February 28, 2019

Cohen Testifies

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“Michael Cohen, who worked as President Trump's fixer and personal attorney for 10 years, testified Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee.” Axios

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From the Left

The left argues that Cohen has no reason to lie, and is deeply concerned by his revelations about Trump’s problematic and potentially criminal behavior.

“It’s true that Cohen is a crook and liar — after all, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress — but he has every incentive to tell the truth now. Cohen has already been sentenced to three years in prison. He will not reduce his sentence any further with his testimony — but he could substantially add to it if he once again lied to Congress.”
Max Boot, Washington Post

“Cohen presents lawmakers with a difficult conundrum. He is a profligate liar, but he is also unusually well positioned to speak to Trump’s history and to the way his company operated. In fact, given the miasma of untruth that surrounded the Trump Organization, finding anyone who could speak to the company’s dealings who doesn’t have some lies on his or her record might be impossible… But the substance in Cohen’s opening statement, and the documents he’s produced to bolster it, seem to justify the decision to have him appear.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

Regarding the testimony itself, “If Stone did have a connection with Assange that allowed him to inform Trump about WikiLeaks’ actions, the distance between the candidate and Russia’s interference efforts is much shorter than realized… In November, CNN reported that Trump’s written responses to Mueller included a denial that Stone had told him about WikiLeaks. If Cohen’s testimony and CNN’s reporting are accurate, then Trump’s response was false.”
Philip Bump, Washington Post

“Put aside the issue of direct collusion—say, Trump huddling with Russian President Vladimir Putin to figure out what Democratic emails to hack—the public record already establishes that Trump and his gang are guilty of echoing and reinforcing the Kremlin’s we-didn’t-do-it disinformation efforts, even after they had information indicating Moscow was covertly intervening… Trump helped Putin’s cover-up. And that’s a crucial part of the story that should not be allowed to get lost.”
David Corn, Mother Jones

“On Trump himself, Cohen gave a familiar portrait of the president: mercurial, strangely charismatic, and driven by unvarnished self-interest above all else… ‘Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history,’ [Cohen] told the committee. ‘He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign—for him—was always a marketing opportunity.’ Making America great again was a racket, in other words, and the American people were the marks.”
Matt Ford, The New Republic

Some point out that “on the one hand, Cohen’s explanation of how Donald Trump operates was a devastating account of how the president of the United States knowingly distorts the truth in the service of his personal goals… On the other hand, Cohen’s statement made it clearer than ever just how difficult it would be to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors and to remove him from office…

“Declining to give the order directly is a time-honored way for leaders to do their dirty work, stretching back to the kings of the Bible and Henry II seeking the death of Thomas Becket. That’s the company Trump finds himself in. And no one impeached King David or Henry II.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right does not find Cohen credible, but notes that he failed to corroborate several allegations against Trump.

From the Right

The right does not find Cohen credible, but notes that he failed to corroborate several allegations against Trump.

“The fact that these hearings are going on this week, as President Trump works hard in Vietnam to make the world safer, shows how our political discourse has degenerated into a sleazy game of gotcha. Michael Cohen has already been convicted of lying to Congress. Yet now, to Congressional Democrats, he is their last, best hope of beating or at least punishing Donald Trump.”
Geraldo Rivera, Fox News

“When he was asked why he was testifying against the president, Cohen insisted it was to protest the ‘daily destruction of civility to each other.’ This from a man who warned journalists reporting on the sordid detail of Donald Trump’s checkered private life to ‘tread very f***ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting.’”
Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine

Many argue that “today's proceedings have been very embarrassing for Trump on a number of fronts, but in terms of new information that could imperil his presidency, it's been something of a high-drama dud.  Indeed, in some important ways, there were Trump-helpful elements of Cohen's testimony… he said he had no evidence to offer on collusion. Cohen also rejected a discredited, explosive report [by Buzzfeed] about Trump suborning perjury, and helped discredit a major piece of the Steele dossier (which claimed that Cohen had traveled to Prague in pursuit of Russian collusion-related dealings).”
Guy Benson, Townhall

“‘Anybody who believes Julian Assange was able to phone Roger Stone from inside Ecuadorian Embassy with neither GCHQ, NSA, CIA, MI5 or FBI intercepting the call, is severely deluded,’ reads part of a tweet from British diplomat Craig Murray… The special prosecutor’s indictment of Stone in January made no mention of calls with Assange, and the allegation remains unproven. Furthermore, Cohen claimed that Trump was aware that Wikileaks was going to dump sensitive campaign material before it happened. As Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) pointed out, everyone had advanced knowledge. Assange had tweeted about it beforehand

“Despite the media attention and the desire for a smoking gun, Cohen’s testimony is uncorroborated hearsay from an unreliable source. Even his most excitable allegations, if somehow proven true, do not violate federal law.”
Hunter DeRensis, The American Conservative

“If a president is to be ­impeached when an associate says he intuited that the president wanted him to lie under oath, there is no president following Trump who wouldn’t be ­vulnerable to the same charge and to impeachment under the same standard. That is why subornation of perjury has a high evidentiary standard and one that mustn’t be lowered just because liberals and Never Trumpers are determined to see Trump ­humiliated…

“If there is anyone in this country or on this planet still on the fence about Trump’s character, Cohen’s testimony likely sealed the deal on that question. But congressional Democrats didn’t get what they needed from Cohen to pursue impeachment in a manner that won’t seem simply like a hyper-politicized sop… It turns out [the] lawyer-fixer doesn’t have the goods.”
John Podhoretz, New York Post

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

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