Federal investigators follow Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's questioning of Michael Cohen with new probe

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's line of questioning toward Michael Cohen may have opened the door to Trump's prosecution

Published March 7, 2019 6:35AM (EST)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Donald Trump; Michael Cohen (AP/Getty)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Donald Trump; Michael Cohen (AP/Getty)

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questioned former lawyer Michael Cohen about his knowledge of President Donald Trump's financial history, she may have laid the groundwork for future prosecution of the president.

State regulators from New York have subpoenaed documents from the Trump Organization's insurance broker, Aon PLC, with the company's spokeswoman saying that they intend to "cooperate with all regulatory bodies," according to The Washington Post. While it is unclear whether there is a direct correlation between the subpoenas and Ocasio-Cortez's line of questioning, her inquiries certainly built up a case toward looking into Trump's background.

"I want to ask a little bit about your conversation with my colleague from Missouri about asset inflation. To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?" Ocasio-Cortez asked Cohen, according to a transcript by Esquire. When Cohen confirmed that this was the case, Ocasio-Cortez pressed further.

"Who else knows that the president did this?" the New York congresswoman asked. Cohen replied, "Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari."

Ocasio-Cortez followed up by asking, "And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?"

"Yes, and you would find it at the Trump Org," Cohen responded.

According to Laurence H. Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, "it appears that Donald Trump made a practice of wildly exaggerating his wealth and the supposed business acumen that enabled him to amass it."

Tribe told Salon, "Although there are no legal and especially criminal consequences to that kind of exaggeration on reality television or in talking to journalists at places like Forbes in order to cheat one’s way onto various lists of the wealthiest people around, there are very serious criminal consequences indeed when such lies, in the form of fraudulent financial statements, are used either to extract loans from banks or to obtain insurance on favorable terms from various insurance companies."

He added, "It certainly looks like Michael Cohen’s sworn testimony to that effect – which he had no apparent motive to falsify and which, if false, would expose him to added federal imprisonment – points to criminal liability on the president’s part. I assume that both the federal prosecutors of the Southern District of New York and the prosecutors of the New York State Attorney General’s Office will pursue the truth to see whether Cohen’s testimony pans out and, if it does, to see whether the relevant statutes of limitations have run."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Alexandria Ocasio-cortez All Salon Donald Trump Laurence Tribe Michael Cohen News & Politics