House Oversight Committee members had a lot of questions Wednesday for Donald Trump’s former “enforcer” Michael Cohen. We found both the questions and the answers intriguing — as we assume most people did.
However, at WhoWhatWhy, we’re not just about the questions asked. We’re also about the questions that were not asked. The dog that did not bark, if you will.
Here are a few of them. We think that getting answers to these will serve the public interest in learning much more about our president and about money and power in America.
Q: Why did panel members not follow up on each others’ queries? Was that because the material is too complex and they’re only able to read questions prepared in advance by their staffs?
Q: Why did both Democrats and Republicans avoid probing further on Cohen’s own history with and ties to the former USSR? There were references to Russia and Ukraine, the Bank of Kazakhstan and Deutsche Bank (Trump seeking a loan to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills), and even Felix Sater. But few follow-ups.
A: It might be in part in deference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that there were so few questions. It might be that Democrats did not want to discredit Cohen, whom they are portraying as the Prodigal Son. And Republicans may have been unwilling to look under any rocks by asking questions of Cohen whose answers might make things even tougher for Trump.
It would have been useful to learn more about Cohen’s work for the Bank of Kazakhstan, which Cohen said was to help the country find assets that the former head of the country had embezzled and hidden (presumably in the US).
Q: What did Cohen know about the steady stream of American and Russian mobsters trooping in and out of Trump Tower, and buying apartments there?
Q: Why, after Felix Sater was convicted and outed as a mobster, did Trump keep doing business with him on projects like Trump Tower Moscow? (FYI, there were a few Sater questions, but not much follow-up.) Sater will testify before Congress in mid-March.
Q: What did Trump say to Cohen about either extramarital affair before asking him to make the deal for the women’s silence?
Q: Did Cohen or Trump send someone to threaten adult film actress Stormy Daniels in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, as she alleged during a 60 Minutes interview last year?
Q: What was the precise nature of Cohen’s legal work on behalf of Sean Hannity — was it, as Hannity has claimed, limited to real estate matters? And were any of Cohen’s tape recordings of the Fox News host?
We didn’t hear a single Democrat ask Cohen to elaborate on his memory of Trump as a racist, and if he ever witnessed Trump use racial bias as a basis for federal policy in any way. If nothing else, Wednesday’s hearing was a big opportunity for the Democrats to provide a reason for more African American voters to turn out in the next election than they did in the last one. A larger turnout might have shifted the 2016 result.
Some other thoughts:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opened up an interesting query about possible insurance fraud. Cohen said that Trump would inflate the value of his net worth as a way to lower his insurance premiums.
And finally, this:
The most chilling remark of the day was in Cohen’s closing statement, when he predicted that, should Trump lose in 2020, “there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” (Strangely, even MSNBC didn’t immediately jump on that.)
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