When it comes to the hush money payments, Trump and his team have more moves than Harry Potter on a broomstick in a game of Quidditch /ˈkwɪdɪtʃ/.
The objective of Quidditch, as with most sports, is to be the team that has gained the most points by the end of the match. Matches are played between two opposing teams of seven players riding flying broomsticks; using four balls: a Quaffle, two Bludgers, and a Golden Snitch. Centred around the use of each ball, there are four positions: the Chasers and Keeper (who play with the Quaffle), the Beaters (who play with the Bludgers), and the Seekers (who play with the Golden Snitch). Each team has three Chasers, one Keeper, two Beaters, and one Seeker. Matches are played on a large oval pitch with three ring-shaped goals of different heights on each side. It is an extremely rough but very popular semi-contact sport, and has a fervent fan following in the Wizarding World.
Let’s assign some roles.
- Chasers: Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York
- Keeper: Rudi Giuliani - tries to block opponents goals
- Seeker: Robert Mueller - aims to capture the Golden Snitch
- Golden Snitch: Michael Cohen - flits about, tries to avoid capture
- Bludger: Donald Trump - attacks players “indiscriminately”
- extremely rough but very popular semi-contact sport: criminal prosecution and defense
- fervent fan following: the media
Now on to the game.
President Trump said on Thursday that if there was anything illegal about the hush payments made to two women claiming to have had affairs with him, it was the fault of his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, part of a newly improvised attempt to combat the legal exposure the president may now have because of the payments.
"I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Mr. Trump said. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.”
Mr. Trump asserted that his former lawyer had pleaded guilty to embarrass him and to receive a reduced prison term.
“Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me,” Mr. Trump wrote. “But he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis.”
Later, during an interview with Fox News, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Cohen had cut a deal to save his family and in exchange had agreed to “embarrass” the president. “That’s all it is,” the president said. “It’s a terrible system we have.”
Enter the Keeper - “a crime of interpretation”
In an interview, Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, elaborated on the points that Mr. Trump had made in his tweets, arguing that there was no evidence that Mr. Trump knew about the payments. And he said that even if investigators were able to prove that Mr. Trump had known about them, legal scholars were divided about whether the knowledge was in itself a crime.
“It’s a crime of interpretation,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Are you going to charge the president with a crime of interpretation?”
The Golden Snitch replies
President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael D. Cohen said he knew arranging payments during the campaign to quiet two women who claimed to have had affairs with the candidate was wrong. He said Mr. Trump knew it was wrong at the time, too.
“Of course,” Mr. Cohen said, when asked by the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos whether the president was fully aware of what his lawyer was doing. The interview aired Friday morning [as I write].
Some of the information Mr. Cohen has provided to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election has delivered blows to Mr. Trump’s legal strategy, including implicating Mr. Trump in campaign finance violations because he said Mr. Trump authorized the payments.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump and one of his personal attorneys, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said the president was not to be blamed for the campaign finance crimes, because he trusted his lawyer, Mr. Cohen, to know the law.
Mr. Trump has lashed out at Mr. Cohen since he entered his guilty pleas in August and disclosed that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange the payments to the two women. On Thursday, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Cohen of trying to embarrass him.
“It is absolutely not true,” Mr. Cohen, his eyes purple and swollen, said in the ABC interview. “Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president of the United States of America. The truth is, I told the truth. I took responsibility for my actions.”
Since he took office, Mr. Trump has maintained that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia. In the interview, Mr. Cohen was asked whether the president was telling the truth about “everything related to the investigation, everything related to Russia.”
“No,” Mr. Cohen said.
It’s never good to be on the wrong side of the president of the United States of America, but somehow or another this task has now fallen onto my shoulders,” he said, then added, “I will spend the rest of my life in order to fix the mistake that I made.”
He said, He said
So who is telling the truth? Being a numbers guy, I prefer a statistical answer. To get it, I consulted the WaPo fact-checker database which informs us that “In 649 days, President Trump has made 6,420 false or misleading claims” (as of the October 30, 2018 update). That’s 9.89 per day! The trend shows it getting even worse. As of Trump’s first 100 days the daily rate was 4.9 per day. “He passed the 2,000 mark on Jan. 10 — eight months ago.” As of September 13th “Trump’s tsunami of untruths helped push the count in The Fact Checker’s database past 5,000 on the 601st day of his presidency. That’s an average of 8.3 Trumpian claims a day, but in the past nine days — since our last update — the president has averaged 32 claims a day.”
I do not know of such a database for Michael Cohen. (If any of my subscribers know of a database for Cohen’s lies, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.) In the meantime check out the USA Today story that links to court documents, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump and Russia: Prosecutors document series of lies by president’s former fixer. It’s hard to imagine that Cohen’s daily rate of lies comes any where near Trump’s 9.89 per day.
Scriber concludes that, when it comes to telling the truth, the weight of the evidence favors Cohen over Trump.