Michael Cohen: Is He Lying?

On February 27, President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen appeared in front of the House Oversight Committee to discuss the lies and secrets that occurred during his attorney-client relationship with the President. Topics were wide-ranging, including Trump’s racist behavior, the Trump Tower deal in Moscow, fraud committed within the Trump Foundation, and threats to universities to dissuade them from releasing the President's test scores and grades.

Trump’s Racist Behavior

In January 2018, the President reportedly referred to African countries and the countries of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) as shitholes during an immigration meeting. Unsurprisingly, this led to a huge backlash on news outlets and Twitter. One aide even mentioned that Trump would rather have people from Scandinavian countries immigrate to the United States than people of African descent. Cohen further emphasized this by stated that Trump described Chicago’s conditions as "only livable by black people" and that he challenged Cohen to name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a “shithole.” Cohen also mentioned other racist comments, such as Trump's statement that black people are too stupid to vote for him.

Trump Tower in Moscow

During the hearing, Cohen mentioned an incident where Donald Trump Jr. went behind his father's desk and told him “The meeting is all set.” Aligning with what was mentioned in Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury," Trump did not expect to win the presidential office, which led to his dealings with Russia. Back in November, Buzzfeed News shared that the President's organization was planning to strike a deal with the Russian government, including Putin and the Kremlin. There were also mentions of a penthouse being used as a form of payment. 

Fraud Within the Trump Foundation

According to New York’s attorney general Barbara Underwood, the Donald J. Trump Foundation used its status as a charitable organization as a cover to fund the President’s business and political interests. Cohen provided evidence that Trump sought a fake buyer for an auction of his portrait. After reimbursing the fake bidder, Trump allegedly kept the portrait for himself.

Trump’s SAT Scores and Grades

Trump had Cohen send out letters to threaten educational institutions and the College Board (which administers the SAT, CLEP, AP, and Subject Tests) to not release any of his grades or test scores. Cohen also mentioned the envy and insults Trump levied towards former President Barack Obama, such as stating that he was “a terrible student.” Trump also shamed Obama for not releasing his own grades and test scores.

Wikileaks

Cohen stated that Roger Stone, who was involved with Trump's presidential campaign, was in contact with Julian Assange of Wikileaks. Wikileaks was responsible for leaking damaging emails from the DNC. Trump was aware of Stone's contact with Assange and of the impending release of the emails, an event which negatively impacted Hillary Clinton’s political campaign. Wikileaks is currently under investigation for publishing the hacked emails. Stone is also investigation by Mueller’s Special Counsel, with indictments for witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding and five counts of making false statements.

Counterarguments from Republican Representatives

Members of Congress such as James Comer, the representative for Kentucky’s 1st congressional district, stated that Cohen committed fraud for monetary gains, which enabled him to purchase a summer house. Mark Meadows, the representative for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district, brought in Trump administration official Lynne Patton. According to Meadows, Patton stated that she would not work for a person who was racist due to her father’s roots in Birmingham, Alabama. Mark Green, the representative for Tennessee's 7th congressional district, questioned Cohen on whether he would decline book and movie deals. Cohen stated that he wouldn’t take any source of income during his prison sentence. Some members of the House of Representatives further disagreed with Cohen's credibility and claimed that his prior convictions rendered his testimony invalid.

Strong Questioning Form Strong Foundations

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the representative for New York's 14th congressional district, and Ayanna Pressley, the representative for Massachusetts's 7th congressional district, both asked Cohen engaging questions. These questions referred to the paintings from Trump's charitable foundation, the misuse of public funds, tax invasion, and inflated assets. By asking these questions, they provided the foundation for Congress to look into President Trump's tax returns. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib from Michigan's 13th Congressional district pointed out the racism of using Lynne Patton as a defense against accusations of the President's racism. She stated that Meadows used Patton as a prop. Rep. Pressley even asked Cohen his opinion on whether someone can be racist and still have a black friend. Cohen answered yes. 

Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on eight counts of financial crimes which include the charges of tax fraud, false statements to a financial institution, excessive campaign contributions, unlawful corporate contributions, and lying to Congress. He is sentenced to three years in prison.

Click here to watch Michael Cohen's testimony or read the transcript.

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