A version of this article was first published by The Globalist on February 28, 2019.
Cohen goes for Trump – and it was not pretty. Democrats show their inquisitive skills.
By Frank Vogl, March 1, 2019.
Remember the date, February 27, 2019, as the day when Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives publicly launched what will become, perhaps in just a few months, official hearings to build the case to impeach President Donald Trump and force him from office.
Veteran Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, welcomed Michael Cohen to testify at 10.00 a.m. and ended a day of heated cross-examination seven hours later.
U.S. national television went live as the Consigliere discussed the crimes he committed at the behest of the Don.
The “Rat” spoke and it was not pretty. Convicted felon Michael Cohen forthrightly described his former boss Donald Trump – “He is a racist. He is a con-man. He is a cheat.”
Cohen starts a three-year prison sentence in May. He had pleaded guilty to allegations of bank fraud, tax evasion and lying to the U.S. Congress.
Under cross-examination he said that in the ten years he worked for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization he was instructed to use intimidation around 500 times against business rivals, business partners and even critical journalists.
Trump called Cohen a “rat” and many other things after Cohen agreed to plead guilty to various crimes and talk to public prosecutors. Now, Cohen had the public opportunity to pay back in public testimony before the Oversight Committee. And, he did.
The fog surrounding many of the allegations against Trump is starting to clear.
As it does, so Republicans are being forced to ask themselves whether the people who vote them into office are willing to continue to ignore the evidence against Trump, irrespective of what it is.
So far, the Republicans are remaining loyal to their leader.
Nothing that Cohen said appears to have weakened the resolve of Republicans to support Trump. The public hearing was sensational in many ways, but it did not yield sufficient evidence to make impeachment likely.
Cohen made a host of allegations, but he refused to state that he had any evidence to prove that Trump colluded with Russian authorities to fix the 2016 election. The case for impeachment may depend on finding the smoking gun that shows collusion, if indeed it exists.
The Republicans repeatedly tried to destroy the credibility of Cohen and prove in the televised hearing that he is a totally unreliable witness.
Their assault was much like that used by defense lawyers when a Mafia chief is on trial and the prosecution has found a mobster to testify against his former boss. And, no doubt, their insistent attacks won plaudits from Trump’s followers across the United States.
The Republicans believe – and they may be right – that the House Committee’s public hearing was designed to be the forerunner to impeachment hearings.
Indeed, the event recalled the early sessions of the “Watergate” committee chaired by the late Senator Sam Ervin, that started investigations in May 1973 – and 14 months later president Richard Nixon was forced to resign.
It was only weeks before Nixon’s departure that most Republicans changed their minds and recognized that the evidence against him was overwhelming.
While Cohen may not have provided sufficient materials to support impeachment, his many allegations will strengthen the resolve of Democrats to keep searching for incriminating information and making it public.
Cummings stressed at the Committee hearing that the integrity of American democracy and respect for the U.S. Constitution are at stake as Cohen and others will go before House committees.
The Republicans will challenge, protest and criticize, but the Democrats now have the majority in the House and they will not be diverted.
Cohen said that he often manipulated financial statements relating to Mr. Trump.
For example, he inflated the statements to convince Deutsche Bank to provide loans. For example, he inflated the statements to make sure that Trump ranked very high on the Forbes 400 list of the world’s richest people.
Under heated cross-examination by the members of the Committee, Cohen repeatedly asserted that everything that went on in the Trump Organization and in the 2016 election campaign was not only well known to Trump, but often orchestrated by him.
Cohen suggested that Trump encouraged his son Donald Junior to meet with Russians in 2016 who suggested they had dirt on Hilary Clinton.
He said Trump’s friend Roger Stone informed Trump in advance of a massive dump of e-mails from the Clinton campaign by Wikileaks.
Trump, despite his denials, was fully aware of negotiations by Cohen to seal a huge construction deal in 2016 in Moscow.
And, Trump was involved in ensuring that secret payments were made right before the election to stop porn-star Stormy Daniels from publicly disclosing an affair with Trump. A shell company was created to do this, Cohen used his own cash and Trump once in the White House used his personal bank account to sign reimbursement checks to Cohen!
Repeatedly in the various investigations evidence surfaces that highlights the extraordinary lengths that Trump goes to boost his ego.
Cohen noted, for example, that a portrait of Trump was entered into a charitable auction and Trump arranged for a friend to bid for it and be secretly reimbursed by the Trump Foundation.
The bidder had to make sure that the amount he paid was greater than that of all other bids for the other items sold at the auction.