Ken White’s article on the Cohen testimony: Everyone needed advice from lawyers

Ken White, who writes on the legal website Popehat, has a very good article in The Atlantic about Michael Cohen’s cross-examination by Congress yesterday.  His take is that the Republicans completely failed to destroy Cohen’s credibility, but that Democrats largely blew the chance to make a case against Trump. Click on screenshot (h/t: Grania):

One excerpt:

Michael Cohen, the convicted felon, disbarred lawyer, and former fixer to Donald Trump, needed a trial lawyer to rein in his mugging for the camera and his tendency to take cheap shots at his detractors, and to remind him of the limits of his own credibility. He needed a stern counselor to elbow him in the ribs, to tell him not to bait the politicians even if they deserved it, and to hiss at him, Stop quibbling over what lobbying for Kazakh banks means. Stop it this instant.

House Democrats needed a good trial lawyer, too, to teach them how to handle a morally bankrupt cooperating witness. As a former prosecutor, I know that your tone has to be stern and your questioning methodical. You have to convey to your audience that although the witness is nobody to admire, he can still offer useful information. If you’re friendly, the jury just thinks you’ve fallen for a con artist. The Democrats treated Cohen like a minor celebrity, perhaps a YouTube star. A trial lawyer would not have simply drawn out Cohen’s incriminating information about Trump, but used Cohen to emphasize the corroborating evidence from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that backs up many of his accusations. This was an opportunity to build the outline of a case against Trump. Democrats didn’t. Instead, they triumphantly repeated Cohen’s more salacious accusations, speechified, and uncritically embraced Cohen’s I-am-a-sinner-seeking-redemption narrative. They didn’t hurt his credibility, but they utterly squandered the chance to support it.

House Republicans needed a trial lawyer—or even a moderately bright junior-high mock-trial participant—to tell them how to do anything. Cross-examination is hard. It’s not just barking at the witness. It takes meticulous planning and patience. Republicans could have marshaled Cohen’s many sins of the past to undermine his statements today. Instead, they returned repeatedly to lies and misdeeds he’s already admitted, wallowed in silly trivialities such as the “Women for Cohen” Twitter account, and yelled. The effect was to make an unsympathetic man modestly more sympathetic. Republicans committed the classic cross-examination blunder: They gave the witness the opportunity to further explain his harmful direct testimony. They provided Cohen with one slow pitch up the middle after another, letting him repeat the cooperating witness’s go-to explanation like a mantra: I did these bad things so often and so long because that’s what it took to work for your guy. I have seldom seen across-examination go worse.

I’m chuffed that White agrees with me about the GOP, but he did neglect one Democrat who did have a methodical, unemotional, and legalistic cross-examination helping build a case against Trump: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who used her scant four minutes to create a reason for Congress to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. I dislike “AOC” for her hubris and her narcissism, but maybe there’s some hope:

Anyway, read White’s piece. Trump is toast, but even a blind toast can be President.

105 Comments

  1. Nicholas K.
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Let’s remember that AOC is a freshman Representative in Congress. She is not the face of the Democratic Party or even liberals in general. She is telegenic, outspoken, intelligent, and has a lot of ideas. I think as she settles into her job, she will do well. Fox News just points at her and screams “SOCIALIST!”

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Much of AOC’s promotion/exposure is from the right wing, which finds value in a self proclaimed “democratic socialist” that has a tendency to talk a lot.

      She has her share of gaffes which get amplified by conservatives, but IMO she’s
      on target much more often than not.

      • prinzler
        Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, and those four minutes were very, very impressive. Her best demonstration that I’ve seen so far that she will be a force to be reckoned with.

        • Mike Anderson
          Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          She needs to slow down a little bit (that’s tough when you’re young and all of a sudden millions of people are shooting at you), but she’ll learn. By the looks of her questioning yesterday, she’s already learning.

    • Jim Swetnam
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      +2

    • Keith
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Agreed! I was very impressed with her questions, and think she will grow to become a great public servant. Kudos to AOC!

    • Rita Prangle
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Agreed.

      • Mike
        Posted March 1, 2019 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        I think she was on point and very very sharp, she’ll do well.

  2. Michael Anderson
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Yes, AOC produced the most “3 moves ahead” line of attack that I noticed, laying groundwork for future investigatory directions. The Cohen testimony never had a chance to be a knockout punch (despite some of the hype), just one more maneuver in a long game.

  3. Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    When a newly-elected and young U.S. Representative can deliver such a “methodical, unemotional, and legalistic cross-examination” that I would deem it masterful, perhaps some of the previously demonstrated arrogance and inflated sense of self-importance is justified. I find her to be a breath of fresh air.

    • CJColucci
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      She did a better job than a lot of lawyers would have or did, which is embarrassing to me as a lawyer.

  4. GBJames
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    sub

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      sub

  5. Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I don’t see how the toast is done yet. The Stormy Daniels payment does violate campaign finance laws, but violations of those laws are not that unusual and this one is merely unique in being rather salacious.
    All the other issues also seem to fall a bit short in setting this guy up for impeachment. Sure, there might be some things that are impeachable, technically, but the only thing that would make that process begin is something both undeniable and so egregious that his base turns on him. Only then would sufficient numbers of Republicans begin an impeachment process.

    I like the last line of White’s article.

    • Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I think Dems know that campaign finance violations are not impeachment-worthy.

      Republicans are busy on TV news claiming that Dems will be forced by their base to impeach Trump no matter what evidence they have. I doubt this and certainly hope it isn’t true. These Republicans seem to be attempting to set things up for Trump’s 2020 run by claiming “We need to rally around our guy as the Dems want to impeach him.” Pretty weak as a campaign slogan but I guess that’s the best they can do.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Most campaign finance law violations — especially the ones punished with a civil fine — involve simple, negligent reporting or bookkeeping errors.

      This situation with Trump and Cohen is a horse of a different hue. Trump paid pornstar Stormy Daniels (and had his National Enquirer buddy David Pecker pay playmate Karen McDougal) hush-money for the specific purpose of preventing the American electorate from learning information damaging to his campaign — indeed, information that might well have been fatal to his campaign had it been disclosed so hard on the heels of the release of the “Access Hollywood” hot-mic tape.

      Trump then laundered the funds used by having Michael Cohen pay the hush-money out of his home-equity credit-line and reimbursing Cohen per a bogus “retainer” agreement. Trump continued to make these bogus payments even after becoming the sitting president, apparently via checks he signed in the Oval Office.

      Don’t listen to the Trump apologists trying to pass this off as a garden-variety campaign-finance violation or as a mere — their newfound favorite neologism — “process” crime.

      • Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        I agree but still think it isn’t going to impeach him. He would undoubtedly argue that he was hiding the affairs from his wife, not voters. It’s BS, of course, but it would certainly be used by the GOP as cover for their complicity.

        I find the hiding of the Trump Tower deal from voters a much bigger deal. I don’t see how he can dodge that one, though perhaps that is not a violation of any law but certainly a breach with voters. Still, I doubt his base or the GOP in Congress would care about that either.

        While still waiting for Mueller’s report, I suspect the best we can hope for getting rid of Trump is that sufficient number of voters defect from his side based on the overwhelming evidence against him. In 2016, many weren’t absolutely sure of how bad Trump would be, me included. That won’t be the case in 2020.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 28, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

          “… I suspect the best we can hope for getting rid of Trump is that sufficient number of voters defect from his side based on the overwhelming evidence against him.”

          Trump doesn’t have all that many voters on his side to lose. He pulled off a big upset in the electoral college in 2016 (despite losing the popular vote by a record 3 million votes). This seems to have made many of us who would like to be rid of him once-bitten, twice-shy regarding his prospects for reelection.

          Since taking office, Trump’s favorability rating in polls as been remarkably stable at between 36 and 44 percent. Excepting for some outlier polls with a well-demonstrated Republican bias, he’s never once had a favorability above 50%, or an unfavorable rating below that number. No incumbent president has ever been reelected with such dismal numbers. Such numbers make it all but impossible for him to win a two-candidate race (viz., one without a viable third-party option to siphon off Democratic voters).

          Trump’s numbers remain high, however, among the 40% or so of the American electorate that identifies as Republican. As a result, pusillanimous Republican officeholders, whose only allegiance is to their own political fortunes, are terrified to take him on, for fear of incurring the wrath of Trump’s white-nationalist base and drawing an extremist primary opponent. To avoid that end, they’ve demonstrated themselves willing to sacrifice the principles Republicans have traditionally claimed to hold dear.

          • Posted February 28, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

            No incumbent president has ever been reelected with such dismal numbers.

            His approval rating is higher than Ronald Reagan’s was at this point in his presidency. He’s also only a couple of points behind where Bill Clinton was.

            Whilst I think losing the 2020 election is the only way you are going to avoid having him for two terms, I’m not as confident as you are that he will lose.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

              The key is that Trump has NEVER been over 50% for his entire presidency — never been as high as the 46% he “won” with in 2016. And recent polls indicate that half the US electorate is unlikely to vote for Trump under any circumstances in 2016 — this, without yet having a presumptive Democratic nominee, or even a legitimate Democratic front-runner. Unlike his predecessors who have recovered from a dip in poll numbers, Trump has shown no signs of doing anything, or even of having any inclination to do anything, to expand his base.

              • Posted March 1, 2019 at 7:08 am | Permalink

                Historical numbers really aren’t important though. The numbers that count are those in play on election day. I agree that it is very hard to see Trump’s numbers getting much better, but it was hard to see Trump getting the GOP nomination and it was also hard to see Trump winning in 2016 (which he did in spite of being the least popular of the two main candidates).

                Sorry, but historical data is no guarantee of future performance.

              • Posted March 1, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

                The latest in the Twitterverse says that Trump is only running for re-election in order to put off the day when he will be exposed to the machinations of the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York. No more “sitting President”, no more protection.

              • Mike Anderson
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

                FWIW the polls in 2016 were “right” (within their stated margin of error). Post election analysis by Nate Silver shows it was the Comey bombshell 11 days before the election that tipped things just enough for Trump to squeak out an electoral college win.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

                “… historical data is no guarantee of future performance.”

                Mebbe so, jeremy. But that’s still the way they handicap ’em in the Daily Racing Form. 🙂

          • Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I know but this is too serious to not be worried that Trump will pull off another miracle and/or the Dems will screw up even worse than in 2016. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      …”something both undeniable and so egregious that his base turns on him.”

      I can’t even imagine what that would be. He’s so far outside the norms and his base worships him. If he put out a hit on Cohen? He’d have a lame alibi that his base would buy. “Couldn’t have been me, I was on the golf course. Fake news.”

    • Jim Swetnam
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      I am more and more leaning to the side of no impeachment, and I’ve heard analysts on NPR comment that the Democratic leadership in the House is downplaying the idea. The case can be made that the Democrats in the House have enough raw meat now to keep serving up until the next election. Sad to say, we probably need another circus. So, let us heap the ordure the the GOP has created onto their own heads, and down their throats. Give them no excuse to throw it back. We need to recover the Presidency and Senate both. And Dog save us from Pence. And really, at some point the Dems should make the case to the electorate that it is the GOP that has become corrupt, not just Trump.

      • Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Impeachment is way too risky. If impeachment fails it would give Trump a completely unnecessary boost. It will also take quite a while and Trump would almost be out of office anyway even if impeachment is successful. If the evidence for impeachment is strong enough, we don’t actually need the impeachment. Just vote him out in 2020. Furthermore, if he was successfully impeached, the GOP would run someone else in 2020. Far better to let Trump run and lose.

        • Posted February 28, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          + 1

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 28, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          I think those who view impeachment as too risky are generalizing too hastily from a sample size of one — Bill Clinton, in 1999.

          If all Democrats have is a campaign-finance law violation, I would agree. But if Democrats have got the goods — as I believe they do regarding obstruction of justice, and I believe they likely will regarding a conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election (and, perhaps, many other “high crimes and misdemeanors”) — they should proceed with impeachment in the House of Representatives.

          Make the Republicans in the senate — including the 22 up for reelection in 2020 — take a stand for Trump in the face of deleterious evidence. To have the nation see evidence of Trump’s perfidy laid bare day after day, and see Republicans’ gutlessness in addressing it, will serve only to improve Democratic prospects for 2020.

          To do otherwise would demonstrate the Democrats’ own political cowardice.

          • randallschenck
            Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for that return to reality and actual thought. It seems after each new bit of information all of the negative thinkers come out to say – can’t do it. Don’t impeach.

            One thing to note first about the Cohen visit to congress yesterday – this was the first time in the last 2 plus years and would not have happened had the democrats not taken the House. What that means is, all the republicans have been obstructing since day one. Those days are now over. They spent all day yesterday continuing to haul water for the crook and chief. What does that tell us? That pretty well paid congressmen and women are protecting Trump on our dime. Does anyone really care that this has been the story for the past two years. Apparently not.

            I do not know about others here but for me, the rule of law and getting to the truth is a damn sight more important than lying and making an ass out of yourself on television. This whole session yesterday also continues to confirm – democrats can and will be their own worst enemy.

            When they have enough to impeach then they should impeach. Do the right thing not what is political cover. Impeachment should be a duty, not a political statement.

            • GBJames
              Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

              Do you think the duty is to go through the formality of impeachment or to build a case for impeachment that will result in conviction? The two are not the same thing.

              • randallschenck
                Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

                The duty of every member of the congress is to uphold or protect and defend the constitution. If you know and have evidence that the president is doing damage to the constitution and rule of law then you should act. Formality has nothing to do with it.

                I realize this is a bridge to far for many politicians, especially the republicans who already gave up all moral standing but that is it.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

                You and I are on the same side here, but I’m far more interested in removing tRump from office than I am in simply impeaching him. The case has to be built so strong that enough Republican Senators will be forced to cooperate. We’ve seen the value of impeachment for the sake of it. Impeaching tRump without the ability to convict will further empower him.

              • Harrison
                Posted February 28, 2019 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

                From where I’m standing the best case scenario is that Republicans don’t remove Trump but the case against him is so strong the voters remove the Republicans. For good.

            • Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

              First, although I doubt impeachment will make sense for the reasons I already stated above, I still want to see Trump, et al investigated to the hilt and it all publicly aired as much as possible. Second, my fear is that impeachment by its nature is a political act and it will always be regarded as partisan. I doubt very much we are going to discover enough wrongdoing that both GOP and Dems want impeachment. We all know that most of the GOP, politicians and voters, will back him no matter what. I want to see the voters give thumbs down to Trump, not a political battle in Congress that barely squeaks by. The voters need to send a message to those politicians, and voters who still support Trump, that we are simply not having anything more to do with Trump’s vision of the world. We won’t have that with impeachment.

              • randallschenck
                Posted February 28, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                I think if you review the Nixon and Clinton examples you will see partisan politics in the Clinton case but not so in the Nixon example. In the Clinton example they determined that lying about sex with the intern does not make impeachment. However, in Nixon it was conspiracy, lying, cover up and maybe more. Nixon was told by his own party he would be impeached so he gave it up.

              • Posted February 28, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

                Sure but those were different times. If the GOP turns on Trump, then it will similar to the Nixon situation. I just don’t see that happening. His supporters don’t really care what he does. I suspect that it wouldn’t matter if he admitted colluding with Russia, adding simply “I did what I needed to do to become President so I could fight for you.” Do you think that they wouldn’t go along with that?

              • randallschenck
                Posted February 28, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

                My guess would be no they won’t stay with him if the proof is there. Remember in the Nixon case it was the actual tapes showing he was part of the scheme. Also, remember it is the Senate that votes, not the people. But all I am saying is…do what is right, not what is popular or what the people believe. Act like McCain, not like a bunch of sheep.

              • Posted February 28, 2019 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

                If they gather enough evidence to bring the GOP on their side, then fine. But if not, a losing impeachment is definitely worse than no impeachment. I’m all for doing the right thing but it isn’t like impeachment puts Trump in jail. If the Dems said “We have ground for impeachment here but we would rather have the voters throw him, and all that he represents, out of office in order to make a clear, bipartisan statement to the world that we won’t tolerate this kind of behavior in a President. Once the voters have spoken, the many other investigations and prosecutions against the Trump crime family may proceed.”

              • Jim Swetnam
                Posted February 28, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

                “Once the voters have spoken, the many other investigations and prosecutions against the Trump crime family may proceed.”

                I think you’ve got it. The longer the House investigates and the more dirt uncovered the liklier it is that justice in some form or another will be served.

    • Mark Jones
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Someone said the only thing that would bring Trump down in the eyes of the faithful is if it was discovered he was in fact a liberal, whose real wife is a brilliant (male) academic of his own age, and his golf trips are just a cover for his frequent humanitarian trips to Africa.

    • Jim Danielson
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      I get the feeling there is very little Trump could do that Republicans and his supporters wouldn’t ignore if given the flimsiest excuse.

  6. rom
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    What I don’t understand is: the republicans’ grandstanding that on Cohen’s supposed pathological lying.

    He was Trump’s lawyer for ten years, this is the skill set for which Trump hired Cohen? How does this reflect on Trump? And don’t the Republicans see the problem with this line of attack?

    • darrelle
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. The Republicans trying to dismiss Cohen as a liar and hoping no one notices that the lies they are talking about were told by Cohen to protect Trump would be comically lame, except for one thing. Trump’s loyal troops swallowed it so fast they’ve been repeating it constantly since the 1st Republican Representative uttered it. Trumpers are immune to anything anyone can say against Trump, no matter how well supported by good evidence.

    • Posted February 28, 2019 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I keep going over how ironically funny that was. He was a lawyer. Donald Trump’s lawyer! And his harsh critics are politicians. Oh, the irony.

  7. Bruce J. Cochrane
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Two points. First, the article is spot on regarding the need for the involvement of counsel on all sides. In the Senate Watergate hearings of 1973, much of the questioning was done by the majority and minority counsels, Sam Dash and Fred Thompson. And at least one committee member (Daniel Inouye) had great legal skills as well.

    Second, regarding AOC, I would use the term “immaturity” rather than “hubris and narcissism”, and immaturity is something that can be outgrown. And this isn’t the first time she’s shown her skill as a questioner – she did so a couple of weeks ago with respect to campaign finance reform – see https://youtu.be/PT6QEN8wVMY

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Congresspeople are notoriously bad cross-examiners. Even the ones who are lawyers generally lack trial experience. And the ones who have some trial experience are usually former prosecutors, who haven’t had much opportunity to ply the art and science of cross-examination, since most defense counsel prefer to avoid presenting a defense case-in-chief where possible, particularly when it comes to exposing their clients to cross-examination.

  9. Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts are that the issues raised by Cohen in his testimony were all known before yesterday, and many known before the 2016 election. And they should be dealt with be federal and state prosecutors. That process is ongoing now in the New York state system and in the Federal Courts in Southern New York. Whether Trump will be inducted or convicted will depend on the evidence found that will be admissible in court.
    Yesterday was a sad day for tge ciuntry. No one came out looking good, except AOC. I was really impressed by how she handled her time and her questions.
    There us a high possibility that Trump will be convicted. If he is indicted while still in office it will be interesting to see if he is rdmved from office by congress. I would not like to see that happen because I believe Pence would be worse than Trump.
    The writing in the wall U see now us the barring removal from office Trump will be elected. I do not see anything the democrats have put forward so far that would be ebavke them to win the White House in 2020 against Trump or any other candidate they are likely to run, with the exception of Pence.

    • Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      The writing on the wall now I see us that barring removal of Trump from office Trump dill be re-elected.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        I fear you might be right. Unless…
        Mueller might confirm what was found in the Steele dossier.
        Despite it being vilified, I know of no instance where that dossier has been proven wrong (Note that the Steele dossier was quite skeptical about the peepee tapes). Even if only half of it were true, it is deeply damaging: the frequency and character of the contacts of Mr Trump with the Russian mafia government agencies, his incorporation into the ‘sistema’, his being in their pocket. Hence it is far from inconceivable that Mr Mueller might find just that.
        I doubt if the Republicans will continue to support Mr Trump if that becomes incontrovertible, even for them that would be -I hope- one bridge too far.

        • rustybrown
          Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          The Steele dossier has been widely discredited. The only things verified in it are ho-hum facts that were common public knowledge. None of its wild allegations have been proven true.

          “Note that the Steele dossier was quite skeptical about the peepee tapes”

          Are you kidding? It was the Steele dossier that alleged the existence of the pee tapes. Now you’re saying they’re the ones who are skeptical of it? You’re not only wrong, you’re 180 degrees wrong.

          • Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            Actually, it has been commented by many that nothing in the Steele Dossier has yet been disproven. In fact, more items in it match up with newly discovered facts. Here’s one reference:

            “The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.”

            https://www.lawfareblog.com/steele-dossier-retrospective

            • rustybrown
              Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

              “Actually, it has been commented by many that nothing in the Steele Dossier has yet been disproven.”

              Yeah? How about Cohen’s trip to Prague? How’s that holding up?

              • Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

                Hasn’t been disproven yet. Cohen said he didn’t go but he’s lied before, right?

            • rustybrown
              Posted March 1, 2019 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

              Well, there’s other means of verifying the trip, itineraries, passports, international records, etc. but so far the vast resources put into investigating the matter have produced goose eggs.

              Also, think about it, if the trip happened, why would he lie about it now? He’s clearly turned against Trump and is playing ball with Mueller. There’s no doubt that if he (Cohen) could testify that he went to Prague at the behest of Trump’s plans to collude with Russia he could leverage that information into leniency for his own part in it, no? That information would be the Holy Grail of the entire conspiracy.

              Let me also point out that you guys are engaging in the logical fallacy of asking your opposition to disprove a negative. I can’t disprove Santa exists and I can’t disprove Cohen went to Prague to meet with the Russians. But based on the evidence, neither is likely.

              • Posted March 1, 2019 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

                I think the point really is that nothing really hinges on the existence or non-existence of this Prague trip. You are only pointing to it because Cohen denied going. So what? If this is the only straw you can grasp, it is pathetic. Even if the Steele Dossier turns out to be wrong on this item, it hardly makes a difference. You can pretend that finding one thing wrong in the dossier proves the whole thing is fake but it’s just not the case. Any report of that nature is unlikely to get everything right. Perhaps it was some other Trump henchman that make the Prague trip.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 2, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

                So I point out that several tenets of the silly Russian collusion narrative have just been debunked and I’m the one grasping at straws?

                That doesn’t make sense.

                In case you haven’t noticed, the anti-Trump establishment has been furiously backpedaling from this Russia collusion nonsense because it’s expected the Mueller report will soon show there is no good evidence for it, despite massive time, effort, and resources devoted to uncovering it.

                Here’s an article to help you bone-up on the talking points for how to spin a nothing burger into a Resistance win. This lemonade is pretty bitter, but it might have to do:

                http://time.com/5540879/trump-mueller-report-investigation-collusion/

              • Posted March 2, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                You are right. The Mueller report does seem unlikely to produce the smoking gun we’re looking for. Of course, we don’t really know what’s in it yet.

                Still, we are mystified as to why Trump behaves as he does toward Russia and Putin. Was it solely because he still wanted to make the Trump Tower Moscow deal? He acts like a Russian asset. All our intelligence services have evidence that Russia hacked our elections but Trump doesn’t care. He hasn’t lifted a finger to prevent it from happening in the future. Is this solely because Russia helped him win the election? If you argue that Russia’s help wasn’t effective then is Trump friendly towards them solely because they wanted him to win?

                Trump is by far the most corrupt and immoral President we’ve had. Impeachment is unlikely to be effective for many reasons. It is far better to vote him out of office and let the various investigations put him and the rest of his criminal empire behind bars. I can’t see anyone wanting to pardon him. He’s a black mark on US history.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

                The notion that Trump is soft on Russia is a myth. The list of actions he’s taken against Putin is lengthy, ongoing, and a matter of public record (your’e just not going to hear about it on CNN or MSNBC). Trump’s currently opposing Russia in Venezuela, an area of strategic importance to Putin. If Trump were in Putin’s pocket, there are dozens of ways he could aid him in that arena, inaction being the most obvious.

                Improved relations with Russia was in Trump’s platform. He campaigned on the issue and was elected. And smoothing relations with Russia is by no means unprecedented. Remember Hillary’s “reset button”? Remember GW Bush “looking into Putin’s soul” and seeing a good man? Remember Obama being caught on a hot mic telling the Kremlin he’ll have more flexibility dealing with Russia after his pesky election was over? (Jesus, imagine if Trump had said that. The left would be calling for a firing squad on the White House lawn) Were you outraged at any of those things? I doubt it, because the propaganda machine wasn’t telling you nightly that you should be.

                It would baffle me how adamantly the left has been yearning to reignite the cold war these past couple of years if I didn’t understand the power of propaganda. Understanding this, I just find it sad.

              • Mike Anderson
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

                Remember Hillary’s “reset button”? Remember GW Bush “looking into Putin’s soul” and seeing a good man? Remember Obama being caught on a hot mic telling the Kremlin he’ll have more flexibility dealing with Russia after his pesky election was over?

                More whataboutism. All of the above happened before Russia invaded Ukraine.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                Mike, The term “whataboutism” is often misused, as you’re doing here. In my opinion, it’s not whataboutism to point out a contradiction if it’s directly related to and advances what’s being discussed.

                In this case, Paul is deeply concerned about Trump’s so-called friendliness with Russia. It’s perfectly valid to question why similar friendliness recently displayed by many other administrations rang no such alarm bells. Also, my comparison was made in relation to the way the different events were covered by the media, another valid point to explore.

              • Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

                Now that’s whataboutism!

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

                Now that’s trolling!

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

                It’s difficult to argue with people who can’t follow logical reasoning.

                Paul and Mike: Our new high school principle suspends students at a 20% rate! That’s shocking and we’re very upset about this!

                Rusty: Er, the past several principles at our school have suspended students at a remarkably similar rate. See, look here…

                Paul and Mike (in unison): WHATABOUTISM!!

              • Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

                You misunderstand what-about-ism. It is not that what you are claiming about the past is not true (though it may be) but that you think that stating something that was true in the past makes it equivalent with something superficially similar to some other event.

                For example, no one disputes that Hillary had an email problem. Let’s even call it a “crime”, though not put on trial for any. However to argue that her crime in the past equates with Trump’s crimes in the present is what-about-ism and a ridiculous mode of argument. Each “crime” must be taken by itself in terms of its severity. To pretend otherwise is what-about-ism and is used to distract from a discussion by making a false equivalence.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

                “(Rusty) think(s) that stating something that was true in the past makes it equivalent with something superficially similar to some other event.”

                Not at all. You might have a point if the events I were pointing out (administrations making friendly overtures to Russia) were “superficially” similar, but they’re not. They’re directly comparable, hence worthy of being compared.

                See, you could try to argue the differences between the events as you see them but to simply bleat “whataboutism!” is lame.

                By your lights, apparently, pointing out a double standard is NEVER valid. Any time someone points out a double standard, no matter how blatant, it’s whataboutism. That’s ridiculous. You’re free to think that way if you like but I’ll continue to consider identifying direct double standards a worthy item of debate.

                I agree with your second paragraph because the crimes you describe are completely different. That’s a much better description of whataboutism, it just doesn’t relate to the direct comparisons I was making.

              • rickflick
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

                Whataboutery:
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TejoMjHk3x0

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

                Oy, Oliver is such a tool. His entire schtick is fanaticism, bad reasoning, and maliciously edited clips. Can’t believe I used to like him. But, like so many elements of the left, he toppled over the brink after Trump’s election.

    • GBJames
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Evidence matters. (holds up big image of payoff check made from the White House)

  10. Historian
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The NYT has a nice commentary on AOC’s performance. In contrast to most of her bloviating colleagues, particularly Republicans, she asked pertinent questions that could lead to further investigations. Listening to the Republicans became a total bore. Just how many times could Cohen be called a liar?

  11. Filippo
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    “Michael Cohen . . . needed a trial lawyer to rein in . . . his tendency to take cheap shots at his detractors . . . to tell him not to bait the politicians even if they deserved it . . . .”

    Notwithstanding that the system is adversarial, I think judges need to similarly “advise” popinjay attorneys and rein in their provoking and badgering behavior in court. The same for bloviating politicians in committee hearings. Why should attorneys and committee members be held (by juries and the public) to a standard of deportment and behavior significantly less than that required of a witness?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 28, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Righto.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I thought the gentleman from Baltimore, House oversight committee chairman Elijah Cummings, was a badass yesterday. Gave a helluva impromptu speech at the end. And he ran that hearing. Like a boss. 🙂

  13. BJ
    Posted February 28, 2019 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Credit where credit is due: of all the Dems I saw, AOC did by far the best job. Unfortunately, most politicians on either side of the aisle are more concerned with making themselves look good through grand statements and speechifying than actually doing their jobs. The Dems had a great opportunity and, like they usually do, mostly squandered it.

    But, at least this time, it was only mostly and not completely.

  14. Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    You need to get over your centrist bias against AOC and millennials Jerry, it’s just making you look old and out of touch. She shows every sign of being intelligent, cunning, charismatic and progressive, and will be a counter to the useless politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. She is the most pro science politician to advocate for stopping global warming since Al Gore went to make documentaries.

    • Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      Hello, rude person making their first comment without reading the Roolz! This will also be your last comment. Sorry, but I have given my reasons for disliking her, including her narcissism, lack of overendowment of neurons, love of the limelight, and anti-Semitism, which you apparently don’t care about. She also acts and speaks without thinking. As I’ve already said, I agree with many of her policies, but dislike her narcissism and tendency to shoot from the hip. As I did in this post, I praise her when she does something good. And I’ll do it again when I approve of what she does.
      I don’t find her charismatic, and nothing you say can make me sign onto that at the present. “Cunning,” on the other hand, is a good word.

      You need to get over your rudeness and insulting comments, and you need to learn how to make a point without insulting the host. You will not be doing that here from now on.

    • Posted March 1, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      I didn’t get from our host any kind of bias against AOC, only pushback against some of her more outrageous statements. I think she is smart, energetic, and means well. We just need to praise her when she does well and push back when she doesn’t. A good example of the latter is when she said this in an interview after being caught in a fib:

      “There’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

      She needs to understand that being truthful is part of being morally right.

    • Filippo
      Posted March 2, 2019 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . just making you look old and out of touch.”

      Assuming you’re possibly still looking at this thread, what is your age? What maximum age do you intend not to live beyond so as to avoid having some future youngster similarly, omnisciently, and presumptuously hurl the word “old” at you yourself? What does being “old” bloody have to do with the matter anyway? Pray, tell, at what age does one become “old”?

      And what do you mean by “out of touch”? Out of touch with whatever fatuous and shallow trends/fads/conceits/piffle prevailing at a given time in the wet finger-to-the-wind mass pop Amuricun culture? It’s a “white noise” locution, like “relevant,” when used without an object.

  15. Chris H
    Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Although I disagree with him on some topics, Ken White is always an interesting read/listen, and I’ve had endless fun with the Popehat blog. He’s been close to the money with a lot of this Trump investigation, and this article isn’t much different.

    RE: AOC. I like her. I think that she’s doing pretty well for a new politician because a) she seems to be relatively honest & enthusuistic b) to steal a phrase she lives rent-free in her opponents heads (and doesn’t rise to them) and c) she doesn’t feel the need to grandstand on TV so gets down to the straight questions. I hope that she does well.

  16. Posted March 1, 2019 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    AOC is 29. Remember being 29? Gawd forbid all the foolish things I said and did at that age (and last week) were a matter of record, let alone my responses to being under that sort of pressure and exposure. She’s doing great. She can be slow and methodocial when needed. As here. She can be enthusiastic and morale building when needed. I’ll hazard a guess (and I’ll back it with a bet, like I did with Der Drumpf) that within a decade, if she carries on like this, she will be president.

    • Posted March 1, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Seeing what sort of people can become presidents, I wouldn’t be surprised :-(.

  17. rustybrown
    Posted March 1, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Little attention in the mainstream press about how Cohen’s testimony weakened the Russian collusion narrative.

    And the goalposts are unceremoniously moved.

    • Posted March 1, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Not at all true. Cohen said he didn’t know about Russian collusion but he had his suspicions. While it might be nice for us Dems if he had damning evidence, this doesn’t at all clear anyone.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted March 1, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      To those who understand English, Cohen’s testimony didn’t weaken the Russia collusion case at all. Cohen said he had no direct evidence of it, which in no way denies it.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted March 1, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Cohen’s testimony weakened the Russian collusion narrative.

      Not if you understand English. Cohen said he had no direct evidence of Trump colluding with Russia. That doesn’t weaken the narrative, it just doesn’t add to it.

      • rustybrown
        Posted March 1, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Cohen’s testimony discredited several substantial tenets of the collision hoax. Here are four of them:

        https://www.foxnews.com/politics/michael-cohen-testimony-undermines-russia-collusion-narrative-tucker-carlson-says

        Remember, this is the guy who was in Trump’s immediate circle who during the time the collusion was supposedly taking place. Cohen was his fixer, in on the dirty hands business of the campaign, and he was also dealing with Russia. If there was collusion, he would have almost certainly known about it.

        Your conviction combined with a paucity of evidence reminds me very much of religious faith, which is pretty embarrassing for this crowd.

        • Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          Cohen was Trump’s fixer. There’s no reason that he would have knowledge of collusion with Russia or whether some pee tape exists.

          And quoting Tucker Carlson as your source? Now we know where you get your misinformation from.

          Of course Cohen was a Trump fan. Right up until he realized being close to Trump was going to land him in jail. Mobsters are fans of their bosses until they’re not. Haven’t you seen this in the movies? Perhaps Tucker Carlson hasn’t seen any mob movies.

          Bottom line: Cohen’s lack of knowledge on specific subjects that didn’t involve him doesn’t prove or disprove anything.

        • Mike Anderson
          Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          Citing Faux News – perfect!

          • rustybrown
            Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

            As I’ve already stated, Cohen almost certainly would have known about collusion with Russia because he was a fixer when it was allegedly happening and he was dealing with Russia. If Russian collusion was occurring, he would have either had his hands in it or would have known about it to the extent that he could implicate others. And, by the way, that is also the theory (that Cohen is going to have incriminating evidence of collusion) that the left has been breathlessly reporting and believing for two years. Now that that theory is proven bullshit the talking point becomes, “Well, he probably wouldn’t have known about it anyway.” Embarrassing.

            Also, impugning a source rather that impugn the information therein reveals a weakness on your part. That’s simply bad reasoning.

            • Mike Anderson
              Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

              Cohen almost certainly would have known about collusion with Russia because he was a fixer when it was allegedly happening and he was dealing with Russia.

              You’re just making a guess. If that makes you feel better, so be it.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

                Hey pal, it’s what the left has been guessing for two years and they’ve just been proven wrong. Keep up the faith, though!

              • Mike Anderson
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

                From wild guesses to whataboutism – your on a roll, Rusty.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                That several tenets of the Russian collusion conspiracy narrative have been weakened and the media is ignoring that was the topic of my original post, not “whataboutism”. I guess you don’t know what that term means.

              • Mike Anderson
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

                That several tenets of the Russian collusion conspiracy narrative have been weakened

                No, they’re actually growing stronger as more info on Manafort’s activities are revealed.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

                Well, by “weakened” I was referring directly in relation to Cohen’s testimony (obviously).

                But I’m interested, which of Manafort’s activities have strengthened the Trump/Russia collusion theory?

              • Mike Anderson
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

                In 2016 Manafort gave polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

                Meh. We’ll see. My guess is that bombshell will fizzle out like so many others.

            • Posted March 1, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

              I don’t remember anyone saying that Cohen had direct knowledge of Russia collusion. For one thing, he wasn’t part of the campaign. What you may be confused about is that many wanted Cohen to testify because he was one of Trump’s most inside people. He knows who in the organization is responsible for what. This is what was so good about AOC’s questioning of Cohen this week. After asking Cohen if he knew of something, and him denying direct knowledge, she followed up by asking who in the organization would have such knowledge and who has what documents. She even asked whether Trump’s tax returns would shed light on something, to which Cohen assented. This gives input and justification for further investigation.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

                “I don’t remember anyone saying that Cohen had direct knowledge of Russia collusion.”

                Then what was the significance of all the fevered speculation about Cohen’s trip to Prague (now shown to be fake news)? Why was everybody on the left so interested in the alleged trip?

                Because it was part of the conspiracy theory that he went there to collude with the Russians.

                You’re the one who’s confused.

              • Posted March 1, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

                If Cohen went to Prague perhaps it was involved with Russian collusion. That’s still possible, right? Cohen saying he didn’t is not proof. Even if he didn’t, it is not like Trump involved with Russia hinges much on it. You are grabbing at straws.

              • rustybrown
                Posted March 1, 2019 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

                Projection. See my response to you above. Cohen’s testimony combined with the available evidence AND common sense indicate that you’re the one grasping at straws. I’m just pointing out that you have fewer to grasp than you did yesterday morning.


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