Wednesday, April 18, 2018
I liked Barbara Bush. It seemed to me that she was secretly in on a big joke. That she understood that the world of money, power and politics in which she lived was so much bullshit. But she just smiled, smiled, smiled as the Bush Dynasty dominated Republican politics for three decades and gifted us two presidents.
Who could forget that special moment when Babs and Poppy, who was running for re-election in 1992, went out to mingle with the lumpenproletariat in an effort to bolster his sagging poll numbers and ended up in a supermarket checkout line with a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy. They looked on in wonder as the cashier ran the items over an electronic scanner and the price registered on the cash register screen.
We wondered where the heck they had been?
Okay, so the story may be an urban legend. And I do not wish to speak ill of the dead as did Trump consigliere Roger Stone, who suggested just hours after Babs left this mortal coil on Tuesday that if you lit her body on fire it would "burn for three days." Never mind that Stone's body would burn forever.
But how about that sorry-assed bunch of so-called men Babs surrounded herself with? They get no slack.
There was Poppy, whose presidency was four looong years of hitting the read-his-lips Pause button. Over and over. And over.
There was Dubya, responsible for the Iraq debacle, but who actually looks pretty good these days because of You Know Who.
And finally there was Jeb, who was such an extraordinary milquetoast mediocrity that You Know Who rolled over him with ease.
Ah yes, the Bush Dynasty.
Monday, April 16, 2018
|JEENAH MOON FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES|
Will we look back on this week as the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency? If that is the case -- and I'm somewhat skeptical it is despite the pronouncements of a goodly number of pundits -- will Trump's fall have more to do with the rampant corruption surrounding Michael Cohen and his own family business than Kremlin collusion?
Possibly. Any way will suffice so long as it's the highway, but it is a pisser that all that rot has been hiding in plain view for many years.
Way back in the late 1990s -- you know, when Bill Clinton was getting spit roasted for having sex with that woman and lying about it -- tens of millions of money-laundered dollars were flowing into Trump's luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos from Russians, many of them mobsters.
It is not an exaggeration to say that dirty Russian money saved Trump, if only barely. By the late 1990s, he owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, with $800 million of it personally guaranteed, but his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia.
In 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in debt, which accelerated the exodus of money. By one estimate, some $1.3 trillion in illicit capital has poured out of Russia in the last 25 years, including many tens of millions of dollars that flowed into Trump properties. Trump's Taj Mahal casino subsequently received a $10 million slapdown by the Treasury Department in what was then the largest fine in U.S. history for money-laundering violations.
"Without the Russian mafia," says journalist Craig Unger, who has written extensively on Trump's businesses, "it is fair to say Donald Trump would not be president of the United States."
In Azerbaijan, Trump did business with a sanctions-busting money launderer for Iran's Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group involved in an immense bank fraud scheme, while in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, he climbed into bed with known crooks.
Then there are all of Trump's links to New York mafiosi and myriad other homegrown financial irregularities, which bring us back to Cohen, whom Trump hired because he viewed him as a conduit for money from Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union because of his extensive cash-intensive business contacts. (These include taxi medallion businesses in New York, Chicago and elsewhere that have piqued investigators' interest.) And because Cohen could make Trump's "problems" go away, whether through legal sleight of hand, lawsuits or intimidation.
Cohen and Donald Jr. and Ivanka, Trump's two eldest children, basically ran the Trump Organization while Daddy-O starred in a reality TV show and chased glamorous Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels, among many other women. It was Cohen and the kids, not Don't Bother Me With the Details Donald, who did most of the deal making with an astonishing array of bad people from whom other businesses fled in horror.
While all that all rot has indeed been hiding in plain view for many years, it did not escape the notice of the elite Public Corruption Unit of the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, which has such an impressive record of bringing down politicians and businesspeople, Democrats and Republicans alike, that it is jokingly referred to as the "Sovereign District" in legal circles because of its nonpartisanship and autonomy.
Lawyers for Cohen and Trump were back in court on Monday, and Daniels put in an appearance, as well.
Their lawyers argued that many of the records seized by FBI agents assigned to the Public Corruption Unit in April 9 raids on Cohen's office, apartment and hotel room (based in part on a referral from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller). Agents took 10 boxes of documents and as many as a dozen electronic devices, including cellphones and computer hard drives.
The lawyers want to examine the records first in order to determine which among them might be protected by that privilege. a very important step because it could affect which documents prosecutors can ultimately use. And in a play from Trump's campaign to undermine the Justice Department and FBI, they argued that the raids and document seizures were tainted by "toxic partisan politics."
At the insistence of U.S District Judge Kimba Wood, the lawyers reluctantly revealed that Cohen currently has only three clients -- Trump, Elliott Broidy, the Trump mega-fundraiser and Republican National Committee finance chair . . . and following a heated debate and to gasps from the gallery, Sean Hannity, the Fox News anchor and Trump sycophant and apologist.
Cohen had resisted naming Hannity, citing his client's expressly made request that his identity not be made public. Cohen lawyer Stephen Ryan further explained to Wood that the client would be "embarrassed" to be identified as having hired Cohen. At that point -- and in a singularly amazing moment in American jurisprudence -- Robert Balin, a lawyer for several media outlets, interrupted the proceedings to argue that embarrassment was not a sufficient legal argument to keep a client's name secret. Wood agreed.
(Like a deer caught in headlights, Hannity in effect said that Cohen was not his lawyer but was his lawyer. "To be absolutely clear," he added, his contacts with Cohen "never involved any matter between me and a third-party." Hmm. We shall see.)
Because Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its sleazy global partners and presumably kept records of it all, his records should provide prosecutors with an invaluable window into Trump's relationship with Cohen, including his role in helping to arrange payments during the 2016 campaign for women having sex with Trump and him lying about it.
At the end of the two-and-a-half hour hearing, Wood rejected the attempt to block prosecutors from immediately reviewing the seized material while signaling that she was considering appointing a special master to assist in the document review.
Adding to Cohen's woes, and indirectly to Trump's, is evidence that Cohen and Keith Davidson, who was Daniels' first lawyer and negotiated big-buck deals for her and McDougal to remain mum about their affairs with Trump, were operating in concert.
When a former Playboy model found out she was pregnant by Broidy, she contacted Davidson, according to the Wall Street Journal. Davidson then brought in Cohen to contact Broidy. Cohen was Broidy's lawyer in negotiations that resulted in a $1.6 million settlement and confidentiality agreement, for which the Journal says Davidson bagged a $640,000 fee and Cohen $250,000.
(Broidy also is emerging as a big Russia scandal player because of his association with fixer George Nader, who arranged a secret meeting with Erik Prince and a Russian in the Seychelles in an effort to open a back channel between Trump and the Kremlin, and the efforts of Broidy and Nader to buy off Trump associates on behalf of Gulf state potentates.)
A couple, three wee questions here: If Davidson and Cohen were operating as a team, was that not unethical and may represent criminal fraud and possibly even extortion? And isn't it curious that Cohen used the Delaware shell company he created for the Daniels payoff for his legal fees until StormyGate broke when he then began using a personal account?
The backdrop to all of this is, of course, James Comey's Personal Absolution Tour.
While the tour will sell lots of copies of the fired FBI director's scathing take-down memoir of Trump, it should change few minds regarding how quick he was to investigate Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state and painfully -- and unforgivably -- slow to take seriously the Kremlin's attack on a bedrock of American democracy and the Trump campaign's complicity.
Then there is the backdrop to the backdrop.
Mueller has notched Russia scandal indictments against 19 individuals and has secured the cooperation of several key players in the Trump campaign, but is only just getting started. A journalist colleague says he'll be furious if a big-boobed broad ends up bringing down his presidency and not the special prosecutor. But like I said, any way will suffice so long as it's the highway.
ANOTHER VICTIM FOR PUTIN'S HIT LIST
Meanwhile, another victim -- and yet another Russian investigative journalist -- can be added to the hit list of Donald Trump's best friend, Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Maxim Borodin, 32, who had incurred Putin's wrath in writing recently about Russian mercenaries being killed by U.S. special forces in Syria for the newspaper Novy Den, died on Sunday from severe injuries sustained after falling from his fifth-floor balcony in Yekaterinburg on April 12.
The mercenaries, known as the Wagner Group, were reportedly killed in the clash in Deir al-Zour province on February 7. Outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo said last week that "a couple hundred" mercenaries died while taking part in an attack by pro-Syrian government fighters on the headquarters of a U.S. ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
In February and March, Novy Den published several dispatches by Borodin from the town of Asbest, home to several men who had left for Syria to fight with the Wagner Group, a secretive paramilitary organization with murky ties to the Kremlin and Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch nicknamed "Putin’s chef," who was indicted in February by Mueller for overseeing a St. Petersburg troll factory that waged information warfare against the U.S.
Predictably, authorities said Borodin's death was a suicide.
Mysterious falls from high places masked as suicides are a recurring theme among the 30-plus other possible victims of Putin's use of assassination as a political weapon. They sometimes involve exotic, hard-to-trace poisons and often are carried out by hitmen for the FSB, a state security agency headed by Putin until he became prime minister and then president, and sometimes by mobsters loyal to Putin.
As if on cue, Trump on Monday put the brakes on a plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Syria, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of the new punishment. His move came shortly before U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies warned that state-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet networking hardware that could be used in a future hacking offensive.
and related developments.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
|MARK WILSON / GETTY|
Donald Trump has been in a world of hurts since the day he became president, but with his long anticipated firing of Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein -- the predicate act to axing Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- he and we would enter uncharted and extraordinarily perilous territory. What has been a slow-motion constitutional crisis as the Russia scandal engulfs the White House would become a conflagration.
Several of the multiple crises dogging the Trump presidency came to a head in a week filled with dramatic developments.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who always has been willing to apologize for Trump no matter how outrageous the president's behavior but was unable to deliver legislative victories for him, announced that he's fleeing a sinking Republican congressional ship, portending further trouble for the party ahead of midterm elections that have become a referendum on Trump and the growing possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House and onset of impeachment proceedings that in a less hyper-partisan age already would be well underway.
Trump fixer Michael Cohen was in a huge fix himself following FBI raids on his office, apartment and hotel room in search of evidence that there has been a strategy to buy the silence of women by suppressing accounts of Trump's infidelities that could have harmed his election chances. The agents seized Cohen's computer, cell phone and a slew of records, including communications between Cohen and Trump that may reveal evidence of federal crimes including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.
Meanwhile, Mueller continues to turn up the heat. Trump's former campaign manager is under indictment and faces spending the rest of his life in prison, his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his own illegal activities, son-in-law Jared Kushner is in deep legal trouble, and sundry other reprobates and grifters surrounding the president also are under scrutiny beyond the 19 individuals already indicted.
And A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, fired FBI Director James Comey's tell-all memoir on Trump, is a runaway pre-publication bestseller. The former FBI director has written a devastating takedown of Trump as a relentless liar and slave to his ego who is obsessively unethical, devoid of humanity, clueless about his job and unconcerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin's ongoing assault on American democracy.
|YANA PASKOVA / GETTY|
But the biggest bomb did not drop on Syria. It landed squarely on Trump's head.
In the most convincing and powerful evidence to date that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to cyber sabotage Hillary Clinton, the McClatchy News Service reported as bombs were raining down on Syrian targets that Mueller has evidence Michael Cohen -- yes, that Michael Cohen -- secretly traveled to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign where he strategized with a powerful Kremlin figure and other Russians about ongoing election interference.
The development is by far the most significant in the special counsel's deepening investigation into how -- not whether -- the campaign and Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House.
The revelation undercuts Trump's repeated pronouncements that "there is no evidence of collusion" and Cohen's disingenuous denials that he never was in the capital of the Czech Republic. Cohen flashed his passport for inquiring reporters, noted that it lacked anything showing he had visited the Czech Republic and swore he had not ever been there.
The revelation also will considerably increase the stakes if the president makes good on his repeated intimations that he will order Mueller's firing after removing Rosenstein.
Perhaps the biggest lesson from the infamous Christopher Steele dossier is that what the former British spy's confidential sources said was happening and predicted would happen were stunningly accurate and dovetail with the McClatchy report on Cohen.
Cohen is said to have taken over certain duties after Paul Manafort was fired as Trump's campaign manager on August 19, 2016 following a Washington Post report that Manafort had received millions of dollars in payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Among those duties, according to a dossier source, was managing the stateside arm of the Kremlin's conspiracy to exploit hacked emails and other documents embarrassing to Clinton, working with the Kremlin on how to take maximum advantage of the hacked materials, and making cash payments to some of the hackers.
A trip to Moscow was considered too risky for Cohen, according to the dossier, while Mueller's investigators now have evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany during late August or early September of 2016. He would not have needed a passport for such a trip because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders.
Once in Prague, according to the dossier, Cohen attended a meeting at the office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo.
Attending the meeting was a prominent Russian purported to be Konstantin Kosachev, a Putin ally who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council. Kosachev is among 24 high-profile Russians recently hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia's election interference. Also in attendance were Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, and several Eastern European hackers.
Citing information from an unnamed "Kremlin insider," the dossier alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and the others discussed "how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe" who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign "in cryptic language for security reasons," and of ways to "sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven."
Romanians were among the hackers present, the dossier says, and the discussion touched on using Bulgaria as a location where they could "lie low" should they be exposed.
As the week slouched to an end, Trump's advisers were telling him that the wide-ranging corruption investigation into his consigliere posed a greater and more imminent threat to him than even Mueller's investigation. After all, Cohen was widely seen as being so dirty that he never would be given an official White House position even if he was a Trump loyalist, a damning conclusion considering how corrupt many of the people with White House positions are.
But the view that Cohen the fixer is more trouble than Cohen the campaign go-between is highly debatable given that his secret mission to Prague on Trump's behalf now has been laid bare.
and related developments.
Friday, April 13, 2018
|BUZZFEED NEWS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION|
Logic -- you know, reasoning based on strict principles of validity -- has taken a beating over the course of the grotesquery known as the Trump presidency, but you have to really ignore reason to swallow the latest assault on logic emanating from the bowels of the White House as Trump fulminates over James Comey's tell-all memoir: Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein can no longer oversee Robert Mueller's Russia scandal probe because he was a big player in one of the president's many bad acts under investigation by the special prosecutor.
Axing Rosenstein would be Trump's predicate act prior to finally making good his oft-repeated rant that the special prosecutor must be fired because it logically follows that he is a Hillary Clinton stooge who is engineering a deep-state plot against the president. But to fire Mueller, inconveniently Trump probably must first get rid of Rosenstein, who supervises the special prosecutor's increasingly deep and broad investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Trump campaign's collusion in the cyber-espionage of Clinton and the president's repeated attempts to shut down the whole megilla.
Getting rid of Rosenstein because he authored the letter articulating the reason Trump used to fire FBI Director Comey -- that he was mean to Clinton during the campaign -- does have a sort of comedic logic.
That is until one recalls that although Comey did treat Clinton unfairly in the course of the FBI's off again-on again-off again investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state, in the process further crippling a campaign already being kneecapped by the Kremlin with the help of the Trumpsters and their Cambridge Analytica helpmates, the real reason Comey was fired was his fledgling Russia investigation, which was getting way too hot for Trump to handle. So he had to go.
Go Comey did, but in one of the more amazing episodes in this entire Dostoevsky-esque saga, it then fell to Rosenstein, a Trump appointee and lifelong Republican, to appoint a special prosecutor to sift through the wreckage of Comey's efforts. That was Mueller, a Bush appointee and another lifelong Republican, who happened to be perhaps the only investigator with the chops to take down Trump. Which he is well on his way to doing.
The mastermind of the Get Rosenstein brainstorm is said to be Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign and White House strategist, who departed the adult day care center known as the West Wing for a whirlwind Revenge on Mainstream Republicans Tour but like the proverbial bad penny, keeps coming around.
Bannon, according to The Washington Post, is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of what's left of Trump's legal team to provide information to the special counsel's crew and allow staff members to sit for interviews, which 20 or so already have done. And he's telling the president that he needs to create a new legal battleground to protect himself from Mueller by asserting executive privilege and arguing that Mueller's interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void.
This is a not-so-clever iteration of the Dumb and Dumber Strategy first rolled out by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and later picked up by other Trumpkins when Mueller began turning up the heat: The campaign was too chaotic and incompetent to collude with those clever Ruskies.
Bannon's view is that Trump's lawyers are too incompetent to give him proper legal advice.
"The president wasn't fully briefed by his lawyers on the implications" of not invoking executive privilege, Bannon told The WaPo. "It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively."
The timing for these turn of events does have a certain logic.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who could never deliver for Trump (let alone the American people, whom he repeatedly tried to hoodwink) finally delivers in announcing that he's fleeing the sinking Republican congressional ship.
Trump fixer Michael Cohen is now in a big fix himself as evidence mounts that there was a strategy to buy the silence of women and others by suppressing accounts of Trump's infidelities that could have harmed his election chances, including the bomblet dropped on Thursday that the publisher of The National Enquirer not only paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her "catch and kill" silence but coughed up $30,000 to a former doorman at a Trump building to prevent him from publicizing a (possibly false) rumor that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock.
Meanwhile, Mueller continues to turn up the heat, Trump's former campaign manager is under indictment and faces spending the rest of his life in prison, his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his own illegal activities, Kushner is in very deep legal doo-doo, and sundry other reprobates and grifters surrounding the president also are under scrutiny.
And most timely of all, Comey's tell-all memoir on Trump, already a runaway pre-publication bestseller, hits doorsteps all over America on Tuesday.
Reviewers are portraying A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership as a devastating takedown of Trump as a relentless liar and slave to his ego who is obsessively unethical, devoid of humanity, clueless about his job and unconcerned about Russia's ongoing assault on American democracy.
The Republican National Committee has responded by launching a digital ad campaign and website that will brand the former FBI director as "Lyin' Comey," while Trump, in a pair of tweets on Friday, called him an "untruthful slime ball," a "proven LEAKER & LIAR," and said it was "my great honor to fire" him.
The activist group MoveOn claims more than 300,000 people have pledged to attend "rapid response" protests should Trump go "full Nixon" and fire Mueller, while it does seem like all he needs to do so is a wee nudge.
According to the West Wing leak machine, Trump is "nearing a meltdown" -- or "Acting on Impulse," as a scary WaPo headline put it -- and telling friends and aides that he is willing to engage in political warfare to stop his presidency from being consumed by the Russia scandal investigation.
That, of course, is illogical, although you have to give the guy credit for having learned nothing from firing Mueller. Which Bannon, in an outbreak of truthiness, told "60 Minutes" was one of the worst mistakes in "modern political history."
What is logical is that Trump's presidency already has been consumed by the investigation and getting rid of Mueller will be like pouring gasoline on the conflagration.
and related developments.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
“Leave Donald Trump alone. Forget the story. . . .That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom . . . ” ~ UNIDENTIFIED MAN TO STORMY DANIELS, 2011
"You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it . . . and I’m going to mess your life up." ~ MICHAEL COHEN TO A REPORTER, 2015
It figures that if anyone would be more vile than Donald Trump, it would be his lawyer. But to call Michael Cohen a lawyer is misleading. He does have a law degree and sometimes does stuff that lawyers do, but he actually is a "fixer," who in a long and sordid history as the president's go-to guy and keeper of secrets, has never shied away from threats, intimidation and whatever it takes to cover up for the spittle-flecked man with small hands and unusual hair who now pretends to be president but demeans the office and the American people a little more with each passing day.
Cohen is having a very bad week, which means that Trump is, as well, because he has an awful lot to hide that his consigliere knows all about.
Agents from the public corruption unit of the Manhattan federal attorney's office came knocking at Cohen's law office, home and hotel room early on the morning of April 9 armed with search warrants and acting like he was some sort of mob lawyer. Which, of course, he is.
The agents seized Cohen's computer, cell phone and a slew of records, including privileged communications between Cohen and Trump that may well reveal evidence of federal crimes including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to a $130,00 payment Cohen made to a certain adult-film star with whom Trump had an affair but claims to know nothing about.
You could call it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just the same.
In Trumpworld, even the lawyers have lawyers, and so Stephen Ryan, who is Cohen's, predictably threw a fit about the sanctity of lawyer-client confidentiality being besmirched despite the fact investigators appear to have taken great care in drawing up the search warrants, including being able to prove to a judge there was no other way to obtain the evidence, which in this case means that Cohen and Trump can kiss lawyer-client privilege goodbye if the relationship was used to further any criminal enterprises.
Trump, meanwhile, went ballistic and variously described the day's events as "a whole new level of unfairness," a "break-in," a "total witch hunt," and most dramatically, "an attack on our country" and "It's an attack on what we all stand for" while yet again threatening to fire Robert Mueller although the warrants were not issued by the special prosecutor and it may be too late to ax the special prosecutor with Cohen in his clutches.
Indeed, the president was unmoved by the fact the warrants had been approved by two of his senior Justice Department officials after Mueller became aware of Cohen's indiscretions, took them to his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who in turn handed the ball to the official and told them to run with it.
While Cohen and Trump might have felt a modicum of relief that the bust was not directly related to Mueller's investigation of Russian election interference, that should be of small comfort.
Cohen's dirty hands are all over the scandal.
He has been a conduit for money from Ukraine, Russia and other former Soviet states, and that's how he ended up in the Trump Organization about 12 years ago. He played a central role in secret negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow that the Trump Organization undertook after Trump announced his candidacy for president. He was involved with an effort to craft a "peace plan" for Ukraine after Russia seized Crimea and a few days before Trump took office that included the lifting of Obama era sanctions. Cohen delivered the plan to Michael Flynn, Trump's short-lived national security adviser, at the White House.
And, in a little explored back alley of Christopher Steele's dossier -- you know, the one that laid out the Trump campaign's collusion with the Kremlin with uncanny accuracy -- is the assertion of one of Steele's sources that Cohen took over as bag man to pay off Russian hackers after campaign manager Paul Manafort got the boot.
What is glaringly obvious is that contrary to appearances, Trump's judge of character is excellent and that bad people like Cohen are his people.
How else to explain the reprobates and grifters who surround the president, the fact his former campaign chairman is under indictment and faces spending the rest of his life in prison, his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his own illegal activities, his son-in-law is in very deep legal doo-doo, and numerous other associates also are under scrutiny.
IT'S A PRETTY SAFE BET THAT COHEN'S CURRENT WOES might have been limited to what Mueller has unearthed were it not for the ballsy Stormy Daniels, who was on the receiving end of what may become the most infamous one-night stand in history -- a single evening of sex with Trump in 2006 followed by a year of heavy breathing and holding.
The 2011 incident in which Stormy was threatened by an unidentified man in a Las Vegas parking lot as she was taking her infant daughter out of her car to go to a fitness class occurred shortly after she first tried to sell the story of her affair to InTouch, a tabloid magazine.
The magazine had decided not to run the interview with her after Cohen threatened to sue, but finally published it after The Wall Street Journal reported on his $130,000 payment to her 12 days before the election to remain silent about the affair and the nondisclosure agreement he had her sign began to unravel. Daniels sued to get out of the hush agreement, which her lawyer says is invalid because Trump, who continues to deny the affair, never signed it and recently claimed he knew nothing about it.
Cohen and Trump have countersued, claiming she violated the nondisclosure agreement. Cohen had paid Daniels the 130 grand through a Delaware shell company. They are seeking $20 million in damages, or $1 million per violation of the agreement. And counting. More recently, Daniels has tacked on an allegation that Cohen defamed her by insinuating that she lied about the affair, and the very same legal eagles who have pontificated endlessly for the media about the Russia scandal are pretty much unanimous that Stormy has a pretty strong case.
If the hush money can be considered a direct campaign contribution, which many experts do, it blew out the $2,700 individual legal limit. The payment has become the subject of complaints to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, while Cohen may end up losing his law license because of ethical lapses. (Recall that John Edwards was indicted for a not dissimilar situation.)
Meanwhile, both the New York bank that transferred the money from the shell company and the California bank that received it flagged the transaction and reported it to the Treasury Department as a suspicious payment, according to the Journal, while Cohen used his Trump Organization email in negotiating the agreement and in communicating with his bank about the funds.
The Monday raids also sought documents about Karen McDougal, an ex-Playboy model who says she carried on a nearly year-long affair with Trump more or less simultaneously with Stormy's. She was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company, whose chief executive is a friend Trump goombah, for her silence. She too is suing to get out of a nondisclosure agreement.
In addition to the feds' interest in Stormy and McDougal, they were looking for records related to the "Access Hollywood" tape made public a month before the election in which Trump made vulgar comments about forcing himself on women. All of this would seem to indicate that they are trying to determine if there was a strategy to buy the silence of women by suppressing accounts that could have harmed Trump's election chances, as well as whether any crimes were committed in service of that goal.
Additionally, investigators were looking for documents pertaining to Cohen's once lucrative taxi medallion business, which owes about $40,000 in unpaid taxes. Severely limiting the number of medallions as New York's population grew made each medallion extraordinarily valuable. Prices peaked at $1 million each in 2013 after years of strong-arm tactics on the part of Cohen and his associates before the market collapsed with the arrival of Uber and Lyft.
The 2015 incident involved Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak, who had called Cohen for comment on allegations that Trump abused ex-wife Ivana, as detailed in a 1993 biography.
"Tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting," Cohen told Mak before adding, "You write a story that has Mr. Trump's name in it . . . and I'm going to mess your life up."
Is Cohen's very bad week at prequel to Trump's impeachment?
Maybe not, but at least the president's bubble is bursting. Sooner or later Mueller will be asking him questions under oath, that is if he isn't fired first, and of course he will lie, lie, lie. Then maybe we can finally act on getting rid of the bastard, something that not even Trump's fixer can fix.