- Michael Cohen testified in front of Congress on Wednesday for over seven hours.
- During this testimony, he called Trump a “racist,” a “cheat,” and a “conman.”
- He brought documents, checks and evidence to support claims he made about potential finance violations Trump may have made during his presidency and campaign.
What Happened During the Testimony?
On Wednesday, Michael Cohen, former lawyer to president Donald Trump, testified before Congress as a witness to Trump’s possible criminal conduct.
Last year, Cohen pled guilty to eight felony charges that are due to send him to prison for three years starting in May. His testimony ran over seven hours, and in the opening statements, which were also released prior to him taking the stand, Cohen called Trump “racist,” a “cheat,” and a “conman.”
Cohen Calls Trump Racist
Cohen said that he was “ashamed” to know who Trump is. He said that during Barack Obama’s presidency, Trump asked him if he “could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’”
In January of 2018, Trump also faced criticism for the use of the phrase “shithole” when discussing immigration. He allegedly asked, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?”
Cohen then told a story about the two driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago. He claimed that Trump made derogatory remarks about the people living there.
“He commented that only black people could live that way,” Cohen said. “And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid. And yet I continued to work for him.”
Cohen Says Trump is a Cheat
Cohen then called Trump a cheat and brought documents as evidence to support his claims.
He handed in copies of financial statements from 2011 through 2013 that Trump gave to Deutsche Bank and Forbes to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills. He claimed these documents show that Trump tried to inflate his assets so he could be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and that he deflated assets to reduce his real estate taxes.
Cohen also said that while Trump claims he is under audit for his 2016 tax returns, he does not believe that Trump is under audit. He thinks Trump does not want to release his taxes because a real audit could result in penalties.
Cohen then brought a copy of an article about a portrait of Trump being auctioned, with Trump’s handwriting on it. He claimed that Trump directed him to fake a bidder to buy the portrait for $60,000 to ensure that it was the most expensive item purchased at the auction. Trump ended up keeping the portrait for himself and repaid the fake bidder with fund from the Trump Foundation, his charitable organization.
Cohen Claims Trump is a Conman
Cohen went on to call Trump a conman, and brought up the alleged affair with Stormy Daniels. He turn over a copy of a $130,000 wire transfer that went to Daniels to “maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump.”
He also turned over two checks for $35,000 each that Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. gave him to reimburse hush money payments. Cohen said he received a total of 11 reimbursement checks while Trump was president.
“The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws,” Cohen said during the testimony.
When asked about the signatures on the second check, Cohen said that both Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, Cheif Financial Officer to the Trump Organization, signed their names. In doing so, he is implicating Trump Jr. and Weisselberg in paying off Daniels, a campaign finance violation that he was charged with himself.
Cohen also claimed that there were numerous occasions in which Trump told him to make threats on his behalf. He said that Trump told him to threaten his former schools, colleges, and the College Board with legal action to prevent them from releasing his grades and SAT scores. He brought a letter he sent to Fordham University as proof.
He also said that over the last 10 years, Trump has asked him to threaten an individual or entity over 500 times.
McConnell to Propose Raising Tobacco Use Age to 21
- Mitch McConnell announced during a press conference Thursday, that he plans to introduce legislation that would raise the age for tobacco use to 21.
- Currently, 12 states across the country and hundreds of localities have already raised the age from 18 to 21.
- The use of tobacco products by teens has risen significantly, with many attributing the increase to e-cigarettes.
McConnell Announces New Legislation Proposal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Thursday that he will introduce legislation to raise the tobacco use age from 18 to 21 nationwide.
This legislation would include all tobacco products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping.
“For some time I’ve been hearing from parents of teenage children seeing an unprecedented spike in…vaping, among teens,” McConnell said in a press conference in his home state of Kentucky. “It is reaching epidemic levels around the country.”
Smoking Rates Among American Teens
The use of tobacco products among teenagers was McConnell’s motivating factor in announcing the legislation. According to the CDC, 90 percent of adult smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21.
The rise of e-cigarettes has led to an increase in teen smoking. In 2017, 2.1 million high school students reported using e-cigarettes. In 2018, that number jumped to 3.6 million. In the state of Kentucky, in 2018, 45 percent of high schoolers used these devices.
According to a 2018 survey by Truth Initiative, 63 percent of Juul users did not know that these devices contained nicotine.
In 12 states, the legal age for tobacco use is already 21. Over 400 towns, cities, and counties have also followed suit. McConnell said he expects bipartisan support of the bill.
Juul is also behind this move, saying in a statement, “we must restrict youth usage of vapor products.”
Mueller Report Includes 10 Possible Instances of Obstruction of Justice, Lacks Evidence, AG Says Ahead of Full Release
- Attorney General William Barr held a press briefing Thursday morning in advance of the public release of the Mueller report.
- Barr stated that the report “found no evidence that any Americans – including anyone associated with the Trump campaign – conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”
- Barr said that the special counsel looked at 10 instances where Trump acted in a way that could be considered an obstruction of justice, but defended his conclusion to ultimately clear Trump of any attempted obstruction of justice.
Barr Briefing Before Release
Attorney General William Barr gave a press conference Thursday morning as a precursor to the public release of the highly anticipated Mueller report.
During the briefing, Barr stated that while the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller “makes clear” that Russian operatives tried to interfere in the 2016 election, the investigations “found no evidence” that any member of President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
“The special counsel found no collusion by any Americans,” said Barr.
“As you will see, the special counsel’s report states that his ‘investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” he continued.
Barr claimed that the White House “fully cooperated” with the investigation and that Trump did not have “corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.” He also said that Trump’s lawyers were given access to the report earlier this week before it was made public and that Trump’s lawyers did not ask for any additional redactions.
10 Instances of Possible Obstruction of Justice
Barr said that the special counsel looked at 10 instances where Trump may have obstructed justice. Despite these 10 instances and the fact that Mueller said he was neither charging nor exonerating Trump of obstruction of justice, Barr defended his own decision to clear the president of any potential charges.
10 “episodes” involving President Trump were scrutinised for possible obstruction of justice – US Attorney General William Barr reveals#MuellerReport live updates and reaction: https://t.co/1KVvtLzdCi pic.twitter.com/n71shbRuQ2— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 18, 2019
Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disagreed with “some of the special counsel’s legal theories,” and ultimately concluded the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”
He also defended Trump’s actions, saying that he was “frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”
The WikiLeaks Question
Regarding the question of the Trump campaign’s connection to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked DNC emails in the summer of 2016, Barr said that even if the Trump campaign colluded with WikiLeaks, that is not a crime.
“The special counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts,” said Barr. “Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.”
This means that because WikiLeaks did not directly participate in the Russian hacking of the emails, WikiLeaks did not itself commit a crime. Meaning any collusion between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks is not an illegal conspiracy.
At 11 a.m. EST, Barr sent the Mueller report to Congress and published the “lightly redacted” report on the Justice Department’s website. Now, reporters, legal experts, and lawmakers alike will analyze the findings of the 448-page report.
In the press conference, Barr said that most of the redactions fall into four categories: Content that involves grand jury material, content that involves foreign intelligence, content that implicates ongoing cases and investigations, and content that would violate the privacy of people who are not directly implicated in the report.
Barr said that redactions would be labeled according to their category. He also stated that the redactions were made by Department of Justice attorneys, attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, the intelligence community, and prosecutors in ongoing cases.
Democratic lawmakers have demanded to see the unredacted report, arguing that Barr cannot be trusted to provide an accurate portrayal of Mueller’s findings because Barr was appointed by Trump, and has openly argued against the obstruction case against Trump in the past.
Barr addressed this in his briefing, saying that he believed the redacted report “will allow every American to understand the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
“Nevertheless, in an effort to accommodate congressional requests,” continued Barr, “We will make available to a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information.”
Barr’s findings will surely continue to be questioned by legal experts and pundits as more analyses of the report are done on the historic Mueller report.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Fox News)
Trump Vetoes Resolution to Remove U.S. From Yemen
- Trump vetoed a resolution backed with bipartisan support that would remove U.S. troops from Yemen.
- Trump called the legislation “unnecessary” and “dangerous.”
- Democratic leaders have condemned Trump for the veto, while Saudi Arabia has given the president praise.
Trump Vetoes the Resolution
President Donald Trump vetoed legislation that would stop the United States’ involvement in the war in Yemen.
Trump used his presidential veto power for the second time on Tuesday when he rejected Senate Joint Resolution 7. The bill directs the president to remove Armed Forces from Yemen within 30 days. Congress, however, did not ask for all military personnel to be removed, and made an exception for operations related to or directed at Al-Queda.
The resolution started in the Senate and was passed 54-46 in March, with all Democrats voting in favor, and seven Republicans voting alongside them. In early April, it made its way to the House where it passed with a vote of 247-175.
In a letter to the Senate, Trump called the bill “unnecessary” and “dangerous.”
“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities,” the president wrote, “endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.
Trump also elaborated, saying that a political decision alone could not stop tensions in Yemen.
“We cannot end the conflict in Yemen through political documents like S.J. Res. 7,” Trump added in his letter. “Peace in Yemen requires a negotiated settlement.”
American Involvement in Yemen
Since 2015, the United States has been aiding Saudi Arabia on the ground in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is fighting against Houthi Rebels, who are backed by Iran and have seized part of the country. They also ousted Yemen’s president.
Saudi Arabia is fighting against Houthi Rebels, who are backed by Iran and have seized part of the country. They also ousted Yemen’s president.
American involvement in the war has come under scrutiny several times since the conflicts began. One instance, in particular, involved an American-made bomb killing at least 40 children in a school bus when dropped from a warplane.
In his letter, President Trump claimed that the U.S. is not currently engaging in any hostile combat.
“Apart from counterterrorism operations against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, the United States is not engaged in hostilities in or affecting Yemen,” he said. He later cited that our only involvement includes concepts like intelligence sharing and logistics support.
Reactions to the Veto
Politicians have heavily criticized Trump for vetoing the resolution, which was backed with bipartisan support.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a thread of tweets after his veto.
“The President has cynically chosen to contravene a bipartisan, bicameral vote of the Congress & perpetuate America’s shameful involvement in this heartbreaking crisis,” she wrote.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was one of the Senators leading the resolution. Upon learning that Trump rejected it, he said, “I am disappointed, but not surprised.”
President Trump did receive praise from Saudi Arabia. The country’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, called his decision “positive.”