The story of BuzzFeed depends on Trump being heard on the tape



secondUzzFeed's extraordinary report last night suggests that President Trump conspired to induce perjury and obstruct justice. It has thrilled many Democrats. But even if BuzzFeed is right in its central claim: that two federal sources of law enforcement say that Trump told his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress: I am not convinced that it is a major problem for the president. . Unless, that is, the police authorities have audio recordings of Trump or his innermost circle about it.

The key here is the burden of proof. According to BuzzFeed, he "personally instructed [Cohen] Lying "to Congress about when the Trump organization ended its effort to build a hotel in Moscow." If this is true, Trump would appear to be guilty of at least three federal criminal crimes: obstruction of justice, perjury and conspiracy.

But it is not enough that prosecutors believe that this is true; They should be able to prove it. And from the BuzzFeed report, at least, it is not entirely clear if they have the means to do so.

BuzzFeed claims that the emails and interviews of Trump staff members have corroborated the researchers' belief in Trump's guilt, but it is unlikely to be enough to prosecute. What investigators need is a flawless forensic link that links Trump to an illegal conspiracy.

I sincerely doubt that emails or other notes are sufficient because the Trump defense team could claim that someone else sent those notes without Trump's knowledge or without his approval. But the biggest weakness here is the same Cohen. If he believes that Cohen's cooperation with the government is an act of contrition or an act to save himself from even more time in prison, Cohen is, ultimately, a weak witness of the prosecution. He is a proven liar with an obvious conflict of interest. Any defense team would have a field day with Cohen. They would suggest that all he says is about saving himself by offering a bigger fish.

A winning accusation would need forensic evidence that someone very close to the president, like his son-in-law Jared Kushner or his son Donald Trump Jr., participated in a conspiracy on behalf of the president. In fact, prosecutors would probably reject the case on the basis that the presumed harm to the nation would outweigh the low probability of conviction.

This does not mean that Trump is out of danger. It may face significantly more damaging disclosures in relation to Russia in the coming months.


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