The first sign of trouble came a week ago, when the New York Times reported that the House Intelligence Committee is investigating "whether lawyers tied to President Trump and his family helped obstruct the panel’s inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony." It's the kind of sentence that was worth reading twice.
Especially in the wake of the Mueller report, we've grown accustomed to thinking about Donald Trump's alleged obstruction efforts and the instances in which his actions met the threshold for criminal wrongdoing. But last week's reporting represented a twist: Trump World lawyers themselves may have crossed legal lines.
Late yesterday, the allegations came into sharper focus.
President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen told lawmakers behind closed doors that Jay Sekulow, one of the president's attorneys, encouraged him to give untrue information to lawmakers about the Trump Tower project in Moscow, according to transcripts released Monday.Cohen testified to the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year that Sekulow told him to say in 2017 that discussions about the project had ended in January 2016, when, in fact, they had continued for months after that, the transcripts show.
Under the circumstances, even if we took Cohen's version of events at face value, it's at least possible that Sekulow -- a controversial figure in his own right -- didn't know the information was false. That said, this defense would naturally lead to a related question: who was responsible for writing the script Team Trump members were expected to follow?
What's more, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the newly released transcripts showed Cohen also testifying that he was told by Ivanka Trump's lawyer that he should lie specifically about her involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project.
And in case that weren't quite enough, as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) noted during an interview on the show, Cohen also said he spoke to Sekulow about a possible presidential pardon, both before and after his congressional testimony -- testimony in which Cohen, we now know, lied to lawmakers with the intention of protecting Trump.
Remember, all of this is new. Cohen's public testimony jolted the political world, but we're now getting a look at what the president's former fixer said during his behind-closed-doors testimony.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently took stock of Trump's scandals and declared, "Case closed." Perhaps that wasn't a good idea.