Have we reached the turning point in investigation of Trump?

donald trumpThe question isn’t, what does Bob Mueller have on Donald Trump. It’s, what does Vladimir Putin have on Donald Trump?

This after a whirlwind Thursday that began with Michael Cohen, Trump’s one-time personal fixer, plead guilty, again, to lying, this time to Congress, about the timeline related to a deal that the Trump Organization was trying to work out to build a new Trump Tower in Moscow.

Turns out, it was still being discussed into June 2016, i.e. at the height of the presidential campaign, as Trump had the Republican nomination sewn up, which is to say, it didn’t die a painless death in January 2016, as Cohen had originally told Congress.

Also Thursday: Trump’s former tax attorney, Ed Burke, a Chicago alderman, had his office raided by FBI.

Oh, and Deutsche Bank AG, the German financial giant, underwent its own raid on Thursday, nominally tied to the Panama Papers investigation, but … there’s also a history, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of history, lawsuits eventually settled worth of history, between Trump and Deutsche Bank.

Probably not a coincidence, is the safe bet there.

So, Trump’s bank, Trump’s former tax attorney, Trump’s former personal fixer, all in the news on Thursday.

We learn from the Cohen plea that Trump desperately wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and the idea was that the project would hinge on giving Putin a free $50 million value luxury apartment in the tower, as a way to lure Russian oligarchs to want to buy in, to be able to say they have access to Putin.

Not a bad plan, actually, working psychology, and greed, to the advantage of making money.

The timing of the discussions, as Russia was initiating its efforts to disrupt the 2016 election, hacking the Democratic National Committee and eventually the Hillary Clinton campaign, running a sophisticated voter-modeling operation targeting voters in the Midwest, is certainly intriguing, given what else we know.

Trump is playing defense on all of this in myriad ways: outright saying that Cohen is lying, even as Rudy Giuliani, supposedly one of Trump’s personal lawyers, is also saying that what Cohen is saying confirms what Trump said in his written responses to Mueller’s questions for the president in his inquiry.

He’s also saying, come on, whatever, I was just doing business, which I had every right to do, presidential campaign or not.

Which, OK, he had a right to do business, presidential campaign or not. But, offering a free $50 million luxury apartment to the leader of a country that still has nuclear missiles pointed at us? That, as we now know, and Trump, we may find out, knew very well then, was engaging in subterfuge to impact the result of that upcoming election?

Of note is that today, Paul Manafort, who was briefly the campaign manager for the Trump presidential bid in 2016, and has since been convicted for crimes related to the Trump-Russia investigation, is back in the crosshairs for apparently lying to the Mueller team as part of a plea deal that would have limited his exposure to an even lengthier prison sentence.

Word is now that Manafort’s legal team had been briefing the Trump personal legal team about its view of the inner workings of the Mueller investigation, and there are suggestions that the lies spun by Manafort to throw the Mueller team off the trail may have ended up in the president’s written responses to Mueller.

Which, OK, Watergate was a clumsy break-in and sloppy coverup. This is looking like a whole ‘nother level.

It’s starting to become clear that Mueller has the goods on the president.

But, back to Putin as we conclude here: could it be that he has something more?

Column by Chris Graham

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