Donald Trump Says Business Is Very Legal and Very Cool - Rolling Stone
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Good Morning From Donald Trump, Whose Business Practices Are Both Very Legal and Very Cool

The president doesn’t see anything wrong with pursuing a deal with a foreign adversary during the campaign

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President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he arrives to a campaign rally in Las Vegas.

Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Days after likening himself to Elvis in front of a crowd of supporters in Tupelo, Mississippi, President Trump has described his pre-election business dealings with Russia as “very cool” in an effort to absolve himself on any indiscretion. “Oh, I get it!” the president tweeted sarcastically early Friday morning. “I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very cool & very legal, talked about it on campaign trail…” *deep breath* “….Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch hunt!”

The president’s tweets came in response to former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress about a real estate deal in Moscow being pursued by the Trump Organization. In August 2017, Cohen wrote in a letter that the “Moscow Project” ended in January 2016, that he did not discuss the project with Trump’s family and that he was not in touch with any Russian officials regarding the potential development. According to Special Counsel Mueller’s filing, none of this is true. Discussions surrounding the project extended well into the heat of Trump’s presidential campaign; Trump’s family members knew about it and Cohen spoke about it with Russian officials. Cohen also discussed the project with Trump more times than he had previously told Congress. Some of those discussions centered on the prospect of Trump traveling to Russia in service of the deal. While pleading guilty on Friday, Cohen said that he lied about the nature of the project “out of loyalty” to Trump.

Shortly after Cohen pleaded guilty, Trump called his former confidant “very weak” while accusing him of lying in an effort to get his sentence reduced. “I didn’t do the project,” Trump added. “I decided not to do the project. So I didn’t do it. So we’re not talking about doing a project, we’re talking about not doing a project.”

Though the Trump Organization decided not to follow through on the project, discussing a business deal with a foreign adversary as Trump was running for president represents a rather significant conflict of interest. As David French points out in the National Review, Trump praised Vladimir Putin throughout the campaign, which now has to be viewed through the lens of the development deal he was simultaneously pursuing that would have required the cooperation of the Russia government. Following Cohen’s guilty plea on Thursday, BuzzFeed News reported that to sweeten the deal the Trump Organization planned to give Putin a $50 million penthouse in the potential Trump Tower Moscow. It’s worth mentioning again that the U.S. intelligence community has determined that the Kremlin at the same time was working to disrupt America’s Democratic process with the intention of installing Trump in the White House.

Trump doesn’t seem to see a problem with any of this. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?” he told reporters on Friday before departing for the G-20 summit in Argentina.

The guilty plea could have massive implications for those involved with the deal. Particularly vulnerable is Donald Trump Jr., who told Congress he knew “very little” about and “wasn’t involved” in a deal to develop a Trump property in Moscow. Given Cohen’s plea on Friday, this seems highly unlikely.

The president could also be at risk. ABC News reported on Friday that among the written questions Mueller submitted to Trump, and which Trump has already answered, was at least one inquiry about Trump Tower Moscow. If Trump’s answers were in line with what Cohen falsely detailed to Congress, the president will have lied to the special counsel, a crime for which several figures in Trump’s orbit have already been indicted. In other words, it’s looking like it probably wasn’t a coincidence that Mueller waited until after Trump locked in answers to his questions to bring new charges against Cohen and Paul Manafort.

It’s unclear what other evidence Mueller may possess that could implicate Trump or his family, or if the special counsel will factor in cool points when determining whether to pursue criminal charges. Not even an ostrich-skin jacket was able to save Manafort, however, which means the president could be in serious trouble.

In This Article: Donald Trump, Russia


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