|MARK WILSON / GETTY|
Donald Trump has been in a world of hurts since the day he became president, but with his long anticipated firing of Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein -- the predicate act to axing Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- he and we would enter uncharted and extraordinarily perilous territory. What has been a slow-motion constitutional crisis as the Russia scandal engulfs the White House would become a conflagration.
Several of the multiple crises dogging the Trump presidency came to a head in a week filled with dramatic developments.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who always has been willing to apologize for Trump no matter how outrageous the president's behavior but was unable to deliver legislative victories for him, announced that he's fleeing a sinking Republican congressional ship, portending further trouble for the party ahead of midterm elections that have become a referendum on Trump and the growing possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House and onset of impeachment proceedings that in a less hyper-partisan age already would be well underway.
Trump fixer Michael Cohen was in a huge fix himself following FBI raids on his office, apartment and hotel room in search of evidence that there has been a strategy to buy the silence of women by suppressing accounts of Trump's infidelities that could have harmed his election chances. The agents seized Cohen's computer, cell phone and a slew of records, including communications between Cohen and Trump that may reveal evidence of federal crimes including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.
Meanwhile, Mueller continues to turn up the heat. Trump's former campaign manager is under indictment and faces spending the rest of his life in prison, his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his own illegal activities, son-in-law Jared Kushner is in deep legal trouble, and sundry other reprobates and grifters surrounding the president also are under scrutiny beyond the 19 individuals already indicted.
And A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, fired FBI Director James Comey's tell-all memoir on Trump, is a runaway pre-publication bestseller. The former FBI director has written a devastating takedown of Trump as a relentless liar and slave to his ego who is obsessively unethical, devoid of humanity, clueless about his job and unconcerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin's ongoing assault on American democracy.
|YANA PASKOVA / GETTY|
But the biggest bomb did not drop on Syria. It landed squarely on Trump's head.
In the most convincing and powerful evidence to date that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to cyber sabotage Hillary Clinton, the McClatchy News Service reported as bombs were raining down on Syrian targets that Mueller has evidence Michael Cohen -- yes, that Michael Cohen -- secretly traveled to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign where he strategized with a powerful Kremlin figure and other Russians about ongoing election interference and perhaps paid off hackers to keep them quiet.
The development is by far the most significant in the special counsel's deepening investigation into how -- not whether -- the campaign and Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House.
The revelation undercuts Trump's repeated pronouncements that "there is no evidence of collusion" and Cohen's disingenuous denials that he never was in the capital of the Czech Republic. Cohen flashed his passport for inquiring reporters, noted that it lacked anything showing he had visited the Czech Republic and swore he had not ever been there.
The revelation also will considerably increase the stakes if the president makes good on his repeated intimations that he will order Mueller's firing after removing Rosenstein.
Perhaps the biggest lesson from the infamous Christopher Steele dossier is that what the former British spy's confidential sources said was happening and predicted would happen were stunningly accurate and dovetail with the McClatchy report on Cohen.
Cohen is said to have taken over certain duties after Paul Manafort was fired as Trump's campaign manager on August 19, 2016 following a Washington Post report that Manafort had received millions of dollars in payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Among those duties, according to a dossier source, was managing the stateside arm of the Kremlin's conspiracy to exploit hacked emails and other documents embarrassing to Clinton, working with the Kremlin on how to take maximum advantage of the hacked materials, and making cash payments to some of the hackers.
A trip to Moscow was considered too risky for Cohen, according to the dossier, while Mueller's investigators now have evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany during late August or early September of 2016. He would not have needed a passport for such a trip because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders.
Once in Prague, according to the dossier, Cohen attended a meeting at the office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo.
Attending the meeting was a prominent Russian purported to be Konstantin Kosachev, a Putin ally who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council. Kosachev is among 24 high-profile Russians recently hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia's election interference. Also in attendance were Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, and several Eastern European hackers.
Citing information from an unnamed "Kremlin insider," the dossier alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and the others discussed "how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe" who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign "in cryptic language for security reasons," and of ways to "sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven."
Romanians were among the hackers present, the dossier says, and the discussion touched on using Bulgaria as a location where they could "lie low" should they be exposed.
As the week slouched to an end, Trump's advisers were telling him that the wide-ranging corruption investigation into his consigliere posed a greater and more imminent threat to him than even Mueller's investigation. After all, Cohen was widely seen as being so dirty that he never would be given an official White House position even if he was a Trump loyalist, a damning conclusion considering how corrupt many of the people with White House positions are.
But the view that Cohen the fixer is more trouble than Cohen the campaign go-between is highly debatable given that his secret mission to Prague on Trump's behalf now has been laid bare.
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and related developments.