Cohen implicates the president in crimes
In explosive testimony about his work as President Trump’s lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen told Congress this week that Trump received advance notice of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish stolen emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Cohen told the House Oversight Committee that he was present in Trump’s office during the 2016 campaign when Trump adviser Roger Stone called to say WikiLeaks was about to release a trove of hacked Democratic emails on the eve of the Democratic convention—and that Trump responded, “Wouldn’t that be great.” In Trump’s written testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller, he reportedly denied knowing in advance that WikiLeaks would release the emails. Cohen also said Trump directed his hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and paid him back while in office, showing as proof a copy of a $35,000 check from Trump dated August 2017. Cohen said he was “ashamed” of his blind loyalty to Trump, whom he called “a con man,” “a cheat,” and “a racist” who often spoke of blacks in denigrating terms.
Cohen said that he is cooperating with federal prosecutors in “several cases.” He begins a three-year prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to eight felonies, including lying to Congress. House Republicans expressed outrage that Democrats invited a confessed liar to be their “star witness.” On the eve of Cohen’s testimony, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz asked on Twitter whether Cohen’s wife knew about his “girlfriends,” adding, “I wonder if she’ll remain faithful while you’re in prison.” Gaetz later apologized. Gesturing toward a Republican’s sign that read, “Liar Liar Pants on Fire!” Cohen said, “I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years. I protected Mr. Trump.”
What the columnists said
By my count, Cohen—“the John Dean of Russiagate”—implicated Trump in at least five felonies, said Max Boot in WashingtonPost.com. If Trump knew and approved of WikiLeaks’ plan to dump Democratic emails stolen by Russia in order to help his campaign, that would be “conspiracy to defraud the United States”—what is commonly called “collusion.” Trump committed perjury and obstruction if he lied to Mueller about WikiLeaks, and Cohen says Trump and his lawyers made it clear he should lie to Congress about Trump’s attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow late into the 2016 campaign. The Daniels payments made by Trump violate campaign finance law, and Cohen said Trump had repeatedly lied about his assets to get loans and reduce his taxes, which looks like “bank, wire, and tax fraud.”
“A man who has lied for a long time tends to be very good at lying,” said David French in NationalReview.com. That’s not to say Cohen’s testimony is “entirely worthless,” but it’s only valuable insofar as it can be corroborated. He clearly relishes his role as a “hero of the Resistance,” and criminals often think they can “get away even with the same crime they’ve committed before.” In fact, said Guy Benson in TownHall.com, Cohen insisted before Congress that he never coveted a job in the White House, which every Washington reporter knows to be false. A “self-serving, sleazy liar” has likely perjured himself yet again.
House Republicans completely ignored “the substance” of Cohen’s testimony, said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. Confronted with a mountain of evidence incriminating the president, Republicans tried to dismiss Cohen as a “pathological liar.” Why did he lie so often in the past? “To protect Trump.” Why would he tell the truth now? For the same reason mafioso underlings testify against their bosses.
Consider this “the first hearing in President Trump’s impeachment,” said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. There’s been a growing belief that because Mueller seems to be wrapping up, he must not have the goods. Well, “Cohen’s testimony destroys that assumption completely.” He has 11 signed checks from Trump for illegal hush payments; he says Trump pursued the Trump Moscow deal during the campaign in hopes of gaining “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Cohen’s testimony about Stone’s phone call “is the final link in the chain between Trump and Russia.” Cohen’s testimony marks not the end of Congress’s investigations into this deeply unethical president, but just the beginning.
Cover illustration by Fred Harper.
Cover photos from AP, Media Bakery, Getty