Top 6 Trump Topics Cohen May Discuss In His February Congressional Testimony
Today’s top stories, at home and around the world:
1. President Trump’s former personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen (also former RNC Deputy Finance Chairman and Trump Organization Executive) has agreed to testify in a public hearing on February 7th. Cohen will sit before the House Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7) and has said he will “give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.” This hearing will take place just before Cohen begins to serve his 3-year prison term for crimes that include conduct President Trump directed.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has cleared Cohen to testify, yet another sign his probe is nearing its end. This upcoming testimony is drawing preemptive comparisons to John Dean’s, whose testimony on the conduct of Richard Nixon helped end his presidency. It will capture the attention of the nation, and more broadly, the world.
Here are the top six areas of interest that we’d like to hear Cohen discuss:
- The illegal hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal (two campaign finance felonies that implicated “Individual 1” a.k.a. President Trump).
- The Trump Tower Moscow deal (which may be part of a quid pro quo between Russia and the Trump campaign).
- The Ukraine peace plan Cohen crafted with Felix Sater (covert operation to try and lift sanctions on Russia)
- The Trump Organization: potential money laundering by Russian oligarchs, defrauding clients, etc
- Details on how much Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives
- Cohen’s coordination of lies with the White House before his testimony with Mueller
2. President Donald Trump threw a tantrum in the most recent negotiations to end the shutdown, reportedly slamming the table and walking away from a negotiation session with Democrats. As the shutdown approaches a near-record 20th day, support for his shutdown has been fraying among Republicans, who are eager to avoid blame for the ever-increasing damage the shutdown induces. This has left Trump openly mulling a national emergency, one which may allow him to siphon funds for natural disaster infrastructure in order to build a small section of wall on the border.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the House have attempted to get to the business of governing, passing several spending bills to open parts of the government, with support from a handful of colleagues across the aisle. They continue to face the perennial roadblock to progress that is Mitch McConnell, who has vowed not to bring forth any measure for a vote in the Senate that is not approved by Trump, no matter how reasonable.
3. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been touring the Middle East in order to shore up support for the administration after Trump’s plans to withdraw from Syria shook American allies. Much of the trip was the standard glad-handing and praise for authoritarianism that has become synonymous with Trumpian diplomacy.
In a speech in Cairo today, Pompeo also provided another staple of the Trump administration: incoherence. Speaking in the same place where Obama called for a new era of US-Middle East relations 10 years ago, Pompeo criticized such efforts as weakness and vowed the US will renew its presence in the region as a “liberating force”, namely against the likes of Iran. In the same breath, however, he reiterated Trump’s call for withdrawal from the region, one which national security adviser John Bolton had just finished demanding would not happen until ISIS was defeated.
Leaders in the region will not make much of Pompeo’s bluster one way or another. As Erdogan’s shooing away of Bolton earlier this week showed, they do not much value what American diplomats have to say. They know they can pick up the phone and get what they want from Trump himself.
4. Talks on Brexit this week have left Theresa May’s deal to leave the EU in dire straits. With a vote on the deal set for next Tuesday, Parliament voted to pass a measure that would give Mrs. May’s cabinet just three days to submit a new plan if it hers is rejected by Parliament, while also opening up the possibility of other options, such as a second referendum. With 17 members of Mrs. May’s Tory party defecting to back that measure, her deal looks unlikely to pass.
There is ever increasing urgency to avoid a formal deadline in March, whereby the UK will be leaving the EU with no deal if no agreement is achieved. This devastating outcome seems an ever-greater possibility, with politicians more keen on playing politics than policy. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, for example, would prefer the uncertainty of calling an election rather than working towards a solution.
5. A second summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un may be on the books. Kim recently visited China this week and seemed to have received the blessing of President Xi Jinping for further talks. South Korean President Moon-Jae-In also favors another summit.
The first summit between the two sides brought a welcome easing of tensions ratcheted up by both Trump and Kim, but provided no substance or incentive for North Korea to progress with denuclearization. North Korea says it wants an easing of sanctions if it is to proceed further. The US would be loth to provide any concessions without something substantive in return.
6. A new president has been declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner with 39% of the vote, marking the first transfer of power in almost 20 years, and the first for the opposition since the DRC’s independence in 1960.
However, the electoral results have been sketchy. Election observers, namely those from the Catholic Church, as well as several Western countries have rejected the outcome, saying it does not reflect data on the ground. The electoral commission also took an unusually long time to declare the results. Martin Faluyu, another opposition candidate who was expected to win, has not conceded.
The results have brought both celebrations and protests in different parts of the country, with police deployed and the Internet and text messaging suspended to prevent violence. The electoral uncertainty provides little relief for a country dealing with one of the worst humanitarian crisis, the worst Ebola outbreak in its history, and ongoing conflicts among armed groups for control of the country’s vast resources.
Rantt Media Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Baba contributed to this report.
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