By Melissa Wells
Michael Cohen is slated to begin his three-year prison sentence on May 6, after pleading guilty in November to various crimes. Before he’s behind bars, however, Cohen had much to say about his former employer at the highly anticipated hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday.
Actually, over six hours’ worth of damning testimony— attacks on the president’s character, revelations of illegal activity he is aware Trump is under investigation for, the notorious hush-money payments to several women, the infamous WikiLeaks meeting with Julian Assange and more. Needless to say, the world was watching what Chairman Elijah Cummings, (D-MD), called a “search for the truth,” but now that the spectacle is over, Americans are left with more questions than answer.
The highlights are throughout the news, but the real question is: Why does this matter?
Cohen is the first member of Trump’s inner circle to flip on the president and provide public testimony about allegations of criminal misconduct against President Trump. As not only his personal attorney, but also his “fixer,” Cohen reveals how his unique position when employed by Trump allows him to be a one-of-a-kind witness — and America was invited to the show.
In Cohen’s opening statement to Congress, he asserted the sitting president “was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.” Despite Assange’s affirmation that he never spoke with Roger Stone about publishing Clinton’s emails, Cohen’s testimony contradicts him. Cohen’s revelations continue to stun from there.
Cohen’s sentiments for his former employer were clear, but in his responses were kernels of gold. Cohen detailed the scale of alleged financial fraud then-citizen Trump engaged in for lower real estate taxes, better insurance rates and obtaining bank loans, such as inflating his assets and refusing to release his tax returns over fear public scrutiny could result in “taxable consequences,” as Cohen put it.
Cohen hit the nail on another crucial topic: Russia. Cohen told, “To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it… He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.”
Aggressive questioning from Republicans on the committee revealed their intent to portray Cohen as a liar, as someone with a sole interest in the financial gain vilifying the president could render him in book and TV deals. Nonetheless, Cohen dropped bombshells that should have elated Trump-supporting Republicans, specifically the revelation that Cohen never went to Prague. Why should we care about Cohen’s travels? Well, back in 2016, the Christopher Steele’s dossier alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, specifying a trip Cohen took to Prague at the height of the 2016 campaign. Cohen’s statement disproves the accuracy of the reporting, which many Republicans accuse Democrats of using to justify the investigation into the president.
Some of the key moments in the hearing, however, overshadowed Cohen as warring politicians on both sides of the aisle took their time to grandstand and criticize one another rather than fact-find. One of these key moments was between Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).
But Cohen’s stunning accounts of his former boss’ conduct not potentially place the president in greater legal peril, but paved the path for the Oversight Committee to invite others to testify — which committee members like freshmen Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25), also vice chairman of the committee, has already confirmed would be pursued.
It is important to note that without the results of the midterm elections this past November, it is unlikely that hearings like this would have taken place, and it seems Democrats are going to take full advantage of the power to hold this administration accountable.