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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

The ever-expanding Trump universe

Cohen's testimony opens for the public the black hole of trouble facing president.

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In the torrent of news last week, you might have missed a nugget from the world of physics — the universe is expanding much faster than previously thought.

Scientists used data from the Hubble Space Telescope to reach that conclusion, but its validity is only one part of what’s intriguing about the notion of a rapidly expanding universe.

What an interesting metaphor it is for everything and everyone in President Donald Trump’s orbit.

The interstellar news broke the day before Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony vastly expanded the public perception of the universe of trouble facing the president.

Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, provided names and details that might have made regular people sit up but surely are not unknown to special counsel Robert Mueller or investigators in the Southern District of New York, who between them are probing Trump’s campaign, Russian meddling in the election, Trump’s ties to Russia, his finances, his business, and his now-defunct foundation. Not to mention whatever it is Cohen alluded to that those New York federal prosecutors also are mining.

Republicans on the House oversight committee rightly attacked Cohen’s credibility. But to buy their premise that a man convicted of lying cannot ever tell the truth would be to undermine countless successful mob prosecutions and other criminal convictions. More noteworthy, GOP committee members did not counter any of Cohen’s charges against Trump.

“Truthfully, it is tough to ignore some of the gross immoral behavior by the president,” one senior House Republican told The Washington Post after the hearing. “The reason there was no defense is because there is no defense.”

Now the public showcase is moving quickly beyond Cohen. Off his testimony, the oversight committee is expected to haul in Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of The Trump Organization. He’s worked for the Trump family for more than 40 years and knows where all the records are buried — and he was given immunity by federal prosecutors in Manhattan in their probe of Cohen.

Already on the docket is Felix Sater, who checks all the conspiracy boxes — Russian-born, felon (securities fraud), ties to Russian intelligence, longtime Trump associate, office in Trump Tower, helped get visas for Cohen and Trump to visit Moscow, and a Cohen liaison on the Trump Tower in Moscow project about which Sater once emailed Cohen, “Buddy, our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this . . . ”

Sater appears March 14, the day before the Ides of March.

Other targets of House committees now include Trump’s personal taxes, Trump Organization executives Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari, and Trump’s gatekeeper Rhona Graff.

As this mushrooms, Trump’s ability to discredit claims by Cohen and others is compromised by his rampant and growing falsehoods. The most recent case came last week in well-sourced reports that he overruled wary intelligence experts by ordering then-chief of staff John Kelly to give son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance — despite Trump’s previous denials that he had done so.

Astronomers explained the discrepancy between their data past and present by invoking dark energy and dark matter — which sound like the forces Trump often says are arrayed against him. Scientists now plan to use data on star positions to refine their estimates and to try to understand why the universe is expanding so quickly.

We should be similarly cautious. We see some data points regarding Trump, but we should let this process play out. If nothing is there, that’s what will come out. The same is true of the reverse.

Scientists say they might need to rewrite the rules of physics to explain what they’re finding

 Michael Dobie is a member of the editorial board.

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