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Cohen’s guilty plea could be the ‘beginning of the end of the Trump presidency’

Impeachment is now a real possibility "even if the Democrats don't want to do it," per a former high-ranking Obama official.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin before a news conference in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018. (YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin before a news conference in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018. (YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

A former high-ranking official in President Barack Obama’s Justice Department predicted that Thursday — when President Donald Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with the Russian government — could be “the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.”

Trump’s connections to Russia have been in the news since the 2016 campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election — which has tallied over 100 criminal charges against dozens of people, including guilty pleas from Trump’s former national security adviser, former campaign chair, former attorney, and multiple former advisers — started over 18 months ago.

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There has been a slow drip of Russia news since before Trump’s presidency even began, accompanied by numerous proclamations about what may or may not happen.

But Neal Katyal, Obama’s former acting Solicitor General, explained why Thursday’s news was different.

“I think it’s huge,” Kayal told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “The facts aren’t all in, but I think we very well could look back on this day, November 29th, 2018, as the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.”

In addition to the obvious potential legal issues for Trump and his family over Cohen’s admission that he lied to Congress about the pursuit of a Trump Tower real estate deal in Russia — which carried on through the summer of the 2016 presidential campaign and was allegedly discussed at the time with the now-president who previously denied any business in Russia — Kayal said the new Democratic House majority will be very interested in using its subpoena power to investigate any lies to Congress.

And Obama’s former acting Solicitor General, who broke former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s record for cases argued before the Supreme Court by a person of color, said Cohen’s admission means that “even if the Democrats don’t want to do it,” the possibility of impeaching Trump will need to be taken “very, very seriously now.”

This is the president campaigning in 2016 and hiding all of his negotiations with Russia. Not the Russian-like businesses like Marriott hotels or something, but with the Kremlin itself, the number two person — as you were saying — at the Kremlin. So that, you know, that’s bad and the American people obviously should have had a right to know that at the time. But also just think about the last two years have been a period of intense kompromat. The Russians have known that Trump lied to the American people for two years, and imagine all the subtle things they could have done to get their bidding done over the last two years.

Kayal also said the revelations about Trump’s dealings with the Kremlin in 2016 elevate Mueller’s investigation to “a matter about the national security of the United States.”

Suspicions about Russia having compromising material on Trump — referred to as kompromat in Russia — have run rampant since the January 2017 disclosure of the Steele Dossier, which alleged Trump was recorded with prostitutes during a visit to Moscow in 2013, among other things. Though the president claims the dossier by the former British MI-6 officer has been discredited, much of it has actually “been corroborated.”

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Just Security’s Ryan Goodman noted that Cohen’s plea agreement also indicates Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, could be facing legal trouble.

Trump, who reportedly planned to give Russian president Vladimir Putin the penthouse apartment in his proposed Trump Tower Moscow, reacted to Cohen’s latest deal with Mueller by calling his former attorney “a weak person.”