February 28, 2019

Cohen Testifies

We're officially on Insta! Did I throw on a blazer at 5 am for all you lovely people? You bet I did!

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

See past issues

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

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

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

Counterpoint: “after the War of 1812, President Madison… enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked. Tariffs [also] financed Mr. Lincoln’s War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer ‘has no right or claim to equality with our own… He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties’… [A tariff’s] purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.”
Patrick J. Buchanan, The American Conservative

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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