Right on cue, President Donald Trump issued a pair of tweets Saturday morning in response to the latest Russia investigation filings, claiming in all caps that no collusion had been found.
“AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!” he tweeted. He followed this up with a quote from attorney and talk show host Geraldo Rivera that read, “This is collusion illusion, there is no smoking gun here,” adding his own flourish: “Time for the Witch Hunt to END!”
Friday was a big day for Robert Mueller’s investigation, with the special counsel filing two major court documents that appear to bring the probe closer to the president.
One revelation came in a sentencing memo relating to Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, in which Mueller said that Cohen — who has been cooperating with the probe since he struck a plea deal in August — has been rather helpful. He’s provided “credible” and “useful” information to the investigation, Mueller said, on topics ranging from Russia to the Trump business to the Trump White House. The other filing related to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, alleging that he had continued to lie to investigators, even after he agreed to cooperate.
“This is collusion illusion, there is no smoking gun here. At this late date, after all that we have gone through, after millions have been spent, we have no Russian Collusion. There is nothing impeachable here.” @GeraldoRivera Time for the Witch Hunt to END!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
Trump’s “no collusion” tweets follow a Friday statement from the White House the claimed the filings contained nothing new or damaging, as well as a Friday evening tweet from Trump, in which the president went further, writing that the explosive Mueller filing “totally clears the President.” (“Thank you!” he added.)
On the contrary, the latest reports are “very ominous” for the president, as Vox’s Andrew Prokop reported.
Totally clears the President. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
As Prokop writes, the Cohen filing reveals how useful Trump’s former lawyer has been to the investigation:
Cohen is cooperating on central topics — specifically, “Russia-related matters” that are “core” to the investigation. Trump and the Trump Organization are all over this memo (though they’re called “Individual 1” and “the Company”). And there are suggestions that Cohen is giving information about whether Trump tried to obstruct justice since he became president, as well.
The latest filings don’t accuse Trump of collusion, nor do they absolve him
While there wasn’t anything in the filings that claimed Trump directly colluded with Russia, he and the Trump Organization were all over the filings. (Though they’re called “Individual 1” and “the Company.”)
The special counsel is tantalizingly vague on the “discrete Russia-related matters” Cohen discussed that are “core” to the investigation, but there’s a lot of dot-connecting going on in both that filing and Manafort’s.
Together, the filings indicate that there was sustained, incriminating contact between Trump subordinates and Russia — contact they tried to obscure. Manafort allegedly lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate whom Mueller claims is tied to Russian intelligence. Mueller’s team claims Manafort was not honest about at least five separate matters, putting an end to a plea deal under which he had agreed to cooperate.
The Cohen document, meanwhile, alleges that Trump and Cohen talked about meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as early as 2015. Cohen did not end up working with a Russian national who reached out to the campaign offering “political synergy” in November 2015, because he was already working with a “different individual.”
As Garrett M. Graff writes at Wired, Mueller’s filings “paint a picture of how the Russian government, through various trusted-but-deniable intermediaries, conducted a series of ‘approaches’ over the course of the spring of 2016 to officials in Trump’s orbit” — only to be met with enthusiastic reciprocation from everyone from Cohen to Michael Flynn to George Papadopoulos to Donald Trump Jr.