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The testimony of Michael Cohen, former personal advocate of President Trump who headed to the federal prison in early May, was potentially key moment in the myriad of Trump administration investigations. Democrats in the House should open now that they control the House. He also provided a window on The real estate developer's surprise came to the presidency in 2016 with the point of view of a senior lieutenant who has been with Trump for a decade.
Cohen, at one point one of Trump's closest advisers and a self-appointed "repairman," used his public testimony before the House's oversight committee to detail his efforts to Protect Trump – and his 2016 presidential campaign – from possible scandals as well as help to inflate Trump's net worth estimates.
Cohen also came armed with literal receipts in the form of the image of a payment that Trump paid him in March 2017, while at the White House, Trump claimed to have been created to separate his commercial interests from his duties. of president and branding. a second check dating back to August 2017, bearing Trump's distinctive signature which together showed that he was still very much involved in the family business.
Republicans used the hearing to try to harm Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and will soon begin serving a three-year sentence. While Cohen was trying to show that he was a changed man who regretted having protected Trump – whom he described as "racist," "scammer" and "cheater" in his testimony, GOP lawmakers argued that Cohen was more interested in reconstructing his image and setting. himself for financial profit after incarceration.
Here are five important revelations of Mr. Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee:
(1) California Democrat: "Financial Fraud in Garden Varieties"
Cohen was famous for arranging a payment related to the alleged sexual relationship between Trump and adult movie star Stormy Daniels, who had been paid $ 130,000 to remain silent about a so-called rendezvous of 2006. Trump denied Daniels' allegation that the two men have ever had sex. Under an agreement between Trump and Cohen, the lawyer would pay Daniels and then be reimbursed.
But this reimbursement was not immediate – and Cohen showed that it lasted until Trump took up his position at the Oval Office in 2017. Rather than paying a lump sum, smaller payments were made. were used to give the impression that Cohen was simply receiving a legal provision. . A check that he showed legislators stood at $ 35,000 and was dated August 1, 2017 – signed by Trump until the end of his first term. Another, dated March 17, 2017, was signed by Trump Organization's Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, and Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the president.
But the source of funds for the March 2017 check was perhaps the most interesting: it came from the confidence Trump had established before entering the White House to give up control over his business interests. The two payments considered together, however, seem to offer verifiable evidence. Trump was always very involved.
During his interrogation of Cohen, Ro Khanna's representative, D-Calif, said that evidence of Cohen's payments to legislators suggested "financial fraud in the garden."
"Are you telling us, Mr. Cohen, that the president has directed conspiracy transactions with Allen Weisselberg and his son Donald Trump Jr. as part of a criminal financial fraud conspiracy." your testimony today? ", asked Khanna.
"Yes," Cohen said, seeming to suggest that Manhattan federal prosecutors were also investigating this issue.
The House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Seemed convinced. After the hearing, reporters asked if he thought Trump had committed a crime during his tenure, considering the check produced by Cohen. "It seems like he did it," Cummings replied.
(2) Concerns about other allegations after Go to Hollywood ribbon
Cohen also testified that the reason why Trump was worried about Daniels' allegations and those of another woman that might be revealed was because of the detrimental video of Access Hollywood that had surfaced early from October 2016 and where Trump had been filmed a decade ago. groping, catching and kissing women without their permission.
Trump asserted that the payment to Daniels was unrelated to his 2016 presidential campaign and that it had simply been done for personal reasons in order to eliminate the false allegations. But as Cohen tells Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, DD.C., Wednesday, he was instructed to facilitate payments to both women because Trump was worried about a "wildfire" effect after the 2005 interview. with Billy Bush.
"He was concerned about the impact of this campaign on the campaign and on how women saw it and, ultimately, on his possible helping hand in the general election," Cohen said.
Cohen added that Daniels' attorney at the time had stated that the adult film actress wanted $ 130,000, and Trump had asked Cohen to "do whatever it took ". "
Cohen also explained to Representative Robin Kelly, D-Ill., The surreptitious way that had been designed to make payments through an LLC so that Melania Trump would not discover them, and then Cohen used a margin In the case of net-worth credit, neither Trump could be attributed to the payments nor could any of these elements cause Cohen's wife, who is in charge of the couple's finances, to be frowned upon.
Regarding the refund, Cohen explains in detail how this was put in place.
"I obviously wanted the money [back] in one go. But to be able to count it, Allen Weisselberg decided that the payment should be made within 12 months so that it looks like a warrant, "said Cohen, adding that" everything had to go through Mr. Trump and he had to be approved by Mr. Trump. "
(3) A "treasure" of allegations after years of "catch and kill"
It was not the only dubious job that Cohen did for Trump. He also explained how he worked, in collaboration with David Pecker, CEO of American Media Inc. (AMI), which publishes the National Enquirer, to "catch and kill" potentially damaging stories about Trump – by paying sources exclusive rights to their stories and never publishing them.
Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model, also claimed to have had an affair with Trump and to have been paid $ 150,000 by AMI shortly after Trump won the GOP nomination in 2016. Trump denied McDougal's allegations concerning an extramarital affair.
Pecker, an ally of Trump, was working to bury other unverified stories, such as a possible child in love with Trump and a supposed video tape of a fight between Melania Trump and the future president in a elevator, two false statements.
Nevertheless, Cohen said the Trumps were very worried about the "treasure trove of documents" that Pecker had accumulated in the years before Cohen was working for the president.
Statements from Trump's former lawyer on the practice of "catch-and-kill" suggested that there could be a lot of dirty laundry hidden in the possession of the MAI that could be a good forage for research on the opposition in 2020, or investigation leads for the Justice Ministry's special advocate, Robert Mueller, or the grounds for a possible impeachment lawsuit against the President, or even compromise materials that Russia or another hostile power could use against Trump if it were to be made public.
(4) Ocasio-Cortez lays the groundwork for more information on Trump's finances
Examination of the representative of the freshmen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Was one of the most anticipated of the hearing. The rising Democratic star has not made any tribune. Instead, she used her time to appear at a later date by asking Cohen to subpoena Trump's tax returns by asking Cohen for the names of other contributors who witnessed Trump's efforts. to inflate his personal fortune for insurance purposes while also seeking to reduce it. avoid paying property taxes on multiple properties.
"To your knowledge, has the president ever provided inflated assets to an insurance company?" she asked. "Yes," replied Cohen. "Who else knows that the president did that?" Ocasio-Cortez continued. "Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari," said Cohen, referring to several Trump associates. And she also asked Trump, who was trying to reduce local taxes to degrade the value of his assets, by designating one of his golf courses in his district, which was the subject of such reports.
"You deflate the value of the asset, then you file a deduction claim with the tax department," Cohen said.
(5) show him the money?
At Wednesday's hearing, many Republicans used the time they had to probe Mr. Cohen's motives, which wanted his loyalty to be no longer loyal to Trump after years of dedicated service – and the gain that Cohen could potentially derive from his account.
Cohen repeatedly insisted on all that he had lost because of the actions he had undertaken and the choices he had made for 10 years as Trump's personal attorney – not just the prison sentence he was facing, but fearing for the safety of his family, the loss of his business and his withdrawal from the market.
"I do not expect to have a source of income when I'm in a federal penitentiary," Cohen said.
However, he confessed to the representative Virginia Foxx, CR, that he had been approached about possible television contracts, movies or books – which he would not have ruled out. accept later.
"So you do not commit to changing your habits, basically? Because you want to continue using your past as a liar, cheater, liar convicted, to make money?" Foxx asked.
Expect Republicans to use this response repeatedly while highlighting questions about Cohen's credibility and motives.