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Why Donald Trump Jr. Should Be Worried by Michael Cohen’s Testimony

Trump’s fixer puts the president’s son at the scene of a crime with a “smoking gun”

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13:  Donald Trump Jr. attends the Zang Toi runway show in Gallery II in Spring Studios during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Spring Studios on February 13, 2019 in New York City.  (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images)

Donald Trump Jr., February 2019 in New York City.

Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Michael Cohen’s testimony Wednesday was by turns explosive and chilling, as the president’s former fixer detailed crimes he committed to help put Trump into office, and warned the world, in his closing statement, that Trump might not leave the White House without a fight: “I fear that if he loses the election in 2020,” Cohen said, “that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen’s full-day testimony before the House Oversight Committee was tough on the president, whom Cohen described as a “racist,” a “con man,” and a “cheat.” But Cohen also opened the behavior of Donald Trump Jr. to public scrutiny. Trump Jr., 41, was a key member of his father’s presidential campaign, is a top executive of the Trump Organization and, with his brother Eric, administers the trust that now controls the president’s fortune.

In his opening testimony, Cohen told Congress that he believes he witnessed Trump Jr. walk behind his father’s desk to tell then-candidate Trump about an infamous meeting with Russian operatives who were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. “Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world,” Cohen told the committee. “Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father.”

In addition to linking Trump to this matter of possible collusion with the Russians, Cohen also yoked the younger Trump to the hush-money scandal, for which Cohen is now heading to prison. (Cohen is also guilty of lying in previous testimony to Congress and of various financial crimes.)

In late October 2016, Cohen fronted the payment used to silence porn star Stormy Daniels about her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen has revealed that he was repaid for this expenditure over the course of many months in $35,000 checks, which were characterized by Trump and his closest associates as a retainer for legal services — a lie.

Cohen presented Congress with exhibits, including two of these checks. One was signed by President Trump himself. “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 told the committee. And another check for the same amount, Cohen testified under oath, was “signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg,” the CFO of the Trump Organization.

Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) seized on this revelation in his questioning of Cohen, in which he also got Cohen to identify Trump Jr. as the likely “Executive 2” named in the “criminal information” filed by prosecutors in Cohen’s case last August.

The exchange with Rep. Khanna is extraordinary, and worth quoting at length:

Rep. Khanna: Mr. Cohen, I want to focus my attention on the smoking gun document you have provided this committee. This document is compelling evidence of federal and state crimes including fraud. You provided this committee with a check from “President Donald J. Trump – Revocable Trust Account,” which is marked as exhibit 5b. It’s a check for $35,000 and it is dated March 17, 2017, after the president took office… Did you think it was odd that he paid you once though his personal account then he paid you through this scheme of a trust?

Michael Cohen: I’ll be honest, I was just happy to get the check.

Rep. Khanna: Today you testified that the [other] check was signed by Trump Jr. and the Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, is that correct?

Michael Cohen: That is correct.

Rep. Khanna: According to the criminal charges against you, you sent monthly invoices containing false information to an individual identified as “Executive 1.” Weisselberg is Executive 1, correct?

Michael Cohen: Yes.

Rep. Khanna: The criminal charge against you then states that “Executive 1” forwarded your invoice to someone referred to as “Executive 2” — presumably Donald Trump Jr. who is signing the check is “Executive 2,” correct?

Michael Cohen: I believe so.

Rep. Khanna: As federal prosecutors laid out in their criminal charges, payments like this check resulted in numerous false statements in the books and records of the Trump Organization. It’s important for the American public to understand. Nothing to do with collusion. This is financial fraud. Garden variety financial fraud. It was disguised as a payment for legal services to you, but this was not a payment for legal services, was it Mr. Cohen?

Michael Cohen: No, sir.

Rep. Khanna: It could give rise to serious state and federal criminal liability if a corporation is cooking its books. Based on your testimony today, Donald Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg directed the payment to you and approved it, is that right?

Michael Cohen: Mr. Trump initially acknowledged the obligation, the debt. Myself and Allen Weisselberg went back to his office and I was instructed by Allen at the time that they were going to do this over 12 installments. And what he decided to do then was was to have me send an invoice, in which case they can have a check cut. The answer would be yes….

Rep. Khanna: And Donald Trump Jr. obviously signed off on this?

Michael Cohen: Yes. Well It would either be Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr. and/or Allen Weisselberg, but always Allen Weisselberg on the check.

Rep. Khanna: And you think “Executive 2” is Donald Trump Jr.?

Michael Cohen: Yes.

Rep. Khanna: …the president was aware of this scheme, is that correct?

Michael Cohen: That is correct.

Rep. Khanna: I just want the American public to understand the explosive nature of your current testimony and this document. Are you telling us, Mr. Cohen, that the president directed transactions in conspiracy with Allen Weisselberg and his son Donald Trump Jr. as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud. Is that your testimony today?

Michael Cohen: Yes.

Rep. Khanna: And do you know if this criminal financial scheme that the president, Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. are involved in is being investigated by the Southern District of New York?

Michael Cohen: I’d rather not discuss that question because it could be part of an investigation that’s currently ongoing.

Rep. Khanna: I just want the American public to understand that totally apart Bob Mueller’s investigation there is garden variety financial fraud that your allegation and the smoking gun suggest the president, his son, and his CFO may be involved in a criminal conspiracy. And isn’t it true Mr. Cohen that this criminal conspiracy that involved four people, that there’s only one person so far that’s suffered repercussions and that’s why you’re in jail?

Michael Cohen: I’m going to jail yes.

Rep. Khanna: There’s three other people though who are equally involved in this conspiracy, is that true?

Michael Cohen: That is true.

Rep. Khanna: Thank you Mr. Cohen.

 

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