Michael Cohen has nothing to gain and everything to lose by misleading Congress again, now that he is beginning his long road to redemption. First, between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York U.S. attorney’s office, they already know virtually everything to which Michael will testify. If he lies again, they will nail him. Second, while Cohen still has a chance to mitigate his sentence in return for further cooperation with the SDNY, his testimony before Congress has no chance of helping in this regard. (scroll down for full article)
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“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”
(Cohen, Michael, former personal attorney and self-described “fixer” for Donald Trump since 2007; opening statement of daylong hearing, at which Cohen was only witness; U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform; 2/27/2019.)
On Wednesday, the nation watched Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and self-described “fixer,” Michael Cohen, expose many of the corrupt inner workings of the Trump Organization and administration. He has worked for Donald since 2007. Cohen testified voluntarily before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Republicans made no attempts to defend the president against specific charges of illegality, immorality, and ethical paucity. Instead, they simply repeated, GOP representative by GOP representative, that Cohen has admitted to and been convicted of lying to Congress (among other things).
Republicans Are Right: Michael Cohen Has Lied in the Past
Republicans are right about this. Michael Cohen said it in his opening statement. He has admitted and pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and investigators, primarily to protect the boss. He’s going to federal prison for three years. But now that he’s been convicted of lying — and eight counts of financial misdeeds, two of which were also upon Boss Trump’s orders — he is ready to come clean.
As Democrats have pointed out, Republicans don’t fear Cohen lying now; they fear his decision to stop lying.
Michael Cohen has nothing to gain and everything to lose by misleading Congress again, now that he is beginning his long road to redemption. First, between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York U.S. attorney’s office, they already know virtually everything to which Michael will testify. If he lies again, they will nail him. Second, while Cohen still has a chance to mitigate his sentence in return for further cooperation with the SDNY, his testimony before Congress has no chance of helping in this regard.
According to Mr. Cohen, he has made the mental conversion from criminal mindset to a man who wants to make things right by telling the truth. He says he has lost everything, mostly through his “blind loyalty to Donald Trump.” He is broke and reports to prison in May. He says he’s through lying. Supporters believe him because the special counsel and SDNY know everything and they’ll hang him if he lies again. Cohen believes it’s the right thing to do to help his family, help the country, and begin efforts to redeem himself.
He’s Not Lying Now
Michael’s appearance Wednesday before Congress strengthened his support and bolstered his credibility. Cohen was calm, measured. He didn’t exaggerate, and he stuck to the facts even when they occasionally supported Trump. Apparently, there really is no legendary Trump Tower elevator video depicting Donald striking his wife because, according to Cohen, “Mr. Trump would not hit Melania.” “Good to know,” quipped Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) while continuing her questioning.
He declined to speculate about or pile on and support certain allegations of Trump corruption that he didn’t know to be true. He came off as genuine, especially in his remorse for the harm he’s caused his family. Yeah, everyone gets “sincere” after they’re caught. Nevertheless, Cohen’s sincerity was palpable; he teared up at the mention of his family and during Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) closing statement in which Cummings praised his willingness to testify and redemptive efforts.
Michael called President Trump a racist and recited several searing, firsthand account examples. One humorous moment occurred when Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), ultra-right Freedom Caucus chair, proffered a silent human prop, an African-American woman who worked for the Trump Organization and now works in the administration. Meadows offered her up as proof that Donald couldn’t be racist: “She says that as a daughter of a [black] man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way she would work for an individual who was racist. How do you reconcile the two of those?”
Cohen responded, “And neither should I as the son of a Holocaust survivor.”
Later, in response to Meadows’ stunt, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), asked Cohen, “Would you agree that someone could deny rental units to African Americans, lead the birther movement, refer to the diaspora as ‘sh**hole countries,’ refer to white supremacists as ‘fine people,’ have a black friend, and still be racist?”
Cohen replied, “Yes.”
Several succeeding Democratic questioners referenced Mark Meadows’ racist attempt to defend against charges of (Trump) racism. Meadows topped it all off by feigning near-tears and crocodile indignance as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) called the charade out for what it was.
Republicans say Michael Cohen still must be lying because he lied before. Apparently they’ve never seen an episode of Law and Order. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) secured more than a few convictions based upon truthful testimony from witnesses who had admitted to previous mendacity. Also, real prosecutors have a cornucopia (great word) of real-life examples of the same thing. But I’m sticking with Law and Order to back me up.
Did I mention that Michael Cohen brought documented corroboration with him to the hearing? He had a $35,000 check signed by The Donald, to Michael, issued as one of 11 reimbursement payments for buying Stormy Daniels’ silence days before the 2016 election. (These 11 payments were disguised as part of a phony retainer agreement.) To put more salt on the tomato, the check was cut after Inauguration Day, which means this Trump bribery-campaign finance crime extended into his presidency. Additionally, the phony retainer payments, which Trump Org. claimed as tax-deductible expenses, would constitute tax fraud.
Cohen had another $35,000 check signed by Don Jr., indicating Junior was aware of the scheme. Michael said he could provide the other nine checks, which contain multiple Trump surname signatures. Republicans argued these payments could have been for anything, including actual retainer fees. But Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis brilliantly made the assist — into Michael’s ear — so Michael could remind the committee that Trump’s “television lawyer,” Rudy Giuliani, has admitted publicly that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the Stormy payoff. Swish. Or, if you like: Goal!
Mr. Cohen had Trump financial statements covering three years (2011-2013) that inflated Donald’s worth in an attempt to secure a near-$1 billion bank loan from Deutsche Bank (and possibly others) to buy the Buffalo Bills, an NFL team. The fraudulent statements also were submitted to insurers to lower Trump Organization premiums. Additionally, these inflated statements were used in an attempt to convince Forbes magazine to give Donald an artificially high ranking on their list of richest people.
Bank fraud. Insurance fraud. Pathetic, phony ego boosting.
[FUN FACT]: While I was in the doctor’s office waiting room yesterday, I came across the October 2018 edition of Forbes magazine, which featured their annual Forbes 400 (list of richest people in America). Donald Trump came in at Number 192 with a net worth of $3.2 billion, in sharp contrast to his oft-stated claim of $10 billion.
For color commentary, Mr. Cohen also brought “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.” This could indicate that, in fact, Donald Trump is not “like, a smart person,” who, in fact, might not “know words” or “have the best words.”
Primary Issues Raised by Michael Cohen Before the Oversight Committee
These are highlights of the allegations Michael Cohen made against Donald Trump at Wednesday’s hearing, in rough order of importance, according to me.
— Campaign Finance Crimes While in Office: Some are calling this the smoking gun: As mentioned above, Donald signed at least one of the 11 reimbursement payments to Cohen (for paying off Stormy Daniels) well after he was inaugurated, thereby committing campaign finance crime while occupying the Oval Office.
— Prior Knowledge of Trump Tower Meeting: Cohen said he was in Trump’s office several days before the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting involving then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., Russian government attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, and others. Cohen stated Don Jr. entered the office, uncharacteristically walked behind Trump’s chair, leaned toward Dad’s ear, and said in a low but audible voice, “The meeting is all set.” Donald answered, “OK good, let me know.” Michael also reiterated many times, repeatedly, and more than once, that nothing — absolutely nothing — occurs in Trump World without the boss’ knowledge and authorization.
— Bank, Insurance, Tax Fraud: The use of inflated financial statements in an attempt to secure loans to buy the NFL Buffalo Bills constitutes bank fraud. These statements also were presented to insurance companies to qualify fraudulently for lower premiums, which constitutes insurance fraud. The tax fraud comes from (among other probable offenses) expensing the phony Cohen retainer agreement payments, which actually were used to reimburse Michael for the Stormy payoff.
— Trump Foundation Fraud, Trumpian Vanity: Cohen produced a newspaper article with notes written on it by Trump to back this one up. Donald had Michael set up a straw buyer to purchase a large Trump portrait. Trump’s painting was the last item to be auctioned. To ensure it sold for the highest price of the day, the straw buyer bid it up to $60,000. The Trump (charitable) Foundation later reimbursed the buyer, and Donald reclaimed the portrait for display in one of his clubs. Cohen said the sale was set up, and the reimbursement was financed illegally, solely for Trumpian bragging rights.
— Prior Knowledge of WikiLeaks’ Hillary Email Dumps: Cohen said he was in Trump’s office one day in the summer of 2016 when Roger Stone called. Donald put Roger on speakerphone. Mr. Stone said he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange (founder and director of WikiLeaks) who said to expect a huge dump of private emails damaging to Hillary in the next few weeks. Trump said, “Wouldn’t that be great.”
— Trump Directed Cohen to Lie to Congress: Cohen described a meeting with Donald and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow concerning Cohen’s then-upcoming testimony for his first (2017) congressional appearance. Cohen said Trump does not tell you to lie. He speaks in code: “[If Mr. Trump says,] ‘That’s the nicest-looking tie I’ve ever seen. Isn’t it?’ What are you going to do? Are you going to fight with him? The answer is no. So you say, ‘Yeah, it’s the nicest-looking tie I’ve ever seen.’ That’s how he speaks. He doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in code. And I understand the code because I’ve been around him for decades.”
Cohen later said, “In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, [Mr. Trump] would look me in the eye and tell me there was no Russian business and then go on to lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.”
— Trump Lawyers (and Unknown Others) Edited, Approved Cohen’s 2017 Congressional Statement: Cohen said that after he had prepared his 2017 congressional statement, in which he lied about when the Trump Tower Moscow deal had fizzled (among other fibs), Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, Ivanka-Jared attorney Abbe Lowell, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner had a hand in editing and/or approving his statement knowing it contained false testimony. Cohen said his statement also was passed around to others in the White House, but he didn’t know specifically to whom.
— Don Jr. Also Involved in Financial Fraud: As mentioned, Donald Trump Jr. signed at least one of the 11 reimbursement checks to Cohen (for paying off Stormy Daniels). Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) characterized the payoffs as “garden variety financial fraud.” It was noted that of the four principals involved in the fraud — Donald Trump, Don Jr., Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, and Michael Cohen — only one was going to jail.
— Trump Told Cohen to Deny Stormy Daniels Hush-Money Payoff: When Cohen asked Trump how he should deal with increasing questions from reporters about the existence and mechanics of the bribe paid to Stormy Daniels for her silence regarding her affair with Donald just months after son Baron was born, Trump insisted that Cohen simply continue to deny making the payment.
— Trump Taxes Were Never Under Audit: When Cohen asked Trump for a copy of his tax audit notification letter to deal with media questions about it, Trump never produced one. Cohen characterized discussions with Trump about why he wouldn’t release his tax returns: “What [Mr. Trump] didn’t want is to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.”
Clearly, Donald withheld his tax returns not because they were under audit but because he was afraid they would cause an audit. Cohen added, “I presume[d] that he is not under audit.”
— Cohen said Trump lied in a 2013 sworn deposition when he stated he would not recognize former business partner, Russian mob connection, and convicted felon Felix Sater — whose office was next to Donald’s on the 26th floor of Trump Tower — if the two were in a room together.
— Cohen cannot discuss the SDNY investigation of Cohen-Trump communications that took place about two months after the FBI raided Cohen’s offices. Legal experts and pundits speculate a pardon was offered.
— Cohen cannot discuss possible Trump insurance fraud under investigation by the SDNY.
— Cohen cannot discuss mysterious other Trump wrongdoing under investigation by the SDNY.
— Cohen is in constant contact with the SDNY.
— Cohen briefed Don Jr. and Ivanka on the Trump Tower Moscow deal approximately 10 times.
— Cohen threatened or intimidated people on Trump’s orders approximately 500 times.
— Cohen secretly recorded conversations while working for Trump approximately 100 times.
— Cohen is remorseful for lying to Melania Trump, denying to her that Donald had affairs (warranting hush-money payoffs) with two paramours while she was home with Baby Baron.
— Trump still owes David Pecker (CEO of National Enquirer parent company AMI) money for “catch and kill” operations, similar to the Karen McDougal contract, that killed derogatory stories about Trump.
In Donald’s Defense
— Cohen has no knowledge of the “Golden Showers” video, which purportedly shows Donald in the room watching several prostitutes urinate on each other and on the Russian hotel bed that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama slept in.
— Cohen has no knowledge of the legendary but elusive Trump Tower elevator video, which purportedly shows Donald striking Melania.
— Cohen said he’s never been to Prague, where he was reported to have attended a Russia collusion meeting, according to the famous Steele Dossier.
— Cohen has no direct knowledge of Trump-Russia collusion (but he has his “suspicions”).
— Cohen appeared to be disingenuous in saying he never desired a White House position after Trump was elected. It’s unclear why he maintained this stance in the face of public knowledge repudiating it. In spite of GOP attempts to capitalize on this apparent cognitive dissonance, however, it didn’t affect Cohen’s overall veracity, which was supported by nothing-to-gain-and-everything-to-lose-by-lying credibility and documented corroboration.
Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings did a stellar job of moderating this hearing. Unlike Republicans, he demonstrated that his sole intention is to seek the truth, wherever it leads. Mr. Cummings also represented congressional humanity and even-handedness.
His closing statement is reprised below, though the written word cannot convey his emotion. It started quietly and rambled slightly. It ended with a thundering display of why I’m proud to be a Democrat and an American. ■
Chairman Elijah Cummings’ Closing Statement
You know I’ve sat here, and I’ve listened to all this, and it’s very painful. It’s very painful. You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen — and you’ve admitted that. And, you know, one of the saddest parts of this whole thing is that some very innocent people are hurting too. And you acknowledged that. And, um, that’s your family.
And, so you come here today, you — deep in my heart — when I practiced law I represented a lot of lawyers who got in trouble. And, you come saying I have made my mistakes, but now I want to change my life. And you know, if we — as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they’ve made mistakes to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well.
I don’t know where you go from here. As I sat here and I listened to both sides, I just felt as if — and you know, people are now using my words, that they took from me, that didn’t give me any credit — we are better than this. We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.
And, you know, I told you, and for some reason, Mr. Cohen, I tell my children, I say, “When bad things happen to you, do not ask the question ‘Why did it happen to me?’ Ask the question, ‘Why did it happen for me?’” I don’t know why this is happening for you. But it’s my hope that a small part of it is for our country to be better. If I hear you correctly, it sounds like you’re crying out for a new normal — for us getting back to normal. It sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays intact.
The one meeting I had with President Trump, I said to him, “The greatest gift that you and I, Mr. President, can give to our children, is making sure we give them a democracy that is intact. A — democracy better than the one we came upon.” And I’m hoping that, the things you said today will help us again to get back there.
You know, I mean come on now. I mean, when you got, according to The Washington Post, our president has made at least 8,718 — false or misleading statements. That’s stunning. That’s not what we teach our children. I don’t teach mine that. And, for whatever reason, it sounds like you got caught up in it. You got caught up in it. You got caught up in it.
And, some kind of way, I hope that you will, I know that it’s painful going to prison. I know it’s got to be painful being called a “rat.” And let me explain, a lot of people don’t know the significance of that, but I live in the inner city of Baltimore, all right? And when you call somebody a rat, that’s one of the worst things you can call them because when they go to prison, that means a snitch. I’m just saying. And so, the president called you a rat. We’re better than that! We really are. And I’m hoping that all of us can get back to this democracy that we want, and that we should be passing on [to] our children so they can do better than what we did.
So you wonder whether people believe you — I don’t know. I don’t know whether they believe you. But the fact is, that you’ve come, you have your head down, and this has got to be one of the hardest things that you could do.
Let me tell you the picture that really, really pained me. You were leaving the prison, you were leaving the courthouse, and, I guess it’s your daughter, had braces or something on. Man, that thing, man, that thing hurt me. As a father of two daughters, it hurt me. And I can imagine how it must feel for you. But I’m just saying to you — I want to first of all thank you. I know that this has been hard. I know that you’ve faced a lot. I know that you are worried about your family. But this is a part of your destiny. And hopefully this portion of your destiny will lead to a better, a better, a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world. And I mean that from the depths of my heart.
When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: “In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?” —
And I’m tired of statements saying — people come in here and say, “Oh, oh this is the first hearing.” It is not the first hearing. The first hearing was with regard to prescription drugs. Remember, a little girl, a lady sat there. — Her daughter died because she could not get $330 a month in insulin. That was our first hearing. Second hearing: H.R. 1, voting rights, corruption in government. Come on now. We can do more than one thing. And we have got to get back to normal. With that, this meeting is adjourned.
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget