House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been careful to avoid talk of impeaching President Donald Trump, stressing that it is imperative for Democrats to be patient and see what Special Counsel Robert Mueller has to say in the final report for his Russia investigation. But journalist Jonathan Chait believes that after the February 27 testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, before the House Oversight Committee, it’s not a question of whether or not Trump will be impeached—it’s a matter of when.
In a late February piece written for New York Magazine, Chait outlines some of the reasons why he believes Cohen’s testimony was so damning. Chait opens the article by describing the theory that if Mueller is “almost done” with his final report, he “couldn’t have much more, and none of it” will “touch Trump directly.” But Cohen’s testimony, Chait stresses, “destroys that presumption completely.”
“Trump’s former fixer alleges not only systematic criminality by his former boss, but deep culpability in the Russia scandal itself,” Chait stresses. “There is no longer any serious chance that Trump will avoid impeachment proceedings. Cohen’s testimony should be seen as the first hearing.”
For example, Chait notes, “Cohen has evidence in the form of signed checks that Trump knowingly violated campaign finance law by reimbursing him for payments to Stormy Daniels during the campaign. Trump signed the reimbursement checks that violated campaign finance law as a sitting president.”
Chait quickly adds, however, that “the most damning details in Cohen’s testimony concern the Russia scandal.” Cohen’s evidence, Chait writes, that Trump knew about a 2016 meeting between his associates and “Russian operatives” is “highly circumstantial, yet persuasive.” Moreover, Chait says, Cohen testified “that Trump knew about the attempts to develop a tower in Moscow, asked about the project repeatedly, and stood to gain ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ from the deal. So Trump was secretly beholden to Russia while he was running for president, and none of this was disclosed to the public during the campaign.”
Cohen, Chait points out, also testified that Trump “directed him to lie to Congress” about the Trump Tower Moscow project. And “most explosively,” Chait says, Cohen testified that he was in Trump’s office in 2016 when he spoke to veteran GOP operative Roger Stone on the phone—and Stone told him he had just spoken to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange about plans to publish a “dump” of e-mails that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Chait writes, “This is the final link in the chain between Trump and Russia. Robert Mueller’s indictments have outlined a conspiracy connecting Russian intelligence to the hackers who stole Democratic e-mails, the hackers to WikiLeaks, and WikiLeaks to Stone. Cohen is now connecting Trump to Stone.”
Chait concludes his piece by asserting that impeachment of Trump is not a possibility—it is inevitable.
“The depth and breadth of credible allegations against the president are now on a scale at which it will not do to let them go without further investigation,” Chait writes. “Regardless of whatever additional evidence Mueller finds, Congress will surely start impeachment hearings to get to the bottom of it.”