Consider the implications. At the very beginning of Trump’s presidency, as soon as he lied in that press conference, Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence possessed the ability to unmask Trump as a liar to the American public, revealing damaging information to Congress and the public about which they had previously been ignorant. BuzzFeed’s account of the negotiations involving a potential Trump Tower in Moscow hints at the wealth of documentary evidence that the Russians would possess to back up their claims.
As it would turn out, that was merely the beginning of their leverage. In September 2017, Donald Trump Jr. gave sworn Senate testimony that may be contradicted by Thursday’s revelations, raising the prospect that the Russians have been in possession of evidence suggesting that the president’s son may have committed a felony. And once Cohen lied to Congress about the matter, the Russians were in a position to expose the unlawful behavior of Trump’s personal attorney.
Those particular bits of Russian leverage over Trump are gone now that Robert Mueller’s investigation has revealed the truth to Congress and the public. But there is so much that we still don’t know about the Trump Tower deal, the president’s role in negotiating it, and the reasons his inner circle took extraordinary legal risks to hide the truth about it.