Before Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress on Wednesday, pundits were split over whether the hearing would be a bonanza for those looking for damaging information about President Donald Trump or a total let down. It turned out to be a blockbuster performance.
Despite his agreements with prosecutors to hold back on ongoing investigations — including some that he said directly involve the president — Cohen’s testimony implicated Trump in at least five felonies, according to analysis from Max Bergmann of the Moscow Project and Max Boot of the Washington Post.
Bergmann cited the first four crimes:
1. “Conspiracy to defraud the US (knowledge of Stone/Wikileaks email dump)”
“In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone,” Cohen said. “Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
It’s not clear if there will if Stone, WikiLeaks, or Assange will be charged with a conspiracy to defraud the United States, though some prosecutors say that the elements of the case point to that eventuality. However, Cohen’s testimony implies that, if this charge does materialize, Trump himself may be a party to the conspiracy.
2. “Lying to FBI/Special Counsel (false answers on Stone/Wikileaks and Don Jr./Trump Tower)”
Cohen’s testimony above says directly that Trump spoke Stone about WikiLeaks, even though CNN has reported that he told the opposite to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in written testimony. Cohen also said that, while he is not positive, it is overwhelmingly likely that Donald Trump Jr. told his father about the meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. CNN has also reported that Trump claimed the opposite to the special counsel.
3. “Suborning perjury (approving Cohen’s false testimony to Congress)”
Cohen said his false testimony to Congress wasn’t explicitly directed by the president but that Trump had made it clear to him through his public lies that he did not want the truth to be known. Perhaps most damning, though, was when Cohen said that his false statement was made in cooperation with the president’s lawyer Jay Sekulow. If Sekulow was acting on Trump’s orders to get Cohen to lie, that could implicate the president in a crime.
4. “Campaign finance (hush money payment)”
This was the crime for which Cohen was already on the record implicating the president. When he confessed to arranging two hush money payments last year as part of a criminal campaign finance scheme during the 2016 campaign, he said he carried out the plot at Trump’s direction. Now, he has presented Congress with a check, signed by Trump, that shows the president’s repayment for this scheme while in office. One Republican tried to poke holes in Cohen’s story, noting that the check could have been for legal services or some legitimate payment; Cohen, though, noted that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, has already confirmed that the president paid Cohen back for the hush money payment.
And Boot, in a column for the Post, noted the fifth potential crime:
5. “Bank, wire and tax fraud”
“Cohen testified that Trump inflated his assets to win bank loans and deflated them to reduce his taxes — precisely the kind of scheme for which Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is now facing lengthy prison time,” wrote Boot. “And Cohen added that he knew of other offenses that federal prosecutors are still investigating.”