So the world's greatest negotiator has taken 800,000 hostages and threatens to shoot himself in the foot unless he gets his wall. Too bad the Democrats can't subcontract the job of confronting his demands to Vladimir Putin. Faced with the Russian dictator, our bold leader rolls over on his back like a puppy dog.
Furthermore, Trump's been doing it for years. And lying his big, flabby posterior off about it the whole time. For all intents and purposes, the president of the United States is a wholly owned subsidiary of the organized crime syndicate otherwise known as the Russian government.
In Moscow, they call them "oligarchs," fabulously wealthy individuals essentially granted monopoly control over large sectors of the Russian economy in exchange for fealty to Putin. It's a way of doing business our own would-be strongman has always admired. A coarse blowhard with a taste for golden toilets, Trump fits right in.
See, that's the half-acknowledged reality behind BuzzFeed's apparent reporting blunder regarding whether Trump told his onetime "fixer" Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his company's pursuit of Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.
BuzzFeed cited two anonymous law enforcement sources claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators had emails, texts and testimony proving that Trump instructed Cohen to testify falsely about the would-be Moscow real estate deal.
Great excitement ensued on CNN, MSNBC and the rest. "If true," pundits and editorial writers agreed, then Trump basically suborned perjury -- a "high crime" under anybody's definition. But the reason they all added the disclaimer was that other journalists couldn't confirm BuzzFeed's story.
Cohen has admitted giving Congress a false timeline, claiming that the Trump organization dropped the Russia deal in January 2016, although negotiations continued right up to the Republican National Convention that June.
(Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani has since extended the timeline until the November general election. But he's not under oath on "Meet the Press." Maybe Giuliani's getting ahead of damaging revelations to come, or maybe he's just a buffoon. Possibly both. Rudy recently told The New Yorker: "I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. 'Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.'" He insisted that he always tells the truth, but that's definitely not something you want your attorney to say.)
As even Fox News loyalists know by now, Mueller's office made a rare public statement: "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's congressional testimony are not accurate."
Hmm ... "Not accurate" can mean a lot of things. The special counsel's statement was both lawyerly and vague. BuzzFeed is sticking by its story. We shall see. But I am not holding my breath.
So anyway, let's get real, shall we? Particularly in view of their long history as fellow con men, Trump didn't need to tell Michael Cohen to lie. All Cohen needed to do was to follow the master's example. Trump's been lying about his dealings with the Russians from the get-go. Virtually every word he's ever said about the infamous Moscow Trump Tower is provably false.
It's now come to the point where he's lying about the lying, falsely claiming that everybody has always known about his Russian business interests, and besides, so what?
"So what" is that during the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly and indignantly denied any and all business relationships with Russia and Russians. The Washington Post has published a detailed timeline. On Jan. 11, 2017, for example, he tweeted: "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA -- NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!" In a same-day press conference, he repeated: "I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we've stayed away."
Every word was a barefaced lie. And nobody knew that better than Vladimir Putin. What's more, the relationship goes back decades. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Don Jr. said in 2008. "We don't rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia," Eric Trump told a reporter in 2014.
Forget Moscow prostitutes. Putin understands that Trump's bigger weakness is his insatiable greed. What's more, by lying about his relationship with Russia during the presidential campaign, he opened himself to political blackmail.
"He has been totally compromised from at least the day he signed a letter of intent to build that tower," writes Washington Monthly's Martin Longman. "This is now beyond dispute."
Indeed. In short, Trump was Putin's pawn when he proposed lifting economic sanctions against the Russian regime, when he parroted the Russian anti-NATO and anti-EU line, when he called upon the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails -- basically during every minute of the 2016 campaign.
Worse, nothing has changed since inauguration.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at email@example.com