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Donald Trump ally Erik Prince may have committed perjury, a congressman has said, after the former Navy Seal said for the first time he held a meeting with one of the US president’s sons to discuss “Iran policy”.
Mr Prince, founder of controversial military contractor Blackwater USA, admitted he met Donald Trump Jr and an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Trump Tower ahead of the presidential election.
The admission comes more than a year after the 49-year-old, brother of US education secretary Betsy DeVos, failed to disclose the meeting under oath to the House intelligence committee, according to a public transcript.
He said: “He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States. Graeme Demianyk, HUFFPOST
Michael Cohen, the disgraced ex-attorney, once boasted he would “take a bullet” for Trump, but has implicated him over election campaign finance violations.
Here are some of the most stunning moments from the session:
Hush money paid to Stormy Daniels
Cohen revealed two cheques and a wire transfer that he claims are evidence the president paid hush money to porn actor Stormy Daniels.
Trump ordered him to pay $130,000 (£77,000) to the adult film actress to cover up an affair, he claimed.
Cohen told Congress: “I am providing a copy of a $35,000 cheque that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account. This $35,000 cheque was one of 11 check instalments that was paid throughout the year – while he was President.”
Cohen asked the room to picture the scene, one month into his presidency, in which Trump was “showing me around and pointing to different paintings, and he says to me something to the effect of ‘don’t worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement cheques are coming. They were Fed-Exed from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system’.”
Cohen also claimed he was ordered by Trump to lie about the whole episode to First Lady Melania Trump.
Trump’s links to Russian mafia
Democrat Harley Rouda pushed Cohen on the president’s links with Felix Sater, a “convicted member of the Russian mafia”.
He said Trump had claimed not to know him while testifying under oath, but that appeared contradictory to Cohen’s claims they had close dealings.
The congressman asks Cohen where files about Sater’s involvement with the Trump Organization might be found.
Cohen says they’re “in the possession of the Trump Organization”, probably in a box in an offsite storage facility.
Asked whether Trump misled or lied under oath, Cohen said: “Yes.”
He also claimed the president once said black people were “too stupid” to vote for him, and mocked living conditions in a poor Chicago neighbourhood.
Referencing the president’s controversial public comments about white supremacists, Cohen said the president’s attitude towards minorities “is even worse” in private.
He said: “He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.
“While we were once driving through a struggling neighbourhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.
“And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
Views on his son
Trump appears to have a low opinion of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
Cohen said: “Mr Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgement of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone – and certainly not without checking with his father.”
Earlier, Trump’s sons lashed out about the imminent congressional hearing.
Eric Trump tweeted that it was “a national disgrace that on the eve of historic peace talks” between his father and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, “the Democrats in the House orchestrate this clownshow”.
Jr, meanwhile, shared video to Instagram in which Cohen repeatedly praised his former boss.
“It was only after Cohen was caught for tax evasion and other personal financial misdeeds, he began lying about President Trump in an effort to save face,” he captioned the clip.
The Vietnam War
Cohen says he was tasked by Trump to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam war draft.
He said: “Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.
“He finished the conversation with the following comment. ‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.’”
Trump is currently at a Vietnam hotel before a planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Cohen made reference to: “And I find it ironic, Mr President, that you are in Vietnam right now. And yet I continued to work for him.”
Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Cohen claimed, which contradict the president’s assertions that he was in the dark.
Cohen said in the prepared evidence that he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when longtime adviser Roger Stone telephoned Trump.
Trump put Stone on speakerphone and Stone told him that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign”, according to Cohen.
Trump responded by saying “wouldn’t that be great”, Cohen said.
That month, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee’s server.
“A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time,” Cohen said in the prepared evidence. “The answer is yes.”
Cohen said he does not have direct evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government during the election, but that he has “suspicions”.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has not suggested that mere awareness of WikiLeaks’ plans is by itself a crime.
Buying portraits of himself
Trump is alleged to have arranged for someone to bid $60,000 on a portrait of himself – then reimbursed them with funds from his non-profit foundation.
The portrait now hangs in one of Trump’s country clubs, said Cohen.
“Mr Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event,” Cohen told the committee.
“The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon.”
School grades cover-up
Cohen threatened Trump’s former schools and the college board to ensure his grades and SAT scores never got out, he revealed.
In his testimony, Cohen said: “I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the college board to never release his grades or SAT scores.”View image on Twitter
Cohen gave the committee copies of a letter threatening them with civil action if those details ever got out.
Moscow property project
Cohen suggested Trump also implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow property project.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project, which he says Trump knew about as Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the 2016 election campaign.
Cohen said Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but “he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing”.
Cohen said that “in his way, he was telling me to lie”.
He added that lawyers for Trump had “reviewed and edited” the statement in which Cohen falsely said a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow had been abandoned in January 2016.
Cohen has since said he continued pursuing the project for Trump for months after that.
Trump likes avoiding bills
Trump ‘reveled’ in refusing to pay his bills, Cohen said. “One of my more common responsibilities was that Mr Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming,” he said.
“When I advised Mr Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.”
By JACK SHAFER, POLITICO| The special counsel continues to expose the one talent shared by all the president’s men: They just can’t seem to tell the truth.
|AIWA! NEWS INTERNATIONAL|It will cost you about $100,000 to join Trump National Golf Club here in Washington. Plan on setting aside $200,000 to join his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. But put your money away if you want inside Trump’s most exclusive club. The only way into Trump’s liars club is to shoot your mouth off for him.
The current membership includes criminal confessed liars, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who lied to Congress, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump policy aide George Papadopoulos, and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates, all of whom lied to investigators. In the Trump liars hall of fame, you can find Paul Manafort, who appears to have lied to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators after signing a plea agreement in which he promised honest cooperation. Jerome Corsi, whom investigators believe lied repeatedly to them about his role in seeking the WikiLeaks caches of Podesta emails, and stands to be indicted soon, could be a member in time for the holidays. (Corsi says he did not lie intentionally.) Meanwhile, long-time Trump advisor Roger Stone, implicated in Corsi’s lies, has zig-zaggedon questions about his knowledge on WikiLeaks’ inner workings and has repeatedly said he expects to be indicted. Donald Trump Jr. is a member by virtue of nepotism. But he may have earned his way in if he lied to Congress about what he knew about the Moscow deal. Junior, who had said the deal was long dormant, faces new legal exposure now that Cohen has admitted that the Trump Organization were developing a Trump project in Moscow until June 2016. (For an intimate look at Donald Jr.’s unique relationship with the truth, see this HuffPost comprehensive list of his memory lapses.)
The greatest of all the Trump prevaricators is President Donald Trump himself. He has lied so many times the Washington Post fact-checker would have an easier job chronicling the true things he says instead of the false. Faced with Cohen’s confession about the Moscow deal, Trump is now retreating from long-running assertions that he had nothing to do with Russian investments. As he departed for Buenos Aires on Thursday, Trump seemed to confirm the Cohen Moscow timeline, saying, “I decided not to do the project.” Again in a Friday series of tweets, Trump essentially conceded Cohen’s timeline, justifying the Moscow scheme. “Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia,” he wrote. In other words, all that lip music he sang during and after the campaign about being free of Russian encumbrances was—in the lying tradition of the Trump gang—a big lie.
This is the nightmare Trump faces now: One-by-one, his loyal liars have switched their allegiances to Mueller
Despite what he said about Cohen, his former fixer, whom he now considers “weak,” Trump finds no particular shame in lying—or in getting caught lying. As his biographer Timothy L. O’Brien wrote last year, Trump acknowledged 30 times under oath in a 2007 deposition that he had lied about a whole host of business-related topics. He even lied in his deposition (about his business relationship with mobsters).
The most damaging thing about Trump’s Moscow tower lies, as former CIA acting director John McLaughlin put it on Twitter, was that he might have fooled American voters with his falsehoods but not the Russian government officials his project was dealing with. “Russia knew all along when Trump was lying during the campaign in denying financial dealings with Moscow,” McLaughlin wrote. “The seeds of blackmail. More to wonder about re what was said during that private meeting w/Putin in Helsinki.”
If Trump lied about the Moscow tower, we should be safe to speculate that his statement about being in the dark about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, Donald Jr., and the dirt-promising Russians was a lie, too, and that his insistence that Roger Stone never tipped him about coming WikiLeaks email dumps was also false. Stone, the Washington Post reports from draft court documents in the Corsi matter, spoke repeatedly by phone with Trump during the 2016 campaign. Did they talk about WikiLeaks? “It just didn’t come up,” Stone said. “I am able to say we never discussed WikiLeaks.” Given Trump’s abiding interest in WikiLeaks—he praised the organization at least five times in October and November 2016 during the campaign—and Stone’s obsession with the group, that’s impossible to believe.
Far from being accidental, the lies told by the Trump gang are premeditated, steered by the moral teachings of Stone, who insists you should “Deny everything.” Lying is the first option the Trump gang draws on because they’ve learned that in a credulous universe it provides an excellent defense against most comers. A foundation built on lies tends to erode, however, when subjected to the compare-and-contrast inspection of a government probe like Mueller’s. Armed with subpoena power and the threat of prosecution, an investigator like Mueller can separate the true from the false and call out the liars—as he has repeatedly—and turn them into his collaborators who can help lead him to the truth.
This is the nightmare Trump faces now: One-by-one, his loyal liars have switched their allegiances to Mueller (except Manafort, who, perhaps angling for a pardon, double-crossed the special counsel, and will be made to pay for his indiscretion as a warning to other potential double-crossers). “Cohen’s guilty plea cements the Trump Organization’s financial ties to the Russian state, deep into crucial phases of the 2016 election cycle,” writesformer federal prosecutor Ellie Honig for CNN. Cohen, Trump’s right-hand man for 12 years, reportedly spent 70 hours gabbing to Mueller’s people. We’re safe to speculate that all of that Cohen talk might eventually straighten out other Trump lies. The Cohen plea also knocked Trump’s legal defenders off balance, writes Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, because it was made public just after the Trump defense delivered the president’s written answers to Mueller’s questions. If Trump’s answers don’t line up with Cohen’s version—which Mueller has presumably backed up with documents or other accounts—the president could face accusations of perjury. (Scandal mavens will recall that perjury was one of the two impeachment charges against Bill Clinton that made it to a Senate vote. The other was obstruction of justice.)
In a sharp piece this week, my former boss Garrett M. Graff explained that we need not await Mueller’s final report to glean the gist of his investigation. “Nearly every court document he has filed has been what lawyers call a ‘speaking indictment,’ going into deeper detail and at greater length than is strictly needed to make the case for the criminal behavior charged,” Graff writes. “With his major court filings, Mueller has already written more than 290 pages of the ‘Mueller Report.’” And he’s not done. In the coming week, Mueller is expected to release his magnum opus with sentencing memos for Flynn and Cohen. Mueller is scheduled to detail Manafort’s additional crimes and lies in yet another memo next week, as Matt Naham of Law & Crime reports. That memo, Naham writes, “represents an opportunity for Mueller to put together an extensive narrative on Manafort’s alleged untruths.”
Mueller’s filings have yet to demonstrate anything like collusion with the Russians, but if they come close to directly connecting the Trump campaign with the Kremlin, expect some of the most shrill, mendacious and creative fabrications yet from the president. On or off the links, nobody swings the liars club like Trump.