New York: A bombshell BuzzFeed story that details investigators’ claims that US president Donald Trump told his lawyer to lie to Congress about his deep Russia connections during the 2016 election campaign is being hailed as a gamechanger and "Watergate 2.0" in the current American political scene. "The Titanic is coming at the iceberg and Trump is the Titanic” is a soundbite heard on telly today symptomatic of the mood before another tension filled weekend in Trumpworld.
Elizabeth Holtzman, author of 'The Case For Impeaching Trump' and Watergate era prosecutor says bluntly “we are in Watergate 2.0.""In Watergate, the man who lied for Nixon went to jail and Nixon resigned. That’s where we are today”, Holtzman told MSNBC.
What's new in the BuzzFeed story that has (re)ignited calls for Trump's impeachment is that law enforcement sources are saying Trump told Cohen to lie about his Russia project. That's more than what's already known from Robert Mueller probe's court filings about Trump's Russia connections. These are the precise conditions surrounding both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings: perjury and obstruction of justice.
If the latest BuzzFeed report is true, it’s perjury and it could define how the US presidency ends. That’s the big “if/ then” conclusion everyone in Washington is coming to, except, of course, the White House, which predictably, continues to call Cohen a “liar” and expects that Trump’s base will buy it wholeheartedly.
Then again, this story is explosive because it’s not about Cohen, it’s coming straight from the investigators who will not be saying this unless they have solid corroborating evidence that can be proved in court.
“Let’s not forget, Clinton was impeached for perjury. This is history repeating itself in front of us”, presidential historian Jon Meacham said hours after the story broke.
High crimes and misdemeanours remain undefined in the Constitution; many have said openly that impeachment is not something to rush into but now, after this BuzzFeed story, historians are saying it's less about Trump and much more about testing the durability of the 242 year experiment that the US Constitution represents.
Even the president's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said at his confirmation hearing this week that a president or anyone else who instructs a witness to lie or change his testimony commits illegal obstruction of justice.
The BuzzFeed story goes straight to the core of Trump’s Achilles heel - it implicates the US president’s adult children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
Quoting unnamed investigators “involved in an investigation of the matter”, the BuzzFeed report quotes sources saying that Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about a prized Moscow real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.
Will this be the moment when Republicans pull the plug on Trump?
That question has been asked before and the answers are before us: The US government has been shut down for nearly a month, 800,000 workers are living without pay and not a single Republican has broken ranks.
So, why does the BuzzFeed report matter when even the threat of a Mueller report isn’t moving the needle?
Because, if true, it’s the first time we are hearing from investigators that Trump told his lawyer to lie about Russia to mitigate the downside of the story getting out. Mueller has not told us this but Mueller knows this. Again, if true, this will be in the Mueller report and because we don’t know if the American public gets to see the report or not, every leaked story matters. It’s how we piece together what’s behind the redacted portions of Mueller’s court filings and how the 2016 election was won.
So far, the parallels to the Nixon era have dominated but equally, the end days of the Clinton are coming into sharper focus. Clinton stonewalled for seven straight months that he had had “sexual relations with that woman” referring to Monica Lewinsky and through all that time, the public had already processed the situation so it wasn’t such a shock when Clinton finally confessed in August 1998. Trump has stonewalled ever since he took office about connections with Russia and hush payments to women. Bill Clinton was impeached on the narrowest grounds of all - perjury. Trump is way beyond both Watergate and the Clinton scandal already, say historians.
Updated Date: Jan 19, 2019 04:26:01 IST