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Cohen, Round 2


Good summary of how the first part of Cohen’s testimony implicates Trump:

The persistent nagging skepticism that has surrounded President Trump’s legal travails arose again in recent days when reports claimed that Robert Mueller would soon publish his final report. If Mueller was almost done, he couldn’t have much more, and none of it would touch Trump directly.

Michael Cohen’s testimony destroys that presumption completely. Trump’s former fixer alleges not only systematic criminality by his former boss, but deep culpability in the Russia scandal itself. There is no longer any serious chance that Trump will avoid impeachment proceedings. Cohen’s testimony should be seen as the first hearing.

Cohen’s opening statement reviews many of Trump’s familiar degeneracies. He is casually racist and habitually criminal, gleefully refusing to pay his contractors and arranging petty scams like using his “charitable” foundation for self-enrichment. More seriously still, Cohen has evidence in the form of signed checks that Trump knowingly violated campaign finance law by reimbursing him for payments to Stormy Daniels during the campaign. Trump signed the reimbursement checks that violated campaign finance law as a sitting president. (And, by signing a Trump organization check, he also casually broke his promise not to involve himself in any business activities while in office.)

But the most damning details in Cohen’s testimony concern the Russia scandal. Cohen’s evidence that Trump knew about the July 2016 meeting with Russian operatives is highly circumstantial, yet persuasive. He notes that Trump knew about everything that happened in the campaign, and describes a meeting in which Donald Jr. appeared to inform his father:
I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father’s desk — which in itself was unusual. People didn’t just walk behind Mr. Trump’s desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: “The meeting is all set.” I remember Mr. Trump saying, “Ok good … let me know.”

Cohen is now the second member of Trump’s inner circle to publicly express complete certainty that Trump knew about the meeting. “The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the 26th floor is zero,” said Steve Bannon last year. Neither of them have anywhere close to enough evidence to prove it, of course, and this fact may never be proven.

But Cohen does have clear and direct testimony of several other aspects of Trump’s involvement. He testifies that Trump knew about the attempts to develop a tower in Moscow, asked about the project repeatedly, and stood to gain “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the deal. So Trump was secretly beholden to Russia while he was running for president, and none of this was disclosed to the public during the campaign.

Cohen also explains that Trump directed him to lie to Congress about the project. (“In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing.”) That is suborning perjury, just as surely as a boss telling a subordinate, “I was never here,” or, “We never had this conversation,” is clearly an instruction to lie.

However, to be Fair and Balanced, a counterpoint from the guy who was killed by Maxine Waters:

Expect to hear the Dersh make exactly this argument on several Fox News shows over the next 24 hours.

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