Michael Cohen in the spotlight
One of the most dramatic episodes in the entire saga of criminality surrounding President Donald Trump played out before a rapt audience on Wednesday as Michael Cohen described his former boss as a racist, cheat, and conman.
Cohen didn’t provide much in the way of revelations, but as a one-time confidant of Trump he did fill in some gaps with lurid detail, recalling how the president allegedly assured him that a reimbursement for a hush money payment to a pornographic actress was on its way while showing Cohen the Oval Office.
Cohen’s payment to the adult entertainer occurred during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and was a criminal violation of election law, the former lawyer acknowledged last August when he pled guilty to federal charges.
Republican members on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform largely ignored the substance of what Cohen said about the president and instead lit into Cohen’s own crimes and credibility as a convicted liar who will begin a three-year prison sentence later this spring.
“If you don’t have a defense, you try to put the government on trial,” said William Weinreb, who was an acting US attorney during the Trump administration, in an appearance on Greater Boston. “The Republicans were trying to put [Cohen] on trial.”
Congressman Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, went a step farther during his five minutes of questioning.
“I don’t think my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are afraid that you’re going to lie,” Lynch said to Cohen. “I think they’re afraid you’re going to tell the truth.”
At The Atlantic, David Frum argues that the Republican committee members steered clear of outright challenges to Cohen’s assertions because they have “learned the hard way never to trust President Donald Trump’s denials.”
One of the accusations that a Republican congressman did attempt to confront head-on was Cohen’s assertion that Trump has demonstrated a racist outlook in private comments about black people – that they are supposedly too stupid to vote for him and are the only people who would be willing to live in a struggling neighborhood of Chicago.
In a move that backfired spectacularly hours later, Congressman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, called everyone’s attention to Lynne Patton, an African-American woman who has long served Trump and now the Trump administration and who stood behind Meadows during that portion of the hearing.
“She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist. How do you reconcile the two of those?” Meadows challenged Cohen.
At almost the conclusion of the hearing, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, a Dorchester Democrat, revisited Meadows’s display in light of many of the other things known about Trump.
“Would you agree that someone could deny rental units to African-Americans, lead the ‘birther’ movement, refer to the diaspora as ‘shithole countries’ and refer to white supremacists as ‘fine people,’ have a black friend and still be racist?” Pressley asked.
“Yes,” Cohen replied.
“I agree,” Pressley said.
Minutes later Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, took it a step further, saying that she believed Meadows’s use of Patton was a racist act, an allegation that spurred Meadows into an emotional defense and appeal to the committee’s chairman.
Former attorney general Martha Coakley, also on Greater Boston last night, said the damage Cohen inflicted against his former client was mostly political, and she and Weinreb both found Cohen a fairly credible witness, notwithstanding the marks against him as a confessed liar.
Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi noted how Cohen defended himself against charges that he is a pathological liar, asking, “Are you referring to me or the president?”
The whole affair occurred while Trump was on the other side of the globe in Vietnam meeting with someone who is perhaps the most odious figure on the world stage.
Meeting with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, in an attempt to achieve a nuclear agreement, Trump was none too happy with attention his former lawyer was receiving back in Washington, and four reporters were banned from covering a dinner between Trump and Kim after one of them asked for a reaction to the Cohen testimony.
Gov. Charlie Baker launched another effort to pass a housing production bill, saying the problem is worsening. (State House News)
Barnstable County Commissioner Ronald Beaty Jr. called in sick to a Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners meeting to the surprise of many people in the largest crowd the meeting has seen in recent memory. Beaty recently questioned whether gay politicians are too “self-absorbed and self-centered” to adequately represent all constituents fairly on Twitter, prompting many area officials to call for his resignation. (Cape Cod Times)
Residents of Scituate, Cohasset, and Hull are considering joining forces to develop a regional sewer system. (Patriot Ledger)
The Seaport Economic Development Council approved a $1 million grant for an upgrade to Gloucester’s harbormaster facilities, including new public restrooms and a maintenance area for vessels and vehicles. (Gloucester Daily Times)
A North Carolina judge struck down two constitutional amendments passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, saying a legislative body assembled illegally via gerrymandering lacks the authority to pass such legislation. (Governing)
President Donald Trump and North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, left their summit meeting in Vietnam without a nuclear agreement because Kim wanted the removal of sanctions before dismantling the weapons program, according to Trump. (WBUR)
Legislation sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker to legalize marijuana at the federal level has backing from other Democrats seeking the White House. (WBUR)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is getting a lukewarm reception among her colleagues in the state’s congressional delegation, more than half of whom are holding back an endorsement of her presidential bid. (Boston Globe) If her campaign flames out, the Boston Herald will be telling everyone, “we told you so,” as Joe Fitzgerald joins the chorus at the tabloid focused on telling Warren she’s going nowhere fast.
Barbara L’Italien, a former state senator, talks as if she may challenge US Rep. Seth Moulton because of his opposition to US Rep. Nancy Pelosi as speaker. (Daily Item)
As Joe Biden inches closer to declaring a presidential run, area pundits wonder whether his time may have passed. (Boston Herald)
Diman Superintendent Thomas Aubin and 11 registered voters are suing the regional school committee, alleging it violated both open meeting laws and Aubin’s contract in not renewing his tenure. (Herald News)
Advocates say the law is murky on the legality of safe injections sites for intravenous drug users. (Boston Globe) But Gov. Charlie Baker says there is no ambiguity and they are forbidden. (Boston Herald)
At a hearing on a proposed MBTA fare increase, opponents, led by Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, say service must improve dramatically before raising fares. (MassLive) A Globe editorial says the state is taking the easy way out by just raising MBTA fares and that it should also boost transportation revenue through other measures, including congestion pricing for road use and by hiking the gas tax. Brookline Rep. Tommy Vitolo used a 99-cent can of Arizona iced tea to make his case against raising fares. (WBUR)
State transportation officials unveil their redesign for Worcester’s Kelley Square at a public hearing. (Telegram & Gazette)
Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal calls for shifting some money from energy conservation, which reduces greenhouse gases, to climate-change resiliency spending. (Boston Globe)
Constrained natural gas supply is leading more gas companies in the state to impose moratoriums on new hookups, cheering environmentalists who say the answer is cleaner energy sources while business leaders say it sends a bad message to those considering business expansion here. (Boston Globe)
Cape Cod officials say great white sharks are growing problem in the area asked the state and federal government for help at an event organized by state Sen. Julian Cyr and state Rep. Sarah Peake. (Cape Cod Times)
Bryon Hefner, the husband of former Senate president Stan Rosenberg, is looking to have two of the 10 criminal counts he’s facing dismissed, with his lawyer saying charges that he forcibly kissed a man and exposed himself to another may be “disgusting” but they shouldn’t be considered felonies. (Boston Globe)
Authorities seized a cache of firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and some OxyContin from the home of Carlos Vieira, a Lawrence police officer accused of raping a 13-year-old boy. His attorney said any OxyContin would have been prescribed to him and he does not have addiction issues. (Eagle-Tribune)
Mark Verville, a former Lawrence firefighter, pled guilty to charges of arson and violating a restraining order against his estranged wife. He took a minivan from his estranged wife and set fire to it outside his home in Lawrence. (Eagle-Tribune)
Electing to keep the case in district court, prosecutors have reduced the charges against Lisa Tillman, a former Beverly Hospital pharmacy technician who allegedly purloined nearly 18,000 pills. (Salem News)
Negotiations between the Boston Globe and Boston Newspaper Guild are becoming tense writes Dan Kennedy, with the union accusing management of union busting and Globe publisher John Henry denying it. The Guild posted an open letter to John and Linda Henry recently.
Journalists at WBUR voted 73-3 to form a union on Wednesday. The journalists will be represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the public radio station’s owner, Boston University, has seven days to file an objection to the election. (WBUR)PASSINGS
Polling whiz Patrick Caddell, who splashed onto the national scene while helping Jimmy Carter win the presidency while still in his mid-20s, died at age 68. (Boston Globe)