Witness for the Persecution
After Michael Cohen said he wouldn't be testifying before the House Oversight Committee because of threats from the White House, a friend wrote me last night wondering how even past Republican presidents (Nixon notwithstanding...) would react to Trump witness tampering. I replied with a slight correction to put it in a more proper perspective -- there is "witness tampering," I said, and there is "witness tampering like a mob boss."
I think Trump's actions here paint him into a no-win corner. On the one hand, Michael Cohen doesn't testify and Trump comes across horribly, shown as a crime family don threatening a witness against him. On the other hand, Michael Cohen does end up testifying, and Trump comes across horribly, from his testimony.
In the end, Cohen will be testifying. Chair of the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings was pretty blunt and clear about that yesterday. "As the night becomes day, and as the day becomes night, Michael Cohen will be testifying before our committee." You don't get much more pointed than that. Mind you, it doesn't mean that Cohen will answer all the questions, but he will be testifying.
There's a certain, profound irony in all this, as my friend Myles Berkowitz pointed out. Michael Cohen made his career with Trump as Trump's "fixer," strong-arming people and threatening them. And now, here he is, being on the receiving end, threatened by Trump (and his fixer replacement, Rudy Giuliani). To be clear, I don't blame Cohen for feeling threatened by the president of the United States. Just that when God wants to make a point about one's past transgressions, He seems to be pretty upfront about it.
By the way, there's one question in all this I've been waiting to hear. The whole core of Trump's threats against Cohen are mainly focused on Cohen's father-in-law. Yet amid all this veiled threats, I haven't heard anyone ask -- "What are the criminal offenses that you are suggesting the father-in-law has committed???" I'm not saying there aren't any. Or that there are. Just that it would nice to hear someone ask, to put Trump on record. To find out if Trump even knows what on earth he is talking about. Does even he know? Is it all total bluster based on rumors and innuendo, or is Trump threatening with ready-for-court evidence? Is he using his same crackerjack investigators who insisted had uncovered all this supposed,evidence in Hawaii about Barack Obama that "you wouldn't believe what they're finding" that of course never existed -- or has he used federal agents to track down his thuggish blackmail? Or...what? At least just ask.
Actually, it goes even further. I saw a clip last night which surprises me that it didn't get more attention for being so ludicrous. They didn't say if it was said yesterday or just recently, but Trump was on "Fox News" talking on the phone with Jeanine Pirro. And after going into another of his rants about Michael Cohen and Cohen's father-in-law, the maniacally sycophantic Ms. Pirro of all people asked him matter-of-factly the most basic, normal question. "What is the father-in-law's name?" she wanted to know. And Trump's remarkable reply was -- and I swear this is true -- "I don't know." Really! Honest. He said, "I don't know. But you'll find out soon and..." yammer yammer yammer, deflect.
Wait, "I don't know"???? Seriously??!! Trump has been threatening Michael Cohen over these horrible damning things about his father-in-law repeatedly for the past two weeks (even longer)...And He Doesn't Know the Man's Name!!!!
Forget for a moment how idiotic it is not to know the man's name just on general principle, which raises questions about what you do know about him. But consider how idiotic it is to simply say, "I don't know," to the question! If you actually don't know -- which is bad enough -- Rule #1: Don't admit it. Just answer, "We'll get into all that later. I don't want to get into any specifics about anything, there's legal issues and time enough for all that. For now, let's just say, as simply as possible, Michael Cohen knows what I'm talking about, and it will be big."
But no, he said, "I don't know."
And that, in a nutshell is Trump. A bullying mob boss witness-tampering thug.
But in the end, he's acting like all bullies do, most particularly when someone punches back. After his mid-day rant speech yesterday trying to strong-arm Nancy Pelosi and bully his way into the House of Representatives to give his State of the Union Address, she pushed back even harder and officially rescinded the House invitation for the State of the Union Address while there was a government shutdown. And how did the bullying, thuggish Trump respond just hours after his screed having called the Speaker "dominating" and not caring about crime and how this has never been done before and on and on and on? Backed into a corner by someone who couldn't be pushed around, he wrote --
"As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for an alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a 'great' State of the Union Address in the near future!"
Well, my, my. This is quite the change in meek tone after trying to bully the Speaker and smear her and Senate Minority Leader Schumer earlier in the day, finally forced into accepting reality and accepting the perfectly thoughtful suggestion that she made in THE FIRST PLACE!
"The True Art of the Deal" by Nancy Pelosi. (Ghostwritten by no one.)
Leaving Trump to going back and obstruct justice by bullying and witness tampering those weaker than him. Which is what mob boss thugs do.
1/24/2019 09:32:37 am
There's an argument that Cohen's refusing to testify, or delaying his testimony, fills in a missing piece in a witness intimidation charge. The mere attempt to intimidate a witness is a crime, but if it actually results in delay or refusal to testify, it's a more compelling charge. It may be that Cohen took this action in order to add more substance to the potential charge against Trump.
1/24/2019 09:43:02 am
In some ways, that's precisely what I was addressing in my comment that if Cohen doesn't testify it could arguably be even worse for Trump than if he does. But your point that it may have been intentional is interesting.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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