It proves increasingly perilous to be or have ever been in the president’s orbit as time goes on. President Donald Trump has operated for essentially the entire duration of his presidency under a cloud of scandal that has only grown larger as time has gone on, the main driver of which, of course, has been the Russia investigation as led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The Associated Press has a new report out this week about the direction that investigation has taken, sharing that Trump’s longtime friend and associate Tom Barrack has been among those interviewed by the special counsel’s team. Despite passionate whining and complaining from the president and his allies, the special counsel is continuing in his quest to leave no stone unturned.
The full scope of what Mueller’s team discussed with Barrack is not immediately clear. One source for the publication said that his interactions with the special counsel focused on knowledge of two former Trump associates, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former staffer Rick Gates. Both of those two men have faced charges already from Mueller; earlier this year, Gates pleaded guilty and decided to cooperate with prosecutors.
Barrack employed Gates on the Trump inaugural committee last year; as for Manafort, his interactions would have come in a less formalized context. Barrack was a leading fundraiser for the Trump presidential candidacy; Manafort, as mentioned, served as the campaign chairman at one point.
In that light, one of the anonymous sources speaking to the Associated Press claimed that Barrack’s interactions with the special counsel extended beyond the topics of Manafort and Gates to cover campaign finance issues as well. Financial ties maintained by the Trump team have been among the focuses of the Mueller investigation. In another issue, the president and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen are facing financial scrutiny over a hush money payment delivered to adult film star Stormy Daniels in late 2016 covering an affair with the man who is now president.
As for Barrack, he has been close to Trump for decades, putting any conversations of his with the special counsel in a unique position to be able to reveal information.
He has proven to be among those seemingly intent on ignoring the president’s most toxic qualities, having expressed an opinion soon after Trump’s victory in November 2016 that a “softer, kinder” Trump would now emerge.
Barrack, obviously, was proven wrong. In the time since his victory, Trump has lashed out at everyone from political opponents to the media, the latter of which he has gone so far as to term the “enemy of the American people.”
Trump has continuously claimed his innocence in the Russia scandal, routinely employing the term “witch hunt” to describe Mueller’s investigation, even though it’s already seen four sets of charges against former Trump associates, and the investigation is not done.
His attempts to undercut the integrity of the justice system are going to keep coming back to haunt him, no matter what new lawyers he adds to his team and no matter how many angry tweets he posts.
Featured Image via Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg