US President Donald Trump chairs a meeting with administration and state officials on prison reform at the Trump National Golf Club August 9, 2018 in Bedminster, New Jersey.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump chairs a meeting with administration and state officials on prison reform at the Trump National Golf Club August 9, 2018 in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Now playing
02:35
The Trump Foundation dissolving amid lawsuit (2018)
george w bush congress immigration rhetoric cbs intv sot mxp vpx_00000000.png
george w bush congress immigration rhetoric cbs intv sot mxp vpx_00000000.png
Now playing
01:25
Bush calls on Congress to tone down 'harsh rhetoric' on immigration
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence" on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Many senators spoke both for and against gun control the day after a shooting in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman opened fire at a grocery store, killing ten people. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence" on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Many senators spoke both for and against gun control the day after a shooting in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman opened fire at a grocery store, killing ten people. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:18
Berman on Cruz's latest tweet: 'The pot calling the kettle violent'
Now playing
01:57
Chuck Hagel criticizes Trump's statement on Afghanistan
gun laws shootings Comer pamela brown nr vpx _00015627.png
CNN
gun laws shootings Comer pamela brown nr vpx _00015627.png
Now playing
02:23
'I can't answer that': Kentucky lawmaker responds to CNN on gun policy
Now playing
02:39
National security adviser: Russia will face consequences if Navalny dies in prison
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Now playing
03:20
Marjorie Taylor Greene lashes out at media after backlash over controversial caucus
AP
Now playing
03:16
Maxine Waters: Jim Jordan is a bully and I shut him down
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
03:51
Marjorie Taylor Greene launching 'America First' caucus
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
Now playing
02:22
White House backtracks on refugees decision after criticism
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
02:44
'National embarrassment': Biden reacts to mass shootings
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15:  Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:07
Russia to expel 10 US diplomats in 'tit-for-tat response' to Biden sanctions
Now playing
03:10
Avlon: Here's what we know 100 days since the Capitol riot
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:17
Political scientist: US-Russia relations are in the toilet
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:39
Governor settles with former campaign staffer who accused her of sexual mistreatment
pool/cnn
Now playing
01:56
Hear what Dr. Gupta said when Cruz went maskless before
(CNN) —  

Almost daily, reality deals another blow to the alternative narrative that President Donald Trump has constructed around his scandal-plagued presidency, campaign and business legacy.

On Tuesday, in a courtroom cliffhanger, Michael Flynn effectively eviscerated the President’s claims that the former national security adviser was trapped into lies and flipping on his boss under unfair FBI intimidation.

In another stain on the reputation of the President, the Trump Foundation agreed to disband following a suit that alleged that Trump and his elder children used it to enrich themselves.

And in another possible blow to Trump, a federal appeals court compelled an unnamed company owned by a foreign country to comply with a subpoena suspected to be related to the Russia investigation, four days after a mystery hearing.

Such events would provoke immense uproar in any other presidency and might rank as the most dramatic scandals of a commander in chief’s term.

For Trump, they were just the latest blows and legal reverses in days of deeply damaging revelations about the President, after special counsel Robert Mueller broke his midterm campaign hiatus.

Trump has seen his claims that he had no business interests in Russia debunked by disclosures about his proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. CNN obtained a letter of intent, signed by Trump, to move forward with negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Russia just days after his attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed the document was never signed. Mueller’s filings make it clear, despite Trump’s claims, there were contacts with Russians. And he has been indirectly implicated in a campaign finance crime involving hush payments to women he lied about.

In many ways, Tuesday’s developments simply thickened the cloud of suspicion and legal peril that has engulfed all aspects of Trump’s personal, political and business life.

And they indicate that while Trump’s rhetorical assaults on the FBI and Mueller may fly on conspiratorial conservative media and with his core political support, they are prone to dissolve in the reality-based situation of a courtroom.

’I am not hiding my disgust’

03:27 - Source: CNN
White House argues Flynn's crimes have 'nothing to do' with Trump

In Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Emmet Sullivan repeatedly stressed the gravity of Flynn’s crimes. He originally and mistakenly said that Flynn had worked as an unregistered agent for the Turkish government during his brief tenure at the White House, saying such behavior was arguably tantamount to selling his country out.

He later corrected himself to reflect the fact that Flynn’s undisclosed lobbying for Turkey ended before he joined the White House in January 2017. But Flynn was on Turkey’s payroll while he advised Trump during the campaign. The contract ended while Flynn was a senior member on Trump’s transition team.

There was no mistaking the judge’s attitude towards the former general’s conduct.

“I am not hiding my disgust, my disdain for your criminal offense,” Sullivan said.

Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy counsel in the Clinton-era Whitewater affair, told CNN that Sullivan decided not to ignore the larger political reality around the case framed by the President’s attacks on the administration of justice.

“The idea that his comments have not been affected by the President of the United States and his campaign of vilification is far fetched,” Wisenberg said.

“He is affected by that and I think it is proper for him to take that into consideration in terms of what he publicly says,” he said.

Tuesday’s sentencing proceedings for Flynn were expected to be a routine affair since Mueller had requested he serve no jail time for lying to the FBI, given his “substantial” cooperation with the Russia probe.

Heading into the hearing, Trump and his supporters were touting a story that Flynn was a victim and not a criminal, maintaining that he was railroaded by the FBI when questioned about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Before the court sat, Trump tweeted good luck to Flynn and claimed he had been under “tremendous pressure” from federal authorities.

But Sullivan appeared to take exception to such arguments, since he required Flynn to state clearly in court that he was standing by his guilty plea. His move followed a filing by Flynn’s lawyers last week in which they complained that their client had been pressed by then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe not to have a lawyer present during his FBI interview.

Sullivan asked Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner if his client was “entrapped” by the FBI and the attorney replied: “No, your honor.”  

“Are you continuing to accept responsibility for his false statements?” Sullivan asked, before Flynn broke in with the words: “I am, your honor.”

“I would like to proceed, your honor,” Flynn said in a later exchange.

“Because you’re guilty of this offense?” Sullivan asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Flynn replied.

Flynn, a career US government servant and military officer who rose to head the Defense Intelligence Agency, also told the court that he knew that lying to the FBI was a crime when he did it.

Tuesday’s hearing came a day after the release of a Mueller memo detailing Flynn’s interview with FBI agents in which the then-national security adviser lied about his contact during the presidential transition in 2016 with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.

The official court document also shows no evidence that there was any attempt to entrap Flynn or sense that his rights were being violated.

The message did not reach the White House, which stuck to outdated talking points contradicted by the facts. In a rare press briefing, Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders kept faith with her boss’ alternative universe.

She stood by a previous statement that the FBI had “ambushed” Flynn and broken protocol by not conducting the interview in the presence of a lawyer and used the White House podium to launch a new attack on the law enforcement agencies of which the President is the titular head.

“We don’t have any reason to walk that back,” she said, while distancing the President from any lies told by Flynn.

At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Flynn and his lawyers agreed to a delay in his sentencing until March, after apparently concluding that the judge, who was deeply perturbed by Flynn’s crimes, intended to send him to jail.

That grace period will allow Flynn even more time to add to his 19 meetings with Mueller’s team – a further flashing danger sign for Trump emerging out of Tuesday’s events.

There is, so far, no public evidence that Trump either ordered Flynn to lie or directed the contents of his conversations, on issues including Russian sanctions and a vote on Israeli settlements at the UN, with Kislyak.

If the President ends up being accused of cooperating with Russia in election meddling or obstructing justice, after asking FBI chief James Comey to go easy on Flynn, and then firing Comey, he will have a chance to mount a formal defense.

But there is still no answer as to why Flynn, who spent months at Trump’s side, chose to lie to the FBI about his chats with the ambassador of a state that he knew had been accused by US intelligence of meddling in the election.

That riddle may have to await Mueller’s final report.

Charity as check book

02:51 - Source: CNN
Trump closing family charity amid NY AG lawsuit

As is often the case for Trump, bad news came on several fronts Tuesday.

His personal charitable foundation agreed to dissolve in the face of claims that the President and his three eldest children – Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric – violated campaign finance laws and abused its tax-exempt status.

Instead of operating a genuine charity, the lawsuit alleged, the family allowed it to be used “as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”

Under the terms of the lawsuit that is to continue, New York state is seeking $2.8 million in restitution, plus penalties, and a ban on Trump and his children serving on the board of any other New York nonprofit.

“It is extraordinary,” Anne Milgram, a former New Jersey attorney general, told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“What the AG is saying is that they have failed in the fiduciary duties to the non profit organization in such an enormous way that they are not qualified to sit on the board of any non profit or charity in the state of New York.”

CNN’s Katelyn Potantz and Marshall Cohen contributed to this story