Updated at 11:35 p.m. ET
It’s not just the collusion. It’s the conspiracy.
On Thursday evening, BuzzFeed News dropped a bombshell, reporting that President Donald Trump told Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, to lie to Congress about the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a real-estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election, a period in which the Russian government was seeking to aid Trump’s presidential campaign.
“Assuming all the evidence adds up to the conclusion that the president asked Cohen to lie about the Russia deal, it’s evidence of conspiracy, of obstruction of justice, of suborning perjury,” said John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John’s and a former associate counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation. “It’s impeachment material.”
According to BuzzFeed News, Special Counsel Robert Mueller assembled evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie, including “interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.” That would represent a significant escalation in the legal and political risks to the president.
“If true, this directly implicates the president in a conspiracy to obstruct justice or to make false statements to Congress, or as an aider and abettor to Cohen committing those crimes,” said Randall Eliason, a former U.S. attorney and a law professor at George Washington University. “Whether a sitting president can be indicted is a separate question, but there would be no wiggle room in terms of whether he was guilty of the offenses. The key, of course, is whether you can prove it and whether there is additional evidence beyond just Cohen’s word—and from the article, it sounds like there is.”