Trump’s attempt to help Turkish-Iranian sanctions breaker ‘impeachable’ - MSNBC

U.S. President Donald Trump committed another impeachable offence in an attempt to press the Justice Department into dropping charges against a Turkish-Iranian gold trader in 2017, MSNBC’s Steve Benen reported.

Bloomberg revealed this week that Trump had pressured former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help him have charges lifted against Reza Zarrab, a gold trader who played a central role in a scheme to bypass sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab, who was lionised by Turkey’s pro-government press after the charges against him were revealed, later became the star witness in the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, through which the sanctions-busting scheme operated.

During the trial, Zarrab told the New York court that top Turkish ministers had accepted large bribes in the scheme, which he said had been approved by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Turkish-Iranian gold trader was also a client of U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s top advisers who has been implicated in ongoing investigations into the president’s alleged attempts to press foreign states to help him uncover information on political rivals.

Tillerson refused to help Trump have the charges dropped, Bloomberg reported, “arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab.”

“As much of the country has no doubt noticed, we’re in the midst of a presidential impeachment inquiry, which is evaluating Trump’s possible high crimes and misdemeanours,” Benen wrote for MSNBC.

“With this in mind, it’s worth emphasising that if the president urged his secretary of state to interfere with the Justice Department, derailing the prosecution of one of Giuliani’s clients – a client who faced serious criminal charges – that would almost certainly constitute an impeachable offense,” he said.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham told a Russian radio host who was posing at Turkey’s defence minister that Trump was very keen to help Erdoğan with the Halkbank case, in conversations obtained and published by Politico on Thursday.

The U.S. president is known to have close relations with his Turkish counterpart, and abruptly reversed U.S. policy to allow the Turkish leader to launch a military operation in northeast Syria this week.

Trump has also shielded Turkey from sanctions demanded by the U.S. Congress over its purchase of Russian missile defence systems.