Michael Cohen’s opening remarks

Wow. Very direct and negative remarks about Donald Trump. (Now with links to the attachments)

A summary and my thoughts follow if you click on the “continue reading” link. Otherwise, let’s get back to the chicks.

Here’s a quick summary of the statement:

On behalf of Trump, Cohen paid off Stormy Daniels. Trump also instructed Cohen to lie to Melania about the Stormy affair. (Cohen says Melania is a very good person.)

On behalf of Trump, Cohen sent threatening letters to schools and the college board people to warn them that they would be sued if Trump’s grades or SAT scores were ever released.

Cohen details how he and Trump arranged a bogus buyer to buy a Trump portrait at auction. Trump reimbursed the fake buyer with a check from his charitable non-profit, then hung the portrait in one of his golf clubs.

Cohen was in Trump’s office, on the speaker phone, when Roger Stone called in to report a conversation with Julian Assange. Assange told Stone there would soon be a massive dump of e-mails that would harm Hillary.

Cohen provides financial statements which Trump presented to Deutsche Bank in 2011-2013.

And various other things: conversations showing Trump is a racist; Trump’s dealings to build a Trump Tower in Moscow; and more. One key point Cohen makes is that Trump certainly was not going to do anything to endanger the Moscow Tower deal during the campaign because he never thought he had a chance to win. He was treating the campaign as the “greatest infomercial in political history.” (Trump’s words) This would also explain why Trump was always so deferential to Putin. Trump expected to lose and then revive the Moscow deal. Knowing that nothing can happen in Moscow without a nod from Putin, Trump wished to remain in Putin’s good graces, and could therefore make no negative statements about Putin in the campaign.

And those are just the things Cohen knows for sure. He also make some inferences about other matters, like Trump’s advance knowledge of Don Jr’s infamous Trump Tower meeting.

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On the other side of the ledger:

Trump did NOT directly tell Cohen to lie to Congress.

Cohen could not say whether Trump or Stone knew that the Hillary e-mails were ultimately the work of Russia. (In my opinion, Stone probably did NOT know that Guccifer 2.0 was a GRU identity, because he was bragging about that contact before it was revealed as a Russian intelligence op. He had once foolishly tweeted that Guccifer was a “hero.” Stone is no rocket scientist, but he’s smart enough to avoid making that brag if he had known Guccifer was a Russian spy.)

Cohen did not allege that Trump pursued or initiated contacts with Assange or any Russians. To Cohen’s knowledge, Trump simply received a report from Stone about Wikileaks, and was pleased with what he heard.

This could be bad for Stone, however, as he has claimed he had no contact with Assange. According to the Cohen testimony, “Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange.”

Caution.

I have found that it is never wise to make any assumptions when it comes to Roger Stone, because he’s willing to bullshit anyone, probably even Trump. In fact, it is possible that both Cohen and Stone could now be telling the complete truth. How can that be, when they seem to contradict each other? Simple. Their statements are not contradictory if Stone lied to Trump about having spoken to Assange, thus making himself seem more important than he was, when in fact he had only heard Assange’s claims second- or third-hand. The assumption that Stone lied is usually a pretty safe one, but when two of his statements directly contradict each other, it’s not always simple to determine which one was the lie. Did he lie to investigators when he said he never spoke to Assange, or did he lie to Trump when he said he just talked to Assange? I’m not sure that either is more likely than the other. (I’m assuming here that Cohen is telling the truth. I don’t even know whether that is fair.)

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Bottom line: lots of negative dish on Trump, but no smoking gun on either collusion or obstruction.

There could be a smoking gun on perjury. CNN had earlier reported that “President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks.” If CNN’s report is accurate, Trump may have committed perjury in his written responses. There are two caveats here: (1) this is not hard evidence of what Trump actually told Mueller, but simply an allegation from anonymous sources, and it may not be 100% accurate; (2) according to the report, Trump was clear that he answered “to the best of his recollection,” so his lawyers can claim there is no perjury, but a mere memory lapse.

18 thoughts on “Michael Cohen’s opening remarks

  1. Hi Scoop,

    Just reading this from Australia, and I have no particular allegiances, other than to the truth. When you say no “smocking gun”, I assume your talking about the Russian collusion.

    What I have gleaned from this is that even though he was protesting his innocence in the Stormy Daniels affair, he was acting in a criminal way by paying back his attorney for illegal payments.

    I would have thought that doing a criminal act, with evidence provided, whilst being your President, would be a much bigger concern than it is being reported.

    Maybe we are just overdosed on the pure scale of his lying and chicanery that something that would have caused pandemonium with any other elected official in any democratic country in the world is simply ignored or treated as “meh”… another day another lie. Especially as his story on this matter has turned 180 degrees from before the election until now.

    Is this not the “smocking gun” that ties him to something that could have him impeached?

    Cheers

    1. As an Australian citizen,perhaps you could explain how the S President can be impeached for something he did or didn’t do when he was not President.

      This seems to be the major point that all the “IMPEACH!”people keep missing. All of what Cohen said he ‘knew’ happened dozens of years before trump was President. The only stuff that happened after Trump was President is stuff that Cohen thinks he knew or has heard about. Damning evidence there, for sure.

      1. “perhaps you could explain how the S President can be impeached for something he did or didn’t do when he was not President.” . . Sure, I’ll explain. It could happen exactly as it did with Vice President Spiro Agnew, who resigned before his impeachment had progressed very far. None of the corruption charges against Agnew were for his time as VP. They related solely to his time as Governor of Maryland.

        The rules for impeaching and removing the VP are precisely the same as those for impeaching and removing the President.

        When a President is shown to be corrupt — even when the evidence derives from events committed before his inauguration — he can be impeached. He is being impeached, and removed, because he is CURRENTLY corrupt, not because he was corrupt and dishonest in the past. If it was discovered that a President had not paid his taxes repeatedly 10 years ago, he could be impeached because of what this says about him currently. Thus Trump has a lot to worry about.

      2. I’m happy to answer that one for the Aussie.

        Stanley – your argument makes no sense. It’s completely obvious that a President can be impeached for acts he committed before he was President. If we find that a president committed treason or fraud years ago in order to become President, then obviously he should be impeached. If we find out two years into his term that a President is not a native-born citizen, then obviously he should be impeached. If we find out that he murdered his primary opponent, then obviously he should be impeached. If we find out he used to be a spy for another country, and gave away military secrets long before he was elected … if we find out the former Vice-President killed the President to get his job … if we find out that the President was guilty of massive political corruption in his previous job … if a judge or cabinet member lied in his confirmation hearing in order to get the job … Etc. Etc. Etc

        There is nothing in the Constitution limiting impeachable offense to actions committed after inauguration, nor should there be.

        Furthermore, to get away from the hypothetical for a moment, Cohen has accused Trump of crimes committed in office. For example, the hush-money checks for Stormy were written in April of 2017, even though the conspiracy to commit election fraud occurred before the inauguration.

        But even if the payoff had occurred before inauguration, clearly a president should be impeached if he committed a crime in order to become president.

        Remember also that the grounds for conviction and the standard of proof for those grounds are whatever the Senate says they are, and impeachment cannot be reviewed or appealed. It is a political process, not a legal one. The Senate can literally remove a judge or a president for a parking ticket he received in high school if they care to, and they don’t even have to prove that he actually got that ticket. Furthermore, the Senate has the sole authority in this matter. Even if the decision is obviously corrupt, there is no process for appeal, just as there is no way to override a corrupt presidential pardon. In those two cases, the vested power is absolute.

        Having written all that, I should add that there is no possibility to remove Trump except by an election. Conviction in the Senate is a liberal pipe-dream. Trump could give Putin a hand job on live TV and spill his seed on a picture of Jesus while they sing the Russian national anthem together, and there STILL would not be 67 senators who would vote for conviction.

  2. There is no shot at impeachment. As I’ve states here previously, he only has 20 months until his next election. Dems should stop with the insane rhetoric and broken promises and focus on putting out candidates who can win elections. That’s how democracy works. Vote him out. Elections have consequences. If Hillary had won, SCOTUS would be 6-3 liberal instead of 5-4 conservative. Get a strong moderate candidate like Bloomberg positioned for a successful run. Impeachment is a pipe dream.

    1. I agree with what you say. But the Dems have NO strong candidate. Maybe they should run Alexandra Occasionally-Coherent. That plan worked the last time with freshman Senator Obama….

  3. A few things, impeachment is a political act, not a legal or judicial one.
    A president can be impeached for whatever a majority of the House of Representatives wants to impeach him for. He can be then be removed if 2/3 of the Senate then wish to convict him.

    As for the Supreme Court, I am fairly certain that if Hillary had won the ideological balance would be 5-4 liberal, not 6-3 because Justice Kennedy only took senior status because he trusted President Trump to nominate his successor. As for the Supreme Court’s current balance being 4.5 – 4.5 because Roberts “always being a threat to vote with the liberals”, I think that is overstating things by several orders of magnitude. I remember taking constitutional law as a high school elective and being told by our teacher that the “swing justices” were Harry Blackmun (the author of Roe v Wade), Lewis Powell, and John Paul Stevens. The Conservatives were Warren Burger, Sandra Day O’Connor, Byron White, and William Rehnquist and the liberals were William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall. Of course as time went by O’Connor became one of the swing justices primarily because the then liberals were replaced by more conservatives which made the then swing justices the liberals and so forth. With Kennedy retired, Roberts became “the swing Justice” not because he is LIKELY to vote with the 4 liberals in a 5-4 decision, but because he is simply the most likely to do so, or at least he appears to be the most likely at the moment.

    The single biggest silver lining of Trump’s victory, in my opinion, was the preservation of the 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, or I should probably say the restoration of it. The unexpectant passing of Justice Scalia reminded us that no 5-4 majority is ever safe. Still the 6-3 conservative majority fell to 5-4, with Byron White’s retirement in 1993, but that majority survived for 23 years. I hope the current majority lasts at least as long.

    1. Michael McChesney says:
      “A few things, impeachment is a political act, not a legal or judicial one. A president can be impeached for whatever a majority of the House of Representatives wants to impeach him for. He can be then be removed if 2/3 of the Senate then wish to convict him.”

      “The Constitution, Article II, Section 4 says:
      The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

      The tangled part of that section is the addition of that “high crimes and misdemeanors” part. The Founders knew what those words meant, but today? I doubt anyone could define them successfully. That’s the political part of it. BUT – you’ll notice that the section is headed by defining who can be impeached. And it doesn’t say anything about private citizens, which is what Trump was when he allegedly committed these so-called crimes.

      1. It’s not really a legal act because if Congress passed an article of impeachment saying Trump should be removed from office because he had orange hair, or even a blatantly unconstitutional reason that such that he wasn’t a practicing Christian or something, and 2/3 of the Senate voted to remove him, Trump would be out of office. That’s because the courts do not have, not even the Supreme Court has, the authority or jurisdiction to review his removal. There would be nowhere for Trump to appeal, except to history.

        That is one of the reasons I thought the birthers, including Trump, were idiots because even if you found definitive proof Obama was born in Africa there could be no appeal to the courts because the House of Representatives is the sole arbiter of qualifications for the office of president. Once the House certifies a winner that question is settled until the next election. There were many other reasons they were idiots including the fact that even if he had been born in Africa he would have still been a natural born citizen since his other was a citizen. So Trump is at a minimum a double idiot.

    1. You’ve missed the point “lawyer”. The facts are that Trump did NOT tell or ask Cohen to lie to Congress. That seems to be the only fact that pretty much everyone agrees with at this point.

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