office.
It is worthwhile to explore these and related issues.
Let’s take a moment to consider the lies. It’s all too easy to choose one of these men, Cohen or Trump, to believe based on what we wish to be true. To take one side as true over the other without thought, however, is to do a disservice to oneself as it is tantamount to self deception.
Cohen is clearly guilty of lying. There can be no doubt of this, but the question becomes, when did he lie? Either he lied initially when, as he now claims, he testified to Congress that the negotiations with Russia ended early in 2016 (January, to be specific), or he is lying now in claiming that they continued into November. However, it should be noted that there are corroborating testimonies. For example, it has been verified by other key testimonies that there was, indeed, a meeting with Russians involving attempts to get dirt on Hilliary Clinton.
On the flip side of the coin, President Trump has been caught in so many lies that Americans seem to have become numb to it, often laughing about it rather than giving the seriousness of an American president that nobody can trust its proper level of concern. So, who can we trust?
ON PRESIDENT TRUMP’S CALL TO END THE INVESTIGATION
The reality is that, the choice we have here, is to believe the most recent testimony of a man who must be lying, or the President, the man that we should believe. Unfortunately, President Trump’s actions are not those of an innocent man. If he were truly innocent, why is he calling for an end to the investigation, rather than embracing it, in recognition that nothing will be found to incriminate him?
One might argue that he does not trust the investigation, believing it to be biased. However, one must recall that Mueller is a member of the Republican party, and assigned to the investigation by the Republican AG Jeff Sessions. His final report will also be open to critical analysis by the Republican Party. Throughout the investigation, despite claims by the president, there has been no indication of any form of bias, misconduct or inappropriate actions in the investigation.
ON THE EMOLUMENT CLAUSE
Whether it is fair or not, the reality is that the behavior of the President of the United State matters, and anything that seems immoral, whether it is or not, harms the Office of the President and the reputation of the United States. Nixon was believed to be guilty of coverup of his party in the Watergate scandal and was impeached. Clinton was believed to be guilty of immoral behavior, not even related to policy, in the Oval Office, and was impeached.
When the Founding Fathers created the Emoluments Clause, it was because of the simple understanding that even percieved personal gain from legislation harms both the Office and the Country. President Trump claims he has broken no laws by maintaining his businesses, which is possible (I am not a judge; this is an opinion piece only), but his actions certainly seem personally motivated. He claims that he handed over control of his business to his children (who are, let us recall, members of his cabinet), but has maintained a personal interest. As such, his actions in office, such as warmed relations with Saudi Arabia and Russia, regardless of their actions against the US and/or human rights, means that his businesses, with projects in both countries, will benefit. As a result, when he returns to ownership and control of the Trump businesses, he will benefit from his policies.
So who do we believe? Cohen may well be making statements to benefit himself through leniency, but Trump seems to be benefitting as president as well. If the President’s actions to date were upstanding, the choice as to whom should be believed would be clear. My personal belief, however, is that the Mueller report will destroy the Trump presidency, assuming, of course, that the Republican party will allow the report to be released.