Feeling is mounting that US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump’s ties with Russia is heading toward an important turning point, if not yet an ultimate conclusion, as a separate legal inquiry about the president and a porn actress has metastasized from tawdry soap opera into legal minefield.

The two investigations are separate, but connected, and are beginning to look like a dangerous pincer movement.

The main one, nearly a year old, is led by Mueller examining whether there was any collusion between Trump’s election campaign and the Kremlin, which all US intelligence agencies and most Americans agree put considerable effort into supporting Trump by various covert or underhand, Internet-related means.

The other involves $130,000 hush money payment Trump supposedly made via his personal lawyer of 30 years, Michael Cohen, to porn star Stormy Daniels. She says they had a one-night stand in 2006.

For months Trump denied he’d slept with her or paid any money. But in a series of spectacular missteps his new lead lawyer, another larger-than-life character former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, admitted Cohen had paid the money and then been surreptitiously reimbursed by Trump. Giuliani might as well have then blared out the question himself: “If Donald didn’t sleep with her, why is he parting with $130,000?”

The most serious aspects of the Stormy matter are not whether Trump is lying and was unfaithful to his wife just after she’d had their only child. The president has been caught out lying many times but it doesn’t seem to hurt him or bother his supporters.

The danger lurking here hinges on who made the payment and whether it infringed strict rules about campaign expenditure.

Last February Cohen said: “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction…… neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”

Whether that’s true became part of an investigation by the legal authorities of New York’s Southern District, who raided Cohen’s office and residences after receiving evidence, likely from Mueller’s people, of possible crimes. They confiscated masses of material related to Trump.

Trump knows what’s in those documents and seems spooked by the possibility that Cohen may be charged with crimes and cooperate with the New York authorities and Mueller to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

Trump has edged away from Cohen and some of the president’s pals have already suggested Cohen is a liar in preparation for the day he might give evidence against Trump.

Giuliani replaced the president’s previous chief lawyer who he thought too timid in extricating him from the encroaching Mueller mess. Giuliani has a reputation for toughness and aggression. He was mayor of New York on 911 and is credited with inspiring leadership that lifted morale in the aftermath. As a US attorney general in the 70s and 80s he led a legal task force which broke the power of the five Mafia crime families that “ruled” the city for decades.

But Giuliani, 73, seems to have lost his edge and in muddled appearances on Trump’s beloved Fox News television he denied Trump slept with Stormy Daniels but admitted that Cohen paid the porn actress to sign a non-disclosure agreement to prevent her potentially damaging revelations on the eve of the election. And that Trump had eventually, indirectly reimbursed Cohen.

By doing so Giuliani admitted the president was a liar. Suggesting that the money was used to prevent adverse publicity in the election opened Trump up to possible federal charges about misusing campaign funds.

He has also burdened Trump with having to explain why he would pay $130,000 to sign a non-disclosure agreement with a woman he hasn’t touched and who he is now suing for $20 million damages for breaching.

Daniels alleges that the agreement was invalid because Trump did not sign it with his true name and she is suing him for a “defamatory” tweet he wrote after she said she was threatened by a man telling her to lay off making allegations against Trump.

After Giuliani’s disastrous TV appearance, Trump at first admitted by tweet that Cohen had paid off Stormy Daniels during the campaign and that he was reimbursed. Trump explained he had not had his way with Stormy and such “non-disclosure” payments to quash bad publicity are so common in the world of the rich and famous that the lawyer often acts independently and ponies up without even disturbing his client about such repellent matters.

By Friday (May 4) Trump realized that between his and Giuliani’s outpourings he was in jeopardy of facing serious charges related to campaign finances and was desperately rowing back and preparing Rudy to be the gal guy.

“Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago,” said Trump about Giuliani who joined the A-team more than two weeks ago. “He really has his heart into it. He’s working hard, learning the subject matter. He’ll get his facts straight. ….”

The most pressing question though is whether Trump will voluntarily agree to questioning as being demanded by Mueller. Even though he previously promised “100 percent” that he would, it’s the last thing he wants to do.

Many of his advisers fear, that unable to distinguish clearly between truth and fantasy, he would open himself up to perjury charges by lying to the FBI, as represented by Mueller. So Trump is, without much hope of success, trying to dictate what questions the special counsel can ask. Mueller might subpoena Trump, something many predict could trigger a constitutional crisis.

Or Trump might trigger one by firing Mueller, especially as he would probably first have to fire his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and the country’s deputy top lawyer, Rod Rosenstein.

Trump never seems to grasp that endlessly repeating lies doesn’t morph them into truth and his infuriated calls to quash the Mueller investigation only make him seem more guilty.

An American TV comedy institution, satire show “Saturday Night Live,” mocks Trump’s bizarre behavior weekly. Actor Alec Baldwin impersonates Trump with other Hollywood Stars like Robert de Niro and Ben Stiller sometimes joining in.

This week the show mimicked how the boundaries are blurred between reality and the Trumpian world. Playing Stormy’s role was the porn star herself warning the president “a storm’s a coming baby!”

Let’s hope for Giuliani’s sake he hasn’t left his day job yet.