On Wednesday we heard from Michael Cohen who was Trump’s lawyer/fixer, since 2011. I loaded up on popcorn and watched the House hearing all day long. Cohen opened the door to the truth about Trump, talking about what he has personally seen, heard and knows about this man. Cohen is the first person of all the people who have been indicted, pleaded guilty, or cooperated who has testified in public. We need more of this kind of public testimony so that the American people understand who we have in the White House.
Here are some of the key take-aways from Cohen’s testimony:
- Trump ran his campaign as he did his business and every meeting of consequence had to go through Trump for approval and was reported back to him. He was aware and in charge of everything. This goes to “knowledge” which is important for prosecutors to prove intent.
- Trump had knowledge of the imminent release of the Wikileaks dump that damaged the Democratic Party and he learned about it from Stone who was acting as a free agent and frequently called Trump and Trump welcomed his calls. Cohen heard the conversation on speakerphone. Stone told Trump that Assange let him know there would be a massive dump of emails. Trump’s reaction was “Wouldn’t that be great.”
- Trump committed a felony offense after being elected president when he met in the Oval Office with Cohen and assured him he would get his reimbursement payments: a series of $35,000 checks signed by Trump to make Cohen whole after he paid a $130,000 bribe to help Trump out with a pay off to Stormy Daniels to bribe her to shut up so that Trump could win the election- a campaign finance violation which is a felony offense. Cohen produced one of the actual checks signed by Donald Trump in his highly recognizable signature. He has others he can dig out of the boxes in his basement. SDNY charged Cohen with this and other crimes and he is going to jail. But Trump directed and coordinated this felony.
- Trump did not directly tell Cohen to lie to Congress, but he gets people around him to do his bidding by using a kind of code that is often used by mob bosses. The way Trump works is that he says what his enablers are supposed to agree with. Cohen said Trump would look him in the eye and say: “There is no Russia. There is no collusion. It’s all a witch hunt. It has to end.” etc. By doing that Trump sets up expectations and everyone around him knows that is the party line so they parrot it.
- Trump asked Cohen many times about how Trump Tower Moscow was coming during the campaign and after the election. He was negotiating Trump Tower Moscow throughout the campaign and lying about it.
- Trump did not expect to win the election even though he wanted to win very badly and was open to anything that would help him win. Cohen witnessed Trump Jr. coming into his father’s office and going behind the desk, which was unusual. Cohen heard him say,”the meeting is all set”, to which Trump said, “Good, let me know.” Cohen concluded that conversation was about the Trump Tower Meeting with the Russians. The timing of that conversation was right before the Trump Tower Meeting.
- There are numerous other extensive financial crimes that Trump engaged in before becoming president and they are going to come out over time because the SDNY, Congress, and other prosecutorial agencies are already working to develop these cases and will expose the evidence by indicting the guilty people who worked with Trump. Eventually Trump himself will be in the crosshairs of many indictments.
- Cohen also implicated other people who will likely be called to testify before the Oversight Committee and other House committees. He named names. A strong basis was established for the House Ways and Means committee to request Trump’s taxes.
- One of the most instructive reveals of the day was that Cohen, acting as Trump’s fixer, made an estimated 500 threatening interactions on Trump’s behalf. This is how Trump maintains power and gets his way.
How do we know Cohen is telling the truth?
- As a former prosecutor I found Cohen’s testimony to be very credible. Cohen labored to be sure to tell the truth and not get beyond his skis. He was clearly sorry and repentant. In addition, if he were to lie while under oath before Congress, he could lose his cooperation agreement and end up with a longer sentence. He had every incentive to tell the truth before Congress.
- If he tells the truth and helps Congress, a judge could take that assistance into account if he helps SDNY and they bring a Rule 35 motion that might help Cohen reduce his prison sentence.
- He did not try to speculate or damage Trump if he did not have knowledge of something he was asked about with respect to Trump. He said he did not have knowledge that Trump colluded with the Russians. He did not say that Trump TOLD him to lie to Congress. He said he was not in Prague meeting with Russians as some have speculated.
- He exonerated Trump saying he did not believe rumors that he ever hit Melania and he said Trump had done some good things especially in the beginning of his term.
Cohen is going to jail for breaking the law but he is atoning for his sins by telling us the truth about Trump, and for that I am thankful and I know others are too. For telling the truth about Trump, Cohen will be attacked by Trump and his ugly band of right-wing haters who are desperately trying to keep the truth from coming out. Republicans in the House Oversight Committee attacked Cohen mercilessly today, trying to protect Trump. They did that all day long. That is a badge of honor, Michael Cohen. America thanks you.
The good news is that we have many other terrific warriors who are fighting to get Americans the truth every day and keep our democracy viable. We have an all star slam dunk team. Our warriors are smart and capable: SDNY, the DC US Attorney’s Office, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Brennan, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings, Illyse Hogue of NARAL, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Stacey Abrams, Samantha Bee, Spike Lee, Elijah Cummings, Neal Katyal, Rachel Maddow, James Comey, Andrew Mc Cabe, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Robert Reich, Barack Obama, a bipartisan group of 58 former national security officials who wrote a letter to Congress stating there is “no factual basis” for Trump’s fake national emergency at the border that will support lawsuits challenging Trump’s fake emergency as well as act as an amicus brief when the case gets to the Supreme Court. I could go on. The list of our democratic warriors is long and impressive.
These are the people Trump and his Republican enablers attack every day. They are standing up for our institutions. They are standing up for the truth. They are standing up for US.
I used to try to figure out if Trump was a hapless idiot or psychiatrically impaired to try to understand his particular brand of dangerousness. But now, after two years of this guy, I have concluded that he is a wily would-be dictator who is trying to destroy our norms and laws to protect himself and his interests. Full Stop. He knows what he is doing. He is planful, not a fool or incompetent. He may also be psychiatrically impaired. But by far the greatest danger he poses for us is that he is so intentional and focused. He is waging war on our democracy, on the truth, and on our legal system from inside the Oval Office. He is attacking our country’s political and economic underpinnings and taking a sledge hammer to our democracy. When it comes to our economy he is also at war: trade war, border war, attack on the Fed, war on our country’s solvency. He intentionally creates divisiveness instead of unifying us. He lies as a way of life- lying comes as naturally to him as breathing. Because he is in a position of power as president and has rid himself of thoughtful people in his administration who used to provide guardrails, it might look like he is succeeding.
He is not.
A majority of Americans have made up their minds. Current polls indicate they think Trump will ultimately be unsuccessful as president and their opinions are locked in. Trump cannot and will not rise above an abysmal 40% or so in approval ratings. And as more dirt comes out about him, there will be fewer and fewer voters willing to call themselves Republicans.
The GOP is diminishing in size. The number of registered Republican voters had already dwindled from 33% to 26% as of the 2018 election. When commentators say Trump is loved by Republicans with an 80% approval rating, realize that means only 19% of the public at this point.
That number will shrink even more as we learn more of the truth about Trump. Cohen warned Republicans not to “blindly” follow Trump as he had. He spoke as a man who has learned the hard way.
The truth is coming for Trump. The door has opened now, just a crack, but the light is shining in. It will open further and further and further. This is just the beginning.