As special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has dragged on, indicting or convicting over 30 people and businesses, President Donald Trump and his inner circle have fared poorly — and nothing about how they have conducted themselves does much to allay suspicions that members of the campaign worked with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
In conversation with MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace on "Deadline: White House," former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Glenn Kirschner laid out how the pattern of lies and misdirections by the Trump team in the Russia probe only serves to throw greater legal suspicion onto them.
"Watch for the defense to become the thing they've denied, because the truth is worse," said Wallace, noting that originally, the Trump team tried to flat-out deny there was any collusion with Russia. "They're not even denying, because they've pleaded guilty to these contacts with Russians ... this is a campaign whose defense to collusion is, 'we couldn't collude with our press office.' That's what Brad Pascale and Jared Kushner say."
Kirschner then discussed the legal situation of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — who was convicted on several counts of bank fraud and tax evasion last year, — and the claim from Mueller that he violated a plea agreement he made to head off another series of charges.
"They could collude, they were colluding, and all of this is so nefarious," said Kirschner. "It's not reckless, it's not happenstance, it's not careless ... what I found remarkable in what [special counsel prosecutor] Andrew Weissman was saying to the court, when they were trying to decide whether Paul Manafort's plea agreement should basically be torn up because he lied. As a cooperating witness, he kept lying to the special counsel."
"I had a nickname at the U.S. Attorney's office in D.C.," said Kirschner. "I was the King of the Cooperators, and that's not a compliment! It really isn't, it's almost a criticism, because cooperating witnesses are just notoriously difficult people to keep onboard, to keep focused on telling only the truth. What I find remarkable is that Manafort gets charged, right, federally indicted. What does he do after that? He starts tampering with witnesses. And he was charged for tampering with witnesses. After that we have now learned through this litigation, albeit in highly redacted form, that he continued to conspire with [suspected Russian agent Konstantin] Kilimnik."
"What is it that they so desperately want to cover up?" said Kirschner. The answer, he said, was in the fact that Weissman told the judge that the Kilimnik interactions go "right to the heart of what the special counsel is investigating."
"The concentric circles are tightening and tightening," he said. "And I think it's going to get to Russian conspiracy with the Trump campaign."
As a cooperating witness, [Manafort] kept lying to the Special Counsel.. what is it that they so desperately want to cover up?... The concentric circles are tightening... it is going to get to Russian conspiracy w/ the Trump campaign. @glennkirschner2 w/ @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/xFl060kjbe
— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) February 11, 2019