As important as the Russia scandal and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are, the political world occasionally loses sight of the fact that Donald Trump has already been implicated in a felony – and it has nothing to do with the Kremlin.
In fact, we learned last year that federal prosecutors in New York directly implicated the president in the felonious hush-money scandal, in which Trump allegedly directed Michael Cohen to make illegal payoffs to women with whom Trump had extra-marital affairs.
It’s no small story. The Atlantic reported last August that New York prosecutors “may pose a bigger threat to Trump than Mueller.” It was hardly a novel argument: both Chris Christie and Alan Dershowitz separately said the same thing.
With this in mind, the Wall Street Journal published a new report yesterday on the investigation, and the article pointed to federal prosecutors having gathered “more evidence than previously known in its criminal investigation.”
Prosecutors interviewed Hope Hicks, a former close aide to Mr. Trump and White House communications director, last spring as part of their campaign-finance probe, which ultimately implicated the president in federal crimes.
They also spoke to Keith Schiller, Mr. Trump’s former security chief. Investigators learned of calls between Mr. Schiller and David Pecker, chief executive of the National Enquirer’s publisher, which has admitted it paid $150,000 to a former Playboy model on Mr. Trump’s behalf to keep her story under wraps.
In addition, investigators possess a recorded phone conversation between Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and a lawyer who represented the two women.
Of particular interest, the WSJ also reported that the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York had information implicating Trump in the alleged felony “weeks before” Cohen tied the president to his misdeeds in court.
Trump has denied wrongdoing – though he has been caught lying about the controversy – and the White House’s Kellyanne Conway did her best to dismiss the latest reporting yesterday.
She told CNN the latest revelations are little more than an effort to satisfy Trump critics “ ‘who were promised collusion.”
I can’t say with confidence what, if anything, will come of the SDNY investigation, but what Conway doesn’t seem to appreciate is the fact that her boss can be implicated in more than one scandal at the same time.