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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) Reporters' confusion over the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence has led to a dangerous false equivalence between Cohen's claim Trump knew of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting and Trump's denial. There's ample evidence Trump knew—read this thread to see it.
1/ Direct evidence is seeing it rain. Circumstantial evidence is waking up, looking out your window, seeing that the grass is soaking wet, and taking that as *some* evidence it rained the night before. The *overwhelming majority* of evidence in criminal cases is *circumstantial*.
2/ Because reporters think—contrary to fact—that direct evidence isn't just the primary but in fact the only form of evidence in criminal cases, they're trying to "solve" the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting mystery by comparing the direct evidence each side has publicly presented.
3/ Reporters are thus doing exactly what Trump wants. What reporters don't realize is that Trump's position comes from the criminal-conspiracy playbook—get people to think that only the eyewitness testimony of the conspirators matters, then get all the conspirators to stay quiet.
4/ So reporters are noting that Cohen says Trump knew of the meeting, and that Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner say otherwise. They also are creating a false equivalence in terms of witness credibility, so I'll briefly address that problem first to get it out of the way.
5/ Liars testify against each other every day in America. In major criminal cases it often happens that both the defendant and the witnesses against him are bad guys. So how does the jury decide the question? Usually by looking at what each party has to lose by telling the truth.
6/ A guilty defendant—say, in this analogy, Trump—has everything to lose by telling the truth, so they lie. But a witness who has been—or may soon be—offered leniency is in the *opposite* situation: the government has produced the conditions under which the truth sets them free.
7/ Here, again, we find the danger of not understanding circumstantial evidence, because many reporters might read my preceding tweet and say, "Yes, but can't Michael Cohen just make up lies about what was said to him now, and then testify to those lies in order to get leniency?"
8/ The answer is "yes"—but *only if there's no circumstantial evidence that will tell the government whether Cohen is lying or not*. If Cohen—who *doesn't know* what circumstantial evidence the feds have—lies to them, he not only would lose his deal but face *new felony changes*.
9/ That's why, every single day in American courts, juries believe witnesses who are bad people but are hoping for, about to receive, or have already received leniency: because, *on average*, they're more reliable than defendants. And circumstantial evidence explains why that is.
10/ What this means is Cohen *isn't* a good guy, is *not* normally reliable, and in a *vacuum* would likely be considered as untrustworthy as Don Jr. (remembering that no one is as untrustworthy as Trump himself, because Trump is a *pathological* liar). But we're not in a vacuum.
11/ So we can't use some all-things-being-equal comparison for the credibility of three people usually without credibility (Cohen, Don Jr., Kushner) and one permanently without credibility (Trump). Cohen's hope for a deal means he must be honest or face current *and* new charges.
12/ With that out of the way—now that we understand that Cohen begins *this* particular situation presumptively more credible than any of Trump, Don Jr., and Kushner, who all have much to lose by telling the truth—we can talk about the *other* evidence Cohen is being honest here.
13/ The case for a witness' credibility is built *inductively* rather than *deductively*. This means that you don't just start and end with what they say—which, if they're an eyewitness, is "direct" evidence—you *contextualize what they say* amidst the "circumstantial" evidence.
14/ The amount of circumstantial evidence that Donald Trump knew of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which his three top lieutenants sought to illegally conspire with the Kremlin as to both computer and election crimes is *staggering*. Not just "notable," but *staggering*.
15/ Everyone *really* needs to understand this—because reporters aren't explaining it to you. But someone with my background (former criminal investigator and criminal attorney) literally *can't* look at this situation, because of my training, through any other lens but this one.
16/ And what you need to understand is that a criminal investigator *rarely* has this much circumstantial evidence to corroborate the already presumptively reliable testimony of a man—Cohen—who can only secure his freedom if he tells a truth the circumstantial evidence verifies.
17/ First, we look at the location of the suspect—Trump—in relation to the site of conspiracy (a room in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016). This is a big goddamn world, so if you work *inductively* you start from the assumption Trump could've been *anywhere in the world* at that time.
18/ At the time the criminal conspiracy—receipt of illegal campaign contributions from a foreign power, and conspiracy to commit computer crimes against the United States—Trump was...

...about 20 yards from the conspiracy in physical space. That's probative inculpatory evidence.
19/ You then look at the question of "dominion." Who *controlled*—and who had *access* to—the space in which the crime occurred? The answer is...

...Trump *owned* the space in which the crime occurred and the conspirators *couldn't have entered it* had he opposed their entrance.
20/ You then look at the *first- and second-order relationships* between the suspect—Trump—and the conspirators. Mind you, the discrete class of "conspirators" includes not just Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner; not just the Russian visitors; but also those who *set up* the meet.
21/ CONSPIRATORS' RELATIONSHIP TO SUSPECT (DONALD TRUMP)

A. Agalarov: BUSINESS PARTNER
E. Agalarov: FRIEND
Trump Jr.: SON
Kushner: SON-IN-LAW
Manafort: CAMPAIGN MANAGER
Goldstone: ACQUAINTANCE

This relationship map, as you can see, is absolutely *devastating* for Donald Trump.
22/ So let's recap where we are so far: the crime occurs in a space controlled by DONALD TRUMP, twenty yards from where DONALD TRUMP is, and involves—in planning and execution—six people known well to DONALD TRUMP, including two related by family and three professional relations.
23/ (And of course we add to that mid-investigation check-in the fact that the most reliable witness we have *in the current circumstances* is clearly Michael Cohen, and Cohen says that Trump knew about the meeting. So far, our circumstantial evidence *backs up* what Cohen says.)
24/ Okay, so now that we've established the relationships, we look at power dynamics. Does Donald Trump have any special authority or leverage with the conspirators who were meeting in his house while he was twenty yards away? The next tweet offers a chart laying out those facts.
25/ AUTHORITY OF THE SUSPECT (TRUMP) OVER CONSPIRATORS

A. Agalarov: BUSINESS PARTNER
E. Agalarov: BUSINESS PARTNER
Trump Jr.: BUSINESS BOSS/FATHER
Kushner: POLITICAL BOSS/FATHER-IN-LAW
Manafort: POLITICAL BOSS
All others: GUESTS IN HIS HOME

Now let's unpack these connections.
26/ Trump and the Agalarovs were in business (under an LoI) involving *hundreds of millions of dollars*, plus the Agalarovs knew from prior exchanges with Putin that Putin wanted to develop a good relationship with Trump. Emin previously asked Trump to be in a music video of his.
27/ So if the Agalarovs set up a meeting in *Trump's home* and *disrespect Trump* by not being certain he knows the meeting is happening in *his home*, they stand to face the following:

* Putin's ire
* loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in signed/anticipated future revenue
28/ Meanwhile, Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner all *work for* Trump. If they hold a meeting with a foreign nation in *his house* and then *never tell him about it even though it's immediately relevant to something he cares deeply about*, the consequences they face could be dire.
29/ CONSPIRATORS' CONSEQUENCES FOR NOT REVEALING MEETING TO TRUMP

AGALAROVS: Putin's ire/huge revenue loss
DON JR: impact on corporate job/family relationship/inheritance
KUSHNER: impact on political job/power/family relationship
MANAFORT: Deripaska's ire/impact on political job
30/ Keep in mind—as you read this—that we're only halfway through the investigatory analysis. Also keep in mind what mainstream media reporters are saying about this issue, which is—while implicitly fiddling their lips—"Uh, how could we *ever* know who's telling the truth here?"
31/ We now move to the next inquiry: the *context*. The first and most obvious question is, what was the suspect (Trump) doing on the day of the crime that he was sitting in his office just twenty yards from it while it happened in a space entirely under his dominion and control?
32/ As it happens, we actually know the answer to that: major-media reports indicate Donald Trump was scheduled to meet that day with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner to discuss...

*wait for it*...

...an upcoming speech discussing "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

{pause for breath}
33/ So Trump was sitting in his house discussing *Clinton dirt* with Manafort and Kushner; Manafort and Kushner then excused themselves to go to a different room in the house to discuss *Clinton dirt* with the Russians; they then came back to Trump and said...per Trump...nothing!
34/ It's important to note that if we only had the fact I've just told you and virtually nothing else besides the basics of the case (Trump's dominion over the space and relationships with the conspirators), likely more than 80% of jurors would conclude Trump knew of the meeting.
35/ Fortunately, we have so much more. Because *after* Trump Jr. got the email from Goldstone about the meeting but *before* the meeting happened, Trump himself announced publicly that he'd soon be giving a speech about...

...Clinton dirt!

What an amazing "coincidence" that is.
36/ I suspect the *only* thing more probative (broadly, "proving") of the fact that Donald Trump knew about the meeting beforehand *and* what happened at it would be if he then *cancelled* his speech on Clinton dirt after the Russians failed to produce it...

...which he did.
37/ But of course there are *many* additional probative "contextual" facts beyond this one, starting with the fact that Trump Jr. made or received three phone calls from a blocked number right as he was furiously calling and emailing with Goldstone and Emin to set the meeting up.
38/ And Donald Trump Jr. is *so stupid* that he did the *only thing he could do* that would convince a criminal investigator that those calls were to and from his dad: he lied not just about whether he remembered them but *whether his dad calls from a blocked number*. Oh, Junior!
39/ Investigators will sometimes let pass—because they have to—a person's claim that they can't remember who they spoke to on a day a year prior to the day they're testifying about it, especially if (due to a blocked number) there's no phone record that can refresh their memory.
40/ But Donald Trump Jr.—perhaps to his credit—is a less experienced liar and felon than his dad, so he made the mistake of telling the one lie that (because he speaks to his dad regularly and would *know* if his number comes up blocked) *confirms* he wanted to hide those calls.
41/ By the way, everything I've said so far is just the *basic work* of being a criminal investigator and/or criminal attorney, two jobs I did for a total of nearly a decade in three jurisdictions. I've *no idea* why no one in mainstream media is making these *very* basic points.
42/ The final category of analysis involves not the *immediate* context but the *broader* context—what happened in the weeks and months *before* the meeting and what happened in the weeks and months *after* the meeting. Both those analyses offer a *staggering* amount of evidence.
43/ *Before* Emin reached out to Don Jr.—and let me say this *very* clearly—Donald Trump, the current president, *knew* he was in the midst of clandestine negotiations with the Kremlin because *one of his top national security advisers told him so to his face*. On March 31, 2016.
44/ I won't rehash the many threads I did on this, but on March 31, 2016, George Papadopoulos told Trump to his face that he—Papadopoulos—was a Kremlin intermediary seeking to establish an ongoing clandestine Trump-Putin policy discussion. Trump promoted Papadopoulos immediately.
45/ Indeed, Trump made Papadopoulos—a nominal expert in Middle Eastern energy issues—one of his top people on *Russia* issues and put him to work co-editing his first foreign policy speech, which would (at the Mayflower Hotel on April 27) promise Putin a "good deal" on sanctions.
46/ His top lieutenant—his Campaign Manager, Paul Manafort—thereafter oversaw *repeated* back-channel overtures from the Kremlin, both to Papadopoulos and others, in April and May and early June. The same Manafort who went to the June 2016 meeting as Trump's designated top agent.
47/ So the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was merely the *continuation* of an ongoing negotiation Trump *already knew about*—meaning that it would make *no* sense for his top lieutenants (let alone his son, who was known to be obsequious to him and tell him everything) to hide it.
48/ Now to the *after-the-meeting* analysis. Trump—known as a micro-manager who blows his lid if ever he's kept in the dark, which is *another* inculpatory data-point here—took charge of the damage control once the meeting was revealed in '17. And he started criming *right away*.
49/ Trump committed Witness Tampering by demanding his son (known to be a federal witness) disseminate to the public—and for law enforcement's consumption—a statement he knew was false. He then *lied* about whether he'd told Don Jr. to lie by saying he didn't write the statement.
50/ I said over a year ago that, in my professional opinion as a criminal investigator and criminal lawyer—and as a matter of criminal evidence—there's *zero* chance Trump didn't know of this meeting. This *partial* review of the evidence confirms it. /end
PS/ I reiterate that this *partial* analysis—using only public information, which information is only a *fraction* of what Mueller has access to—would establish in the mind of *any* law enforcement officer that Trump knew of the meeting *even if we didn't have Cohen's testimony*.
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