New York: Television reality star turned US president Donald Trump will be face to face with his worst fears via the same medium he obsesses about: must-watch television that may well rival Super Bowl ratings. Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen will testify publicly in US Congress on 7 February about Trump dirt that has already hit the ceiling as White House lawyers up for what’s turning out to be a terrible year for the US president. The Cohen news broke on a day when Trump is trying to distract American voters with threats of declaring a “national emergency” after shutting down the government over his funding demand for a border wall leaving 800,000 government workers without pay since 22 December.
Cohen has directly implicated Trump in a series of campaign finance violations in 2016, saying that the then-Republican nominee for president, known in court documents as “Individual 1” told him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, to keep them quiet about affairs he had with them in the 2000s.
Even by the parallel reality standards of the Trump era, the Cohen testimony will be a remarkable television moment. Not very often in American history have we seen the former lawyer of the US president testifying under oath to the Congress. Besides the fact that the Cohen testimony will be first-rate theater, the testimony will be an exorcism for Cohen; a tell-all that promises to rip the current White House’s reputation to shreds.
Michael Cohen was Donald Trump’s lawyer but not the way it is commonly understood – Cohen was the deal guy for the Trump empire, the knockoff version, the US president’s keeper of secrets and second in that department only to the Trump brood of children from various marriages.
“This is the beginning of the end for this president. Cohen is deeply hurt and angry and therefore dangerous”, says at least one person who has met with Cohen in the last month.
If there’s any doubt at all about the threat level, look at this tweet Michael Cohen has retweeted today, basically telling us that he’s going to shine a light on the darkest alleys of Trumpworld.
.@RepCummings announces @MichaelCohen212 will publicly testify on 2/7. Much to ask him beyond hush-money payments/campaign finance crime. Cohen can discuss Trump dealings in Russia & reaching out to Putin’s office. And so much more. Buckle up.
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 10, 2019
Cohen will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had sexual affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the trysts. Cohen reports to prison March 6. Cohen will give a “full and credible account” of working for Trump, which is shorthand for running Trump’s dirty tricks department.
What Michael Cohen is going to do on 7 February is what we are missing so far, despite all of the disparate Mueller filings: What really happened? How involved was Trump in dealings with Russian operatives offering dirt on Hillary Clinton? Was he detail-oriented or disorganized? “He’s going to talk about what it was like working with a man (Trump) who has no ethics whatsoever and lies”, Cohen confidante and advisor Lanny Davis said on MSNBC moments ago. Former Trump organization staffers are saying Trump has lost all his leverage and facing the same troubles in court that he used to put his opponents through – run them dry with long drawn court cases.
A lot of folks are comparing this to a John Dean moment but no, this is much much more. John Dean, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel, testified against Nixon during the Watergate hearings and broke with Nixon before the last days of that presidency. Michael Cohen was much more involved in the day to day activities of Donald Trump and much higher in the food chain than John Dean ever was in the Nixon era. Michael Cohen has testified in Congress earlier but those details were kept under wraps by Republicans before Democrats stormed back to power in the midterms and took the House majority. What we’re seeing now is split screen Washington, where each Trump tantrum is met with a subpoena. Cohen’s is merely an early testimony in a long parade of similar ones we’ll see all year.
What Michael Cohen is going to say under oath to the Congress is as big as the Mueller report simply because we don’t know how much of the Mueller report will finally be available to the American public and the world. Cohen is a central witness in the Russia probe investigations and was directed by Trump to have direct contact with the Russians. Cohen has also spent more than 70 hours briefing Robert Mueller’s investigators. For someone who said he’d “take a bullet for Donald Trump”, Cohen has turned the gun on the US president.
For the second time since September last year, there seems to be a straight line forming between Trump’s wall obsession and his legal peril. When Trump senses legal danger, he doubles down on scare mongering. He has done it before the midterms, he is doing it again, threatening a national emergency over what is essentially a tantrum over a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Says Joe, a New Jersey resident: “I think he (Trump) is going to resign. He can’t take this kind of heat for too long.” And then, he adds: “He’ll resign, Mike Pence will take over and pardon Trump.”
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