President Trump speculated on Tuesday that “if” the FBI placed a spy inside his campaign, that would be one of the greatest scandals in U.S. history. On Wednesday morning on Twitter, the “if” dropped away—and Trump asserted yesterday’s wild surmise as today’s fact. By afternoon, a vast claque of pro-Trump talkers repeated the president’s fantasies and falsehoods in their continuing project to represent Donald Trump as an innocent victim of a malicious conspiracy by the CIA, FBI, and Department of Justice.
The president’s claims are false, but they are not fantasies. They are strategies to fortify the minds of the president’s supporters against the ever-mounting evidence against the president. As Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz show in their new book about impeachment, an agitated and committed minority can suffice to protect a president from facing justice for even the most strongly proven criminality.
I’ve compiled a short—and by no means exhaustive—list of the open questions about matters potentially involving criminal law swirling around the president, his campaign, his company, and his family.
- Trump campaign aides and associates met with Russian agents in advance of the Russian hacks and releases of Democratic internal communications. Did these meetings lead to any form of coordination between the Trump campaign, the Trump family, or Trump supporters on the one hand and Russian intelligence and its proxy, WikiLeaks, on the other?
- Russia engaged in large-scale and illegal expenditures on social media to help elect Trump. Did the Trump campaign, the Trump family, or Trump supporters coordinate or assist in any way with these violations of U.S. law?
- Trump campaign aides reportedly met with representatives of Persian Gulf governments who offered to violate U.S. law to help elect Trump. What came of those meetings?
- How much Russian money has flowed into the Trump family and the Trump Organization since Trump suddenly and mysteriously became cash-rich in 2006?
- Did all the foreign funds flowing into the Trump family and Trump Organization comply with applicable U.S. laws on taxation and money laundering?
- Did the Trump family and Trump Organization themselves comply with all U.S. laws on taxation and money laundering?
- To what extent was Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort beholden to foreign entities? What services, if any, did he provide them?
- To what extent was Trump’s first national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, beholden to foreign entities? What services did he provide them?
- The same question applies to Sam Clovis, George Papadopoulos, and other figures on Trump’s campaign and foreign-policy teams.
- The family business then run by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, was in desperate need of funds in late 2016. The record shows he approached entities in China, Russia, and Qatar for aid. What is the exact list of foreign entities solicited by Kushner? What pitch did he offer them in exchange for their prospective investments? Did his pursuit of these investments ever tilt the administration’s foreign policy?
- After the election, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen obtained millions of dollars from foreign and domestic businesses in return for his promise to consult with them. Did Cohen share any of those payments in any way with the president, his family, or his businesses?
- Since the election, Trump’s companies have received millions of dollars in licensing fees from entities in Turkey, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, and other foreign countries. How much have the president’s businesses been paid by foreign persons and what portion of his total income originates in foreign payments?
- Is it true that Stormy Daniels’s daughter was threatened in order to coerce Daniels to sign a nondisclosure agreement with Trump? If so, who ordered and delivered that threat? Did any other women sign such agreements? Were any of them threatened?
- Was Trump in any way connected to the payment of $1.6 million to former Playboy model Shera Bechard, an agreement facilitated by Cohen—Trump’s personal lawyer—and using the same aliases and structure as the agreement Cohen struck with Stormy Daniels on Trump’s behalf?
- Elliott Broidy, the former deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, told The Wall Street Journal that he had an affair with Bechard, and that she subsequently decided to terminate her pregnancy. He made the first installment of that payment on November 30; he had a private meeting with Trump on December 2, at which he pushed for a crackdown on Qatar, lobbying for which he expected to be rewarded by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. How did Broidy land that meeting—and why did Trump prove willing to follow his advice?