The dizzying events of the past few days have left us in a whole new realm when it comes to Donald Trump’s criminal scandals. We now know that Trump himself signed off on the illegal meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower during the election, and that two of his own former top people – Rick Gates and Michael Cohen – are willing to substantiate this. But even as Donald Trump tries to fend off heightening accusations of treason, we’ve nearly lost track of what this all means for another member of the Trump family.
Donald Trump Jr testified to Congress long ago under oath that he did not tell his father in advance about the Russia meeting. That became a problem for him over the weekend when it was revealed that Michael Cohen was willing to testify that he witnessed Junior telling his father about it. But Cohen hasn’t even cut a plea deal yet, and even once he does, how would he be able to substantiate his claim? Enter Rick Gates.
Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates cut a plea deal back in February, and as part of that deal, he’s already told Special Counsel Robert Mueller everything. Thanks to Rudy Giuliani’s loose lips, we now know that Gates knew that Trump was aware of Junior’s meeting. That means Gates can testify that Junior lied under oath to Congress – which is felony perjury. Of course perjury is just the start of the crimes that Junior will end up being charged for. But his more serious crimes in relation to the Russia meeting are more challenging to prove, and they’re the kinds of charges that Junior might be tempted to believe he can beat at trial. Perjury, however, is cut and dry.
So now we know that Robert Mueller has a cooperating witness to nail Donald Trump Jr. Even if Junior wants to go to trial and thinks he can beat the more serious charges, he’ll still end up in prison for perjury. Will that be enough to convince him to cut a plea deal against his own father? We’ll see. But at the least, we now know without a doubt that Junior will rot in prison if he doesn’t flip – and perhaps more importantly, Junior now knows that as well.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report