Michael Cohen testimony’s biggest moments

Michael Cohen testimony’s biggest moments

Michael Cohen’s testimony has served as one of the biggest moments of Donald Trump’s time in office.

His accusations range from claims about the President’s racism against African-Americans to attempts to conceal his academic record.

But Mr Trump himself came under fire during the hearing based on a three-letter insult he used on Mr Cohen last December.

On December 16, Mr Trump called his ex-lawyer a “rat” in response to Mr Cohen cooperating with federal investigators.

The next day, he tweeted the word again:

At the end of Mr Cohen’s hearing, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings expressed empathy for the ex-lawyer over the remark, stating: “When you call somebody a rat that’s one of the worst things you can call them because when they go to prison that means a snitch. I’m just saying. And so the President called you a rat. We’re better than that, we really are.”

“I am hoping that all of us can get back to this democracy that we want and that we should be passing on our children so that they can do better than what we did,” he added.

Mr Cohen’s testimony implicated Mr Trump in four felonies: conspiring to defraud the United States; lying to the FBI and the Justice Department; persuading a person to lie under Oath; violating campaign finance laws; and tax fraud.

Mr Cohen also issued a stark warning: he said the President would not go down gracefully if he were to lose next year’s election.

The ex-lawyer, who is headed to prison for three years for his role in making illegal hush-money payments on behalf of the President, copped heavy criticism from Republicans over the testimony.

Mr Trump accused him of “lying in order to reduce his prison time”, and took a jab at him for using Lanny Davis, who is friends with Hillary and Bill Clinton, as his lawyer.

Mr Trump was among a host of Republicans who slammed Mr Cohen over the testimony.

Tennessee senator Mark Green took aim at using Davis as his choice of representation, stating: “If the Democrats were after the truth, they’d have an honest person here testifying.”

At one point, according to The Washington Post, Republicans put up a poster with a picture of Mr Cohen and the words “Liar liar pants on fire”.

The President’s son, Donald Trump Jr, likened the testimony to a jilted ex’s “breakup letter”:

Here are five of the most important points we took from Cohen’s statements:

1. COHEN IS NOT MESSING AROUND

Cohen’s testimony was expected to accuse Mr Trump of breaking the law after he became President. The bigger bombshell, however, could be summed up in Mr Cohen’s opening statement: “I am ashamed because I know what Mr Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”

This isn’t just some random Democrat voter off the street. This is the man who for more than a decade served as Mr Trump’s right hand man. That he would deal such a damning portrayal of Mr Trump’s character shows, as CNN phrased it, that Cohen is “not going to be pulling any punches on Trump”.

He repeatedly went back to this point, providing anecdotes of times Mr Trump “allegedly questioned the intelligence of African-Americans and criticised their lifestyle choices”.

“He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘s**thole’,” claimed Cohen, adding, “(Mr Trump) told me black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

2. TRUMP’S SMARTER THAN YOU THINK

The President knew when to speak candidly and when to use code.

Last month, Buzzfeed News published a report claiming Mr Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about building a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Cohen denied the report, saying: “Mr Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates.”

He said Mr Trump told him “in his way” to conceal negotiations. In other words, he was careful and deliberate about not directly telling him to do so, in case it might be used against him later. Evidently that was a smart move.

3. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS

Judging by Cohen’s testimony, Mr Trump was more explicit about giving instructions when it came to concealing hush money payments to a porn actress.

Cohen said the President called him in February 2018 and asked him to lie about the payments and to lie to First Lady Melania Trump about them.

Mr Trump signed cheques while in office to reimburse him for making a $US130,000 hush money payment to actress Stormy Daniels.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said these two cheques were the “most compelling evidence” that Mr Trump was personally involved in a potential criminal conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws.

“These cheques are key,” Mr Bookbinder wrote in The New York Times. “They corroborate Mr Cohen’s testimony and provide hard evidence that Mr Trump and senior executives at the Trump Organisation knew of and committed overt acts in furtherance of a conspiracy to violate campaign finance law and cover up those violations.

“Additionally, the checks are evidence that Mr Trump knowingly made a false statement when he failed to report his liability to Mr Cohen on his personal financial disclosure form in June 2017. This potential felony was committed while Mr Trump was president.”

And what about Stormy? She only had two words to say during Cohen’s testimony:

4. NO DIRECT EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION

Despite all this, Cohen has no evidence to suggest Mr Trump colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

“Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not, and I want to be clear.

“But I have my suspicions,” he added.

He said there are “so many dots that all seem to lead” in the direction of Vladimir Putin. “As I stated in my earlier testimony, I wouldn’t use the word ‘colluding’. Was there something odd about the back-and-forth praise with President Putin? Yes. But I’m not really sure I can answer that question in terms of collusion.”

Republican senator Lindsey Graham said his testimony helped Mr Trump’s insistence that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, describing it as a “good day for the Trump team”.

“The central issue has always been did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians. And Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s exchange with Mr Cohen was pretty devastating to the idea that Trump colluded. Cohen said no — I don’t know … The point is I think on the collusion question Michael Cohen was very helpful to the Trump narrative that there is no evidence of collusion,” he said.

5. COHEN WARNS TRUMP WON’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT

In his closing remarks, Cohen issued a warning that Mr Trump would disrupt peace if he lost the next election.

He said he had “lost everything” because he blindly followed the President.

“My loyalty to Mr Trump has cost me everything — my family’s happiness, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honour, my reputation and soon my freedom,” he said.

“Given my experience working for Mr Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” he added. “And this is why I agreed to appear before you today.”

And Cohen ended his testimont with a stark warning for the President.

“I acknowledge I have made my own mistakes and I have owned up to them publicly and under oath,” he said.

“But silence and complicity in face of the daily destruction of our basic norms and civility to one another will not be one of them.”

— with AP

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