Probably the only thing more intriguing than The Mueller Report itself are the redacted portions, and the little known behind-the-scenes work that led to the final product. Newly released FBI interview summaries reveal more, and there’s a notable excerpt pertaining to Michael Cohen.
The then-close personal attorney to President Donald Trump was working to control the narrative surrounding the infamous Trump Tower deal in Moscow. Big surprise, a lot of the documentation is heavily redacted, but here’s one notable snippet:
(U) In preparation for his Congressional testimony, COHEN’s message had several components. COHEN had to keep TRUMP out of the messaging related to Russia and keep TRUMP out of the Russia conversation. One of these points to keep TRUMP out of was this UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] TRUMP-Putin meeting, because he had discussed it on the HANNITY SHOW.
(U) In advance of testifying, there was a specific conversation about keeping TRUMP out of the UNGA narrative. Cohen was trying to be loyal. The investigation was not supposed to have taken us to where we are today. COHEN was told if he stayed on message, the President had his back, the President loves you.
The FBI summaries show that it wasn’t Cohen’s idea to “write a letter to Congress about TRUMP TOWER MOSCOW,” but that it was done to “piggyback off of JARED KUSHNER putting out a statement before.”
“The release was to shape the narrative and to let other people who might be witnesses know what COHEN was saying to keep the same message,” the documents said.
Cohen had learned “the message to have the Russia investigations end early from discussions with TRUMP, SEKULOW” and a person whose name is redacted.
The release comes as a result of five Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits by BuzzFeed News, which obtained the memos. Because of a court order, more documents are set to be released every month for at least eight years.
Cohen is currently in federal prison after admitting to multiple federal crimes, including bank fraud, tax evasion, orchestrating hush money payments to hide two of the president’s alleged affairs in violation of campaign finance laws, and lying to Congress. Susan Hennessey, Executive Editor of Lawfare, argued Saturday that this new summary of the release buttressed the allegation that Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress, and that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller actively avoided making that conclusion.
The combination of the 302s and the information contained in the report leaves very little question as to whether or not Trump, in fact, “directed” Cohen to submit false testimony. Mueller really strained to avoiding reaching that conclusion. https://t.co/TimXZCvZuG
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) November 2, 2019
BuzzFeed, you may remember, sent the news cycle into overdrive when it claimed that Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Project, only to add a note later (with additional explanation) that the Mueller Report did not conclude this.
Attorney George Conway, conservative critic of Trump and husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, was quick to opine that this summary described obstruction of justice.
This 302 describes obstruction of justice by the president of the United States. https://t.co/QdFepMatLJ
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 2, 2019
[Image via Yana Paskova/Getty Images]
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