Editorial: Don’t ignore Cohen’s testimony

Michael+Cohen%2C+U.S.+President+Donald+Trump%27s+former+personal+attorney%2C+testifies+before+the+House+Oversight+and+Reform+Committee+in+the+Rayburn+House+Office+Building+on+Capitol+Hill+in+Washington%2C+D.C.+on+Wednesday%2C+Feb.+27.+%0A
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Editorial: Don’t ignore Cohen’s testimony

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Olivier Douliery | TNS

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Olivier Douliery | TNS

Olivier Douliery | TNS

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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A consistent characteristic of Donald Trump’s presidency for the last two years has been its susceptibility to scandal. In fact, it’s become difficult and overwhelming to keep track of each accusation hurled at the president and his administration — and when that happens, people tend to just tune it out.

Unfortunately, this strategy has desensitized many Americans to issues they really should be watching closely, like the investigation into whether or not Trump or his administration broke campaign finance laws, among other crimes. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony yesterday, especially, is something that deserves the nation’s refocused attention.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to a slew of charges, including breaking campaign finance laws and arranging hush money to cover up a possible sex scandal that could have harmed then-candidate Trump. He was sentenced to three years in prison, and testified before Congress yesterday in the hopes of lessening the sentence.

And what a testimony he gave.

With apparently nothing left to lose — he knew he was going to prison — there was nothing to keep Cohen from attacking the man he once protected. He attacked Trump’s personal character, calling him “a racist,” “a con man” and “a cheat,” and said that he’d made bigoted comments about African-Americans.

But the idea that Trump is racist isn’t new, and Cohen’s testimony on that front probably won’t sway those who don’t want to see the president’s true character. What may prove incredibly important is what Cohen said about covering up Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

“Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen said regarding 2016 negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. “He lied about it because he never expected to win. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real-estate project.”

This is a serious accusation, because although Cohen didn’t present concrete evidence that the president colluded with Russia, he admitted to suspicions about the matter. And if he’s telling the truth — and he has no reason not to at this point — then he’s suggesting Trump lied under oath about not being a part of the Moscow negotiations.

Cohen also suggested that, although Trump denied knowing about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower — which included his son, son-in-law, campaign chairman and Russian visitors who claimed to have information that would hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — Trump actually knew about the meeting.

Cohen further said he was present during a conversation between the president and adviser Roger Stone about “a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” which is something Trump has denied knowing about to Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation. Two days later, WikiLeaks released almost 20,000 damaging emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee.

This — and so much more that came out during hours of questioning — may not seem like anything more than almost-confirmations of suspicions many have held for a long time. But Cohen’s testimony is historic in that it raises important questions that Mueller’s investigation needs to answer, and America should pay close attention going forward.

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