Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Cohen’s testimony highlights the buildup of allegations against Trump

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, provided documentation and testimony that may foreshadow legal proceedings against the embattled current president in a public testimony to Congress Wednesday.

“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Cohen said in his prepared testimony.

While this is certainly a bold statement, it is nothing the American people haven’t heard before. Trump’s long history of racism, for example, has been documented in great detail — from pandering to white supremacists to flaming the lie that former President Barack Obama was born outside the United States.

However, some of Cohen’s testimony may prove to be valuable in uncovering two matters: Trump and the Trump Organization’s potential collusion with Russia, and payments to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels.

It is disgraceful that our Congress and our country have been forced to pay attention to Cohen, a lawyer with a degree from the worst law school in America. And let’s not forget the fact that Cohen is going to prison. Last August, he entered into a plea deal with the Southern District of New York’s federal attorney office.

Cohen pled guilty to federal criminal charges on eight counts: five for tax evasion, one for making a false statement to a financial institution, one for being a “willful cause” of an unlawful corporate contribution and one for making an excessive campaign contribution.

What’s more, his testimony relating to Roger Stone, WikiLeaks and Russia may indicate illegal activity. Federal law prevents candidates from obtaining anything of value from foreign entities.

Cohen claimed in his testimony that Stone told Trump in July 2016 Stone had talked to Julian Assange, the founder WikiLeaks, regarding an email dump that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This conversation could contribute to charges related to the Trump campaign’s knowingly accepting help from WikiLeaks.

Many will question the veracity of Cohen’s testimony — however, there is little incentive for him to lie now. Cohen didn’t make outrageous claims that would portray a purely negative view of Trump, and there were few brash statements that would indicate Cohen was out for revenge.

When asked about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Cohen said he did not have any evidence. It would have been easy for him to exaggerate or lie, but he likely didn’t. Still, this does not mean we should take his words at face value.

Cohen did, however, provide Congress with several articles of evidence to corroborate his many claims. A prime example is a check, signed by Trump in August 2017, that is a partial reimbursement for the hush money Cohen paid to Daniels on Trump’s behalf.

Cohen said in August that he violated campaign finance laws “in coordination with and at the direction of an unnamed candidate,” which is almost certainly Trump, to cover up alleged affairs with Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen claimed he was acting in the interest of influencing an election.

Trump allegedly ordered Cohen to threaten the universities the president attended to not release his grades or SAT scores. Keep in mind that Trump once tweeted, “My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.”

Cohen provided Congress with a letter he sent to Fordham University that threatened legal action if the school released his grades. Fordham even confirmed that someone associated with Trump’s campaign had sent a letter.

Trump’s ego could not be larger or more fragile. As president, he has gaslighted the American public time and time again with endless lies and incessant attempts to monger fear and divide the country.

Yet even with everything spilled during Cohen’s testimony, no one is truly aware of all the evidence and details behind Trump’s alleged crimes.

The Southern District of New York and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are clearly aware of much more than the general public. They likely have answers to many of the outstanding questions we have, in addition to questions we haven’t even thought of.

What is most worrying is that people have become desensitized to all of Trump’s many scandals — and “scandals” is hardly a sufficient word, considering President Obama was once criticized for the “scandal” of wearing a tan suit.

Every major testimony we have heard before Congress during Trump’s presidency feels repetitive and often redundant. It is hard to keep track of all the news and events that seemingly break every week, if not every day. The list of ex-Trump associates with negative comments about the president, not to mention criminal indictments, continues to pile up.

Cohen has not redeemed himself in any way, shape or form — he is still a convicted liar with a shady past. However, his testimony should not be disregarded. Cohen’s character may be questionable, but the documents he provided cannot tell a lie.

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