Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Marcy Wheeler: Did Cohen Give a Peek at the Mueller Report?
Even before Michael Cohen appeared before the House Oversight Committee to begin testifying Wednesday, he delivered explosive new information. Several days before WikiLeaks published Democratic National Committee emails on July 22, 2016, Roger Stone called Donald Trump and — on a speaker phone that permitted Mr. Cohen to hear — told the presidential candidate that “he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange,” who told him that “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” According to Mr. Cohen, the president expressed happiness about the prospect “to the effect of ‘Wouldn’t that be great.’”
The detail is remarkable not just because it undercuts the president’s claims that Mr. Stone never provided him such details. It’s also a testament to how much critical information the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has kept hidden even in the most provocative of his “speaking indictments.” Even after months of investigation and voluminous indictments and sentencing memos, he’s still hiding events that lie at the core of his investigative mandate — events that involve the president directly.
Caroline Fredrickson: How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing
Too many representatives chose to bloviate instead of interrogate — except for one.
On Wednesday, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s one-time personal lawyer and “fixer,” testified in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee about what he says are a variety of shady practices he participated in when working for the president. People around the country awaited riveting testimony, some going so far as to join “watch parties” in bars.
But like so many congressional hearings, the fireworks were quick to flame out. Even with the tantalizing opportunity to grill Mr. Cohen on the myriad ways his former boss most likely sought to evade the law and avoid his creditors, many members of the committee, from both parties, could not resist their usual grandstanding.
Consider the line of questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. “To your knowledge,” she asked, “did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” He had.
She asked whether Mr. Trump had tried to reduce his local taxes by undervaluing his assets. Mr. Cohen confirmed that the president had also done that. “You deflate the value of the asset and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction,” Mr. Cohen said, explaining the practice. These were the sort of questions, and answers, the committee was supposed to elicit. Somehow, only the newer members got the memo.
Donald Trump has done some strange things to the Republican party. Gone is their disgust at Stalinist tyrants from North Korea. Vanished is their outrage at deficit spending. Evaporated is their horror at a president who ignores Congress and the constitution.
But those bizarre twists are nothing compared with the screwball comedy that was the House oversight committee on Wednesday, as its Republicans grilled Trump’s former fixer, henchman and bagman, Michael Cohen.
Because whether they knew it or not, Trump’s own party made the best possible case against Trump himself.
Amid all their righteous indignation on behalf of the truth, amid all their contempt for lies and the liars who peddle them, amid all their love of law and order, you couldn’t help wonder if they had ever heard of a man called Donald Trump.
“He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat.”
With any other president or public figure, foul, racist language or further evidence of lying and cheating would be its own headline. At this stage, I just want to know whether President Trump is a criminal.
Democrats deftly avoided the impeachment question throughout 2018. But Wednesday’s dramatic public testimony by lawyer, fixer and felon Michael Cohen makes avoiding impeachment much more complicated. And while more noise is coming from the left flank, this is not a left-flank dilemma. It’s about the Constitution and the rule of law.
Thus far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has quelled impeachment chatter within her caucus, mostly by telling her colleagues to “wait for the Mueller report.” After all, the Russia interference investigation is a lot for Americans to absorb — the intrigue, the technology, the Russian names — a 21st-century spy thriller. On the other hand, cheating on your taxes and your wife, and lying to win an election is like something out of a 1970s soap opera. You don’t need to pay attention to every episode to get the gist of this story.
The president’s ex-fixer credibly accuses him of felonies that, pending more evidence, should result in impeachment and indictment.
One brick does not make a wall, but many bricks do.
When I was a federal prosecutor, a supervisor of mine frequently used this metaphor to remind us that one piece of evidence alone is rarely enough to prove a crime, but enough pieces of evidence are sufficient to prove guilt.
Michael Cohen’s public testimony on Wednesday did not constitute a wall of evidence, but it did provide several new bricks that could be used to build a case against President Donald Trump. Depending on other evidence in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, these pieces of evidence may be enough to prove Trump guilty of criminal or impeachable offenses.
Trump’s former lawyer testified about several facts that are significant bricks in the figurative wall of evidence.