The numbers 19 and 70 must be weighing heavily on the minds of certain people in the Trump administration, including President Donald Trump himself.
We learned late Tuesday that the president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as part of a plea agreement, has been interviewed 19 times by attorneys from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and by other Justice Department attorneys, providing “documents and communications” and “substantial assistance in a criminal investigation.” That assistance has been substantial enough that Mueller, in Flynn’s sentencing memo, recommends the retired Army lieutenant general serve no prison time after pleading guilty to lying to federal agents about his communications with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration.
The lenient sentencing recommendation for a serious crime indicates that during those 19 meetings, Flynn provided the special counsel and other investigators with a wealth of information regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and the extent of communication between Trump’s team and the Russian government.
If you’re Trump, or if you were a member of Trump’s presidential transition team, or if you’re Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who, according to several news reports, directed Flynn to reach out to the Russians, then the number 19 is causing you to lose weight in sweat.
And then there’s the number 70. That, according to ABC News, is the number of hours Trump’s former attorney and personal fixer Michael Cohen spent talking with attorneys from the special counsel’s office.
Last week, we learned that Cohen reached a plea deal with Mueller. The attorney admitted he lied to Congress about when a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through. Cohen told Congress the deal ended in January 2016, but he acknowledged in his plea deal that negotiations with Russia continued through June 2016, while Trump was securing the GOP presidential nomination and claiming he had no deals or contacts with Russians.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Toobin wrote in the New Yorker: “It’s true that Trump had the right to do business in Russia during the time when he was a candidate, but the public also had a right to know where his true financial interests lay. It would have been highly relevant to the public to learn that Trump was negotiating a business deal with Russia at the same time that he was proposing to change American policy toward that country. Not only was the public deprived of this information but Cohen’s guilty plea indicates that voters were actively misled about Trump’s interests.”
Whatever else Cohen knows about Trump and his family’s connections and business dealings with Russia presumably came out in his discussions with Mueller’s attorneys, and 70 hours is a lot of discussion time. If you’re a Trump, you’re worried about this.
And if you’re a person who likes to parrot the president’s crowlike caws of “WITCH HUNT!”, you might want to start easing back a bit closer to reality. Because while the details of Mueller’s investigation remain murky — huge swaths of Flynn’s sentencing memo were redacted, indicating a stockroom full of shoes left to drop — the scope of it is beyond question.
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement: “The Special Counsel has now secured guilty pleas from President Trump’s personal attorney, his campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, a foreign policy adviser to his campaign, and his national security adviser. He has filed 191 charges against more than 30 individuals — almost all of whom are in President Trump’s orbit, Vladimir Putin’s orbit, or both. The President can pretend that this investigation has nothing to do with him and nothing to do with Russia, but these indictments speak for themselves.”
And however much presidential perspiration the numbers 19 and 70 might be causing, sweat buckets will be needed by the end of this week. On Friday, Mueller is expected to file sentencing memos for Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The Manafort memo will explain how Manafort has, according to the special counsel’s office, breached his plea agreement by lying to prosecutors. It will detail those lies and, more important, the evidence that shows Manafort has been lying.
That all makes for a sweaty White House. We’re talking antiperspirant-defying, post-marathon-level sweatiness. Clammy hands and foreheads.
The nervous sweat you get when you know the crooks you’ve surrounded yourself with have had 19 meetings with the good guys and 70 hours with the hounds on your tail. And two more doses of bad news are coming before you even get to the weekend.
The numbers are not in the Trump administration’s favor.
Here’s to a sweaty, sweaty winter.
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