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December 15, 2018

President Trump’s personal interests override the country’s political interests — and angry Britney Spears lyrics

November 30, 2018
President Donald Trump talks with reporters before traveling to the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci / AP)

Thursday morning events may have left President Trump humming an angry version of Britney Spears’ “Oops He Did It Again.”

For the second time in three months, the President’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from his work for Mr. Trump.




Cohen appeared in a federal court in Manhattan and offered a guilty plea to an information charging him with lying to Congress about his efforts to strike a deal that would have allowed the President to build a Trump Tower in Russia.

In his plea, Cohen admitted that he lied to Congress when he claimed all Trump Tower negotiations with Russia ended in January 2016, before the first presidential primary. Cohen came clean that efforts to build Trump Tower Moscow continued well into the 2016 presidential campaign. According to the charges, Mr. Trump was scheduled to travel to Russia and meet with members of the Russian government to discuss the deal “once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”

While a criminal conviction of a sitting president’s personal attorney is undoubtedly deserving of the headlines it is receiving, the real palace intrigue is that Cohen’s revelations directly contradict public claims by his former boss.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that he had no business dealings in Russia. In July 2016, Trump tweeted: “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.” And in January 2017, Mr. Trump told reporters that he intentionally “stayed away” from any business deals in Russia.

That Cohen’s guilty plea paints a clear picture of the President as a liar is not the takeaway from this morning’s news. Donald Trump as presidential liar is already baked into our perception of who he is. His base accepts it and everyone else is hoarse from railing against it.

As a nation, what should make the hair on the back of our collective neck stand on end is the realization that our president ran his election campaign while secretly trying to curry favor with a foreign adversary in order to further his personal financial interests.

Had he succeeded in convincing the Russian government to green-light Trump Tower Moscow, the President would have made millions of dollars. That financial incentive had to influence decisions Mr. Trump made about how he, his campaign, his party, and the United States would interact with Russia. Decisions like Mr. Trump’s successful effort to gut the Republican Party’s anti-Russia platform before the July 2016 convention. Or, the President’s refusal to implement congressionally-authorized sanctions against Russia that received overwhelming bipartisan support when passed in 2017.

To no one’s surprise, Trump’s rebuke of Cohen’s plea came quickly. In his effort to discredit Cohen, the president told reporters that his former attorney is lying to get himself a good deal in his criminal case. More broadly, Mr. Trump is saying that someone with a personal stake in the outcome of an event will do what he needs to do in order to serve his own interest.

He’s right. On this topic, Donald Trump knows of what he speaks. It is unfortunate that Mr. Trump refuses to apply his insight on human nature to himself. If he did, he would see what everyone else with open-eyes can see.

His public siding with Putin over America’s intelligence officials, his refusal to implement sanctions against Russia for its interference in our presidential election, his presidential silence after Russia attempted a nerve-agent murder on British soil, and his endless pandering to Russia and its leader can all be traced back to the same root rot.

Our President’s personal interests with Russia have left him compromised.

Stern was a federal prosecutor, for 25 years, with the Department of Justice in Detroit and Los Angeles

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