That argument was undermined on Tuesday, as first attorney Michael Avenatti and later the New York Times and Washington Post reported that Trump's attorney Michael Cohen had accepted Russian-linked money as a "consultant" for a secretive shell company he then used to pay hush money to the president's mistress, and possibly others.
Late last night, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait gave some context to this massive development.
"The possible reasons for this arrangement run from brazenly corrupt to far worse," he writes.
Even if we buy the official story, that this was a “consulting fee” paid to Cohen," it's "hardly a benign explanation," he writes.
"For all the speculation about the existence of the pee tape, the latest revelations prove what is tantamount to the same thing," he writes. "Russia could leverage the president and his fixer... by threatening to expose secrets they were desperate to keep hidden."
Chait sees at least three possible ways the Russian payments to Cohen to benefit Trump could have compromised Trump: It could have been a bribe, it could have been bait to later extort the president, or it could have been a way to silence Trump’s mistresses and protect other more explosive kompromat.
"They are acting as though Trump is compromised by Russia, or at the very least, that he cannot be trusted to defend his own country’s security against it," Chait writes. "The sordid Russia scandal has already brought some version of a very dark nightmare scenario to life.