David Cay Johnston says Michael Cohen’s testimony was a roadmap of Donald Trump’s multiple crimes but the Democrats need to do a better job of connecting the dots

David Cay Johnston says Michael Cohen’s testimony was a roadmap of Donald Trump’s multiple crimes but the Democrats need to do a better job of connecting the dots
Michael Cohen

*This article comes from DCReport and is used with permission.

By David Cay Johnston*

How many crimes did Michael Cohen reveal in his testimony? By my count 14.

If you missed many of the crimes, it’s not surprising. Fascinating as much of his testimony was, Cohen did not articulate the various crimes in an orderly fashion. Instead, he just threw a lot of them out there like so many dots.

And for good measure, he said, in response to a question, that he was not confident that Trump would peacefully transfer power to the next president, which would be a 15th crime if his speculation proves accurate.

Worse, the House Oversight and Reform Committee majority never connected Cohen’s dots into a compelling picture of White House criminal culture—with three notable exceptions that we will get to in a moment.

Scattered among Cohen’s 20-page opening statement and its attached exhibits, together with his hours of public testimony on Feb. 27, was plenty of evidence that Trump is running a criminal organization whose offices and key staff simply moved its headquarters from his Manhattan high rise to the White House.

To those who have followed our coverage of Trump, much of this is not news. But, to the vast majority of Trump supporters, it would be, if the committee had asked questions to give sense and context to Cohen’s revelations.

Luckily for our democracy, this was just the first hearing. Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, promised more hearings with witnesses and documents.

Cohen in detail or in passing revealed 11 kinds of fraud: accounting, bank, charity, insurance, mail, wire, federal income tax, state income tax, local property tax fraud, campaign finance disclosure and federal ethics disclosure.

Many of these were overlapping or interconnected. That’s how white-collar crime works. It’s not akin to a crude stickup with a gun, it’s a slight-of-facts designed to fool the gullible, enrich the bribable and to slip through the wide gaps in the weak legal walls Congress has erected to address financial crimes.

Fraud is, everywhere and always, a crime.

Whether any or all of these frauds, assuming they are proven, rise to the political standard in our Constitution of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is yet to be determined. But for sure they are proper subjects of criminal indictment, even if trial must be delayed until Trump is out of office in 2021 or 2025. And, to be clear, we think a sitting president can be indicted while in office—and should be if he has committed serious felonies.

Cohen also accused Trump of suborning perjury. Cohen indicated that others may have worked in concert to mislead election and ethics officials, Congress and voters.

Then there are the denials concerning a Trump Tower Moscow and hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels involved more people. That also raises the specter of conspiracy, which can be a crime.

The Moscow real estate negotiations continued well into the 2016 campaign. That matters because no large project gets done in Russia without the blessing, explicit or tacit, of Vladimir Putin, the modern czar who runs his country with a criminal gang commonly called the oligarchs and a host of lesser crooks.

Lying about the tower gave Putin leverage over Trump, kompromat far more powerful than any supposed videotape of Trump watching hookers wet a hotel bed where the Obamas once slept.

Trump’s previous statements show that Cohen’s testimony about the Moscow real estate deal is accurate. After all, Donald said, if he did not win the presidency, he had a business to run and he was not going to let lucrative opportunities pass him by.

Let that sink in for a moment. In Trump’s mind, national security is secondary to profit, a view that the Star Trek Ferengi would applaud.

According to Cohen, he was instructed to lie to Congress by the person identified in his criminal case as “Individual 1.” Cohen said that person is Donald Trump.

And finally consider the biggest and most disturbing crime of all: conspiring through intermediaries with a hostile foreign power to win the presidential election.

Trump’s intermediary, according to Cohen, was Roger Stone, who boasts of both being a hedonist and a political dirty trickster. Putin’s intermediaries included WikiLeaks.

What we don’t know yet is just how the 12 indicted Russian cyber-military officers were involved, but Robert Mueller’s prosecutors charged with extraordinarily fine detail that they were central to Kremlin interference with our 2016 elections.

During the Feb. 27, hearing we heard a lot of efforts by Republicans to demonize Cohen, but not one word about why Trump would have employed him as his consigliere for more than a decade.

No Republican tried to deny that Trump had done what Cohen said, other than vague assertions that Cohen was lying.

The most illuminating testimony came during the 10 minutes spit between three freshman Democratic lawmakers: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Katie Hill of California and also Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois.

They asked pointed questions that elicited useful information about where to pursue more facts. Bravo.

If the Democrats are serious, they will tell members in future hearings by the Oversight and other House committees to stop preening for the cameras and useless recitations of facts known and instead ask what the fictional William Forrester (Sean Connery) called “soup questions” in the film Finding Forrester.

A soup question is designed to elicit information that matters.

Ocasio-Cortez, Hill, and  Krishnamoorthi, none of  them lawyers, asked concise questions about what matters. They each conducted a better examination of Cohen than any of the committee members who are attorneys.

Let’s hope the veterans in Congress learn from the newcomers because nothing less than the future of our liberty depends on it.


*David Cay Johnston is Editor-in-Chief of DCReport and a Pulitzer Prize winning US investigative journalist. He featured in this interest.co.nz video interview last year.

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Cohen has an excellent track record ........................ in lying

IF that the case Boatman why we Trump employ him as a lawyer?

I never said that Donald Trump was honest , or even respectable , and if you read some of the books about Trump , you realise he is deceitful .

He has always employed aggressive lawyers who stretch boundaries , and have their own version of the "truth"

That's putting it very mildly "Have their own version of the "truth"!?

Yes basically Trump is without a doubt very deceitful and most certainly a con man. Question is now how will the Americans dispose of him? Will they impeach him or will they let him run on til 2020 to avoid a civil war and or Mike Pence as President? Anything could happen but let's hope that the Americans will grow up and realize that they've been conned.

Bill Maher Tells ‘Conned’ Trump Supporters to ‘Stop Being Stupid’ (Video)
https://www.thewrap.com/bill-maher-tells-conned-trump-supporters-to-stop...

... 'cos the only lawyers in America who refuse to lie wind up flipping burgers at McDonalds or cleaning public toilets in the subway ...

It's a laugh that all of a sudden in the US 'white collar crime matters'. Such a shame they didn't put this amount of effort into investigating those white collar criminals behind the GFC.

Well said Kate ...............

Exactly. Not a very compelling article either. Look at what New Knowledge did with the last State elections. Nothing reported in the MSM about that. I'm not a Trump supporter by any means but it's getting bloody tiresome listening to all this rhetoric. Maybe this time is the beginning of the end.

Corruption. Read somewhere that Hamilton acknowledged that was sewn into the constitution with invisible stitches. Many administrations have been called corrupt. Grant, Harding (perhaps a little too quickly) even Truman, and then of course Clinton. Chester Arthur was one very corrupt politician, but on unexpectedly gaining office, proved to be more or less the opposite. Today of course we have the huge electronic micropscope of the television and the internet and activities that were once guarded, think JFK, are now right out there because they sell news which sells advertising etc etc and more corruption in so doing. It keeps growing like wildfire and a great percentage feed on it as much as they can whenever they can.

Looks like another propaganda piece....

They have since the day he was elected yet there's still no evidence. We all know he's corrupt like the rest of them but to have a "democracy" undermined by media outlets telling everyone else which corrupt politician they should vote for is insulting. The MSM love to make assumptions then try find "evidence" to back that narrative up. So they have to keep doubling down but their credibility is already shot. I hope Interest doesn't end up that way with one sided propaganda pieces. It's unbecoming.

My view on MSM is now well below used car salesmen, or even RE salesmen. :) The salacious headlines that are bereft of fact is quite saddening. There are VERY few actual journalists working in MSM nowadays. Most of what we read isn't news, but instead click-bait, or opinion shaping articles instead of reporting.

I'm not convinced that the aim of the Democrats is to impeach Trump just add another layer of disruption / distraction.

I also see Trump is blaming Cohen for the failure in Vietnam - very tenuous at best - at worst Trump had absolutely no idea what he was doing. Indeed the North Korean response seems more plausible

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/28/vietnam-summittrump-and-ki...

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/04/trump-blames-cohen-testi...

It is sad that Interest is going into political spectrum and only one direction....economy and science are more impervious to the manipulation though....

Well lets hope that Trump is voted out by a huge landslide in 2020 unless he's impeached before then. Remember; “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We need more good people to take moral responsibility, greed is no longer good (Not that it ever was good to be greedy).
BBC article: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47428616

... in a world of political correctness gone viral ... where teams of people troll the internet looking for reasons to be angry at folks who voice an honest opinion , Donald Trump stands out for saying what he believes and not caring a whit what anyone thinks of him...

His popularity amongst his fan base is solid ... no B.S. ... tell it like he sees it ..... the TWAT !

“Impeach him!” they shout.

But for what crime?

“We don’t like him, he’s a womaniser and a jerk”

My guess would be it'll ultimately be his tax fraud that brings him down.

Just like Capone...

This is moral relativism gone mad; where prejudice masquerades as honest opinion...............and an indifference to Trump's gross immorality, belies the impending prospects of American bloodshed.

Sinner or saint you are a target. The opposition will spend hundreds of millions, employ teams of hundreds of lawyers, and spend years. You friends will endure the same. USA politics is seriously screwed. Can that disfunctional nation survive ?