The overnight story that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress has already led to fresh calls for impeachment and generated new investigations in Congress. After a morning spent throwing up every possible fear-meme about immigrants, Trump has finally responded to the story that he obstructed justice and suborned perjury—by threatening a witness.
Kevin Corke, @FoxNews “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars….” Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019
Reuters had already reported that Trump’s threats to Cohen’s family had caused Trump’s former attorney to rethink testifying before Congress. Trump continued to play on that threat—which itself is witness tampering. Another felony.
In addition to pointing the finger at Cohen’s family, Trump jumped on the bandwagon of simply calling Cohen a liar. That’s the same tack that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani took overnight, and which Lara Trump took when appearing on Fox News to say that Cohen “is a very desperate man” who has “perjured himself in the past.” Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley also dropped in on Fox Friday morning to join in the Cohen-bashing, saying, “I’m not going to give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen.”
However, the original Buzzfeed article didn’t say that this claim was based on statements by Cohen. It said that Trump’s order to lie had been reported by multiple witnesses and recorded in documentation. According to its sources, Cohen merely confirmed information already in the possession of special counsel Robert Mueller. It’s enough that even Fox News seems to have noticed that the response anytime someone asks about this is to bash Cohen rather than answer the question, with a Fox host noting, “That’s was not a denial.”
Neither was Trump’s tweet.
In addition to going after Cohen, calling the news “ridiculous” is clearly part of the morning talking points. The idea that the charges of obstruction and suborning perjury are “ridiculous” has been repeated by Lara Trump, by Gidley, and by Trump’s Fox friends. Gidley spat out an “absolutely ridiculous” and recapped with “The premise is ridiculous.” When the instructions to Trump surrogates for handling this issue are leaked—and they probably will be—that word is going to be underscored.
Trump’s base may be satisfied with the idea that this is a lie generated by Michael Cohen, but even Fox News seems a little dubious about the direction the non-denial denials are taking in this case. After all, the issue here isn’t that Michael Cohen lied. It’s that he lied on command from Trump.
Trump is responding by saying, You can’t trust Cohen’s story that I told him to lie, because he lied—a chunk of illogic so circular that it’s in serious danger of disappearing up its own backside. And he’s supporting this position through witness intimidation, which … certainly supports the idea that suborning perjury is well within the range of actions Trump would take.