Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Presidential Allegations: The credibility of Michael Cohen’s testimony

Last Wednesday Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer— turned righteous whistleblower— for Donald Trump, tried to set the record straight concerning Trump’s enigmatic legacy in a lurid testimony before the Congressional Oversight Committee. The hearing, fraught with legal and political jargon, referenced the myriad of investigations and allegations including financial shenanigans, Russian collusion, hush money payments, lying in the Oval Office and debauchery on a presidential scale.

One of the most prominent allegations: during his presidential campaign, Trump directed Cohen to pay hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to cover-up Trump’s affair with Daniels. According to Cohen, he took out a $135,000 mortgage to pay for Daniels’ silence, and Trump signed a reimbursement check inside the Oval Office one month after he won the election. This check, marked with Trump’s signature, was included with Cohen’s testimony. When rumors first surfaced about the hush money payments, Trump claimed he paid Cohen a monthly retainer for legal payments. Federal investigators eventually found no records of a retainer or payment agreement. Cohen’s testimony and corroborating evidence raises questions into the validity of Trump’s statements.

Months before the 2016 election, Wikileaks, headed by Julian Assange, publically released stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee. The emails, allegedly hacked by Russian operatives, were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the midst of the presidential race. According to Cohen, in a 2016 meeting, Trump answered a phone call on speaker from his advisor Roger Stone. In the phone call, according to Cohen, Stone said he had spoken with Assange about an imminent dump of damaging emails from the DNC. To which Trump replied, “Wouldn’t that be great.”

If Cohen’s testimony is factual, this information contradicts a number of Trump’s statements and could put himself, members of his organization and family members in legal jeopardy. Furthermore, Cohen testified about another peculiar mid-2016 meeting he had with Trump where he heard Donald Trump Jr. whisper to his father, “The meeting is all set,” to which Trump Sr. replied, “OK good…Let me know.” Cohen testified that this event could be referencing a myriad of reports from the media about a questionable meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian operatives also in the summer of 2016 allegedly discussing a transaction that included political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

If the allegations put forth by Cohen are confirmed, it will open a pandora’s box of litigation and legislation reform. If his testimony is proven factual, legislators will have no choice but to write policy that closes all of the loopholes Donald Trump allegedly went through to win the White House. Campaign finance laws will have to be completely rebuilt from the ground up and presidential candidates will be under a larger microscope. Cohen’s testimony shows that Donald Trump may have compromised the fabric of American democracy, and we will see the government and voters start to be more critical in future elections. An individual’s character is defined by their actions when no one is watching; we must be sure that politicians will always be watched from here on out.

Cohen called the president a conman, a cheat and a racist. Cohen elaborated on Trump’s racist character saying, “While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.” During the hearing, Republicans, specifically Congressman Mark Meadows, were particularly unsettled by these racist allegations against President Trump.  Meadows made a poor decision of judgement by using one of Trump’s staffers who is a woman of color to attempt at vouching for President Trump’s non-racist character. This did not disprove any racist allegations made by Cohen or anyone. Rather, Meadow’s tokenizing tactic and demonstration was undoubtedly insensitive.

Cohen sought to expose Trump’s record of racism and corruption in his testimony by providing personal accounts supported by physical evidence obtained while serving as Trump’s loyal consigliere. Our initial thoughts: “Trump is being exposed as a racist criminal? What’s new?” Following the hearing, we realized the gravity of the potential ramifications that Trump could endure. More importantly, the ramifications our country could endure will inevitably be an epochal period in our history.

Cohen has previously lied under oath resulting in a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion, perjury and fraud. If he’s a convicted liar telling the (supposed) truth about another (supposed) liar, why should we listen him?

Republicans insist that Cohen is still lying and he is attempting to soften his sentence in exchange for cooperation with “partisan investigations.” From Cohen’s perspective, his reputation and family is shattered. He’s going to prison—period. Cohen is no longer being persuaded to lie to Congress by Trump; furthermore, he has no reason to lie since Congress will soon receive the results of the ongoing federal investigations.

If you still doubt Cohen’s credibility—that’s fine. Instead, consider the federal prosecutors who have found Cohen to be a valid witness. Not to mention, Cohen’s hearsay evidence is accompanied with multiple pieces of physical, corroborating evidence. “You don’t have to take my word for it,” Cohen told his detractors. “Look at the documents … I did the same thing that you are doing now. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years.” Still, Republicans obsessively interrogated Cohen’s credibility, failing to offer an inkling of consideration into Trump’s integrity.

Cohen’s lurid testimony is a warning to Trump’s party of the consequences that will inevitably transpire for those who blindly enable obstruction of justice and democracy.

Soon enough, GOP members will enter a primal state of self-preservation. As you read this, GOP members are likely conflicted over who to protect: their careers or Trump. Realistically, Cohen is not the only one who had knowledge of the “mobster” style seen throughout the breadth of Trump’s legacy. The GOP is broken, and it will remain broken until Republicans address the orange elephant in the room—President Trump. Political Darwinism is taking strong effect. The climax is upon us ladies and gentleman.

Needless to say, Trump has had a turbulent week. Trump’s unsuccessful Vietnam summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un affirmed Trump’s continued lack of Nobel Peace Prizes.  Surely the Cohen situation did not take anything away from Trump’s trip to Vietnam, considering Trump’s last missed opportunity for a free trip to Vietnam was when he dodged the draft decades prior. 

In the wake of presidential scandals, what does this mean for the Democratic Party leading up to the 2020 election? Identity politics will play a key role for the DNC, and the most prominent figure will need to utilize the messages portrayed in Cohen’s hearing for their campaign objectives. Democratic candidates need to contrast the GOP by campaigning on transparency, moral integrity and zero-tolerance policies of corruption.

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