Michael D. Cohen’s Testimony To Congress, February 27, 2019: Evidence of Criminal Acts by Trump, While President

(In the most damning Congressional Testimony since former White House Attorney John Dean, testified under oath 45 years ago that Richard Nixon committed crimes in the White House, former Trump Lawyer, Confidant and Fixer Michael D. Cohen, provided testimony under oath to Congress on February 27, 2019, and gave direct evidence of crimes committed by President Donald Trump, in office. The testimony, which I have excerpted here for brevity, was provided to the New York Times the night before Cohen’s Congressional Testimony.)

 

 

I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.

 

I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.

 

He is a racist.

He is a conman.

He is a cheat.

 

He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.

 

I am providing the Committee today with several documents. These include:

  • A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account – after he became president – to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign;

 

  • Copies of financial statements for 2011 – 2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank;

 

 

  • A copy of an article with Mr. Trump’s handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself – he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs; and

 

  • Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.

Before going further, I want to apologize to each of you and to Congress as a whole.

 

The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump. Today, I’m here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.

 

I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false – our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.

 

Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates.

 

In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me “there’s no business in Russia,” and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie. (Editor’s Note:  Just like Trump lies repeatedly by repeating “there’s no collusion.”)

 

There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me “How’s it going in Russia?” – referring to the Moscow Tower project.

 

You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.

 

To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it.

 

He lied about it because he never expected to win the election.

 

He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

 

And so I lied about it, too – because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie.

 

And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.

 

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I have always tried to live a life of loyalty, friendship, generosity, and compassion – qualities my parents ingrained in my siblings and me since childhood.

 

My father survived the Holocaust thanks to the compassion and selfless acts of others. He was helped by many who put themselves in harm’s way to do what they knew was right.

 

That is why my first instinct has always been to help those in need. Mom and Dad…I am sorry that I let you down.

 

Last fall, I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with Individual #1.

 

For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump.

 

It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times. It is even more painful to admit that many times I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have. Sitting here today, it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.

For that reason, I have come here to apologize to my family, to the government, and to the American people.

 

 

Accordingly, let me now tell you about Mr. Trump.

 

I got to know him very well, working very closely with him for more than 10 years, as his Executive Vice President and Special Counsel and then personal attorney when he became President.

 

I wound up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade. That was my job. Always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life. At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.

 

Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.

 

Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great.

 

He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.

 

Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history.”

 

He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign – for him – was always a marketing opportunity.

 

 

A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes.

 

As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.

 

In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

 

Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”

 

Mr. Trump is a racist.

 

The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries “shitholes.”

 

In private, he is even worse.

He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a “shithole.” This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.

 

While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.

And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.

 

 

Mr. Trump is a cheat.

 

As previously stated, I’m giving the Committee today three years of President Trump’s financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. These are Exhibits 1a, 1b, and 1c to my testimony.

It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.

 

I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit his financial interests. These are Exhibit 2 to my testimony.

 

As I noted, I’m giving the Committee today an article he wrote on, and sent me, that reported on an auction of a portrait of Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 3A to my testimony.

 

Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.

 

And it should come as no surprise that one of my more common responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reducedpayment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.

 

 

Mr. Trump is a conman.

 

He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it,which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that.

 

I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford’s attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 4 to my testimony.

 

Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a Home Equity Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign.I did that, too – without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right thing to do or how it would impact me, my family,or the public.

 

I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.

 

As Exhibit 5 to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1, 2017 – when he was President of the United States – pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me – the word used by Mr. Trump’s TV lawyer — for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf.

 

This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year – while he was President.

 

The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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When I say conman, I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.

 

As I mentioned, I’m giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump’s direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump’s grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission. These are Exhibit 6.

 

The irony wasn’t lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades. As you can see in Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared “Let him show his records” after calling President Obama “a terrible student.”

 

The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better.

 

In fact, he did the opposite.

 

When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees’ salaries in half – including mine – he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving “someone like him” that much money back.

 

During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he did not consider Vietnam Veteran, and Prisoner of War, Senator John McCain to be “a hero” because he likes people who weren’t captured. At the same time, Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft.

 

Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery.

 

He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.

 

He finished the conversation with the following comment. “You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”

 

I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.

Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching. I see now that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with the bad decisions I made.

 

To you, Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, the other members of this Committee, and the other members of the House and Senate, I am sorry for my lies and for lying to Congress.

 

To our nation, I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.

 

 

I am going to prison and have shattered the safety and security that I tried so hard to provide for my family.

 

My testimony certainly does not diminish the pain I caused my family and friends – nothing can do that. And, by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurrilous attacks by the President and his lawyer – trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel.

 

Mr. Trump called me a “rat” for choosing to tell the truth – much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government.

 

As Exhibit 8 shows, I have provided the Committee with copies of Tweets that Mr. Trump posted, attacking me and my family – only someone burying his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they are: encouragement to someone to do harm to me and my family.

 

I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family – and unleash his TV-lawyer to do the same. I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will make it clear: As a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before Congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.

 

 

“Love is Not Ill-Mannered; Love is Not Happy With Evil…” the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

 

 

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2019 was marked by two trains running, at top speed toward each other. The phrase, borrowed from the August Wilson play Two Trains Running from his Pittsburgh Cycle of ten plays portraying the African American experience, painfully depicted the powerful forces at work around the Civil Rights movement in the mid-1960’s, at the time of the assassination of Malcolm X. It’s title is appropriate for describing what happened this month, more than 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s own assassination.

 

A group of predominantly white Catholic boys from a Catholic High School in Kentucky traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in the March for Life—an annual gathering of opponents to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of January 22, 1973, which protected a women’s right to privacy on the enormously personal issue of deciding under what circumstances (for example, rape) and when to abort a fetus. The students made the trip with the full support of their Catholic school, which provided adult chaperones, and did nothing to discourage the teenaged boys from wearing Trump Campaign “Make America Great Again” hats, which have become a symbol of intolerance, misogyny, and racial and ethnic hatred, as Trump’s rhetoric on issues of race, women rights and keeping Mexicans and Muslims out of the USA has become more and more incendiary—reminiscent, in fact of the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant hate speech of the KKK throughout the last century..

 

This particular weekend of the MLKing Holiday 2019, the annual rally to protest Roe v. Wade—where Christian churches bus in thousands of protesters–coincided with the Women’s March , and with the 30th day of the Trump Shutdown of the US Government, over the issue of  building a border wall on the Mexican/American border to keep non-whites out of the country. Taking place at the same time around the Lincoln Memorial, long a symbol for racial equality, was a rally of Indigenous Peoples, attended by several prominent Native American leaders. As is frequently the case during major demonstrations in the Nation’s capitol, fringe groups pop up to spread their vile messages, like the so-called “Black Hebrew Israelites”, purveyors of homophobia, anti-Semitism and racial hatred.  They’ve been showing up in NYC’s Times Square for decades where they scream into a portable PA system and insult everyone who walks past them. No one—Blacks, Jews, Gays or law enforcement personnel– takes them seriously, since they are little more than deranged street theatre.

 

The trains traveling in opposite directions ran into each other on Martin Luther King weekend in Washington, DC., and the image that rocketed around the nation was of a pink-cheeked White Boy from the Kentucky Catholic School, wearing a “MAGA” hat, smirking at a Vietnam Veteran and Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, and surrounded by his laughing Catholic School classmates, all sporting red & white MAGA hats,  taunting the non-white Native American elder.

 

I’ve watched at least a dozen different videotapes on the encounter, read countless stories, and have been barraged by the blather put forth by the PR firm (yes, PR firm) hired by Catholic White Boy’s family, that he was a good, tolerant kid, just trying to keep the peace, encouraged by his adult chaperones to do so.   That message simply doesn’t square with the fact that he and his all-white friends from their privileged religious school, kept their MAGA hats on throughout the entire encounter, with not one student—nor an adult guiding them—recognizing that to non-whites in this country MAGA hats have become the symbolic Swastika or Confederate Flag of the 21stCentury.  To whine for sympathy while continuing to wear those symbols of hate, is to throw sand into the eyes of the nation.

 

Still worse, is the fact that none of these teenage boys—nor their adult chaperones from the Kentucky Catholic School, nor the school administrators—seem to have learned or understood the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, 13, where he writes:

 

“ Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous, or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered, or selfish, or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up: it’s faith, hope and patience never fail….Meanwhile, these three remain: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.”

 

Perhaps if these good Catholic boys studied and understood the words of Christ and his Apostle more, or read the Twitter Feed of Trump less, they might become better humans, and truly make American greater and more humane than its’ ever been.  Or, they could just follow the peaceful, love-driven actions of Nathan Phillips, Vietnam Veteran, who was fulfilling the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the teachings of Paul on a holiday weekend intended for service to others—an inclusive message at the center of Catholicism.

American Ninja Father

 

 

My two oldest granddaughters, ages 9 and 7, are obsessed with the TV programs American Ninja Warrior Junior and American Ninja Warrior.  

 

Since their father, my son, restricts their screen time, they make the most of the limited windows of opportunity they have to watch the tube. They scream like cheerleaders for their favorite competitors—girl, boy or adult.    The obstacles put in the way of each contestant are always physical:  swinging on ropes, swinging on a big “hot dog,” (as their 3-year old sister describes one game), climbing walls, or swimming under water and opening doors.

 

This past week, they were bummed when a young adult with an asthmatic condition missed winning the contest by a few seconds, slowed under water by shortness of breath.  Yet, right under their noses, there was another Ninja Warrior with a breathing problem who was vanquishing obstacles right and left, as they popped up in all forms, physical and emotional.

 

Their dad has inherited my sinus condition, and has layered on top of it a few allergies, a slight asthmatic condition and three daughters, each of whom makes their own set of demands on his attention and time.  I was a pretty good father, but he is far, far, far better and always present for them in all things, big and small.

 

Earlier in the day of their Ninja disappointment, their father dealt with a back-upped toilet, and an ant invasion—the kind of obstacles you never see in competition game shows on TV.

 

Then, a few hours later, we all went out to dinner, heading to a favorite pizza and pasta place.  All three girls were very excited.  We arrived at the no-reservations place shortly after they started serving dinner, and there was an hour-long wait.  Undeterred and still in high spirits, we walked up the block to another pizza/pasta place, and discovered there was no open table for 3 hours.

 

The girls started to whine and moan about being hungry, and while we walked back to the Honda Odyssey which would carry us all home, the girls’ grandmother tripped and fell while she was holding the 3-year old tightly in her arms.  We were all momentarily stunned, and the American Ninja father soothed the frightened feelings of all three of his daughters who were worried about the safety of their baby sister and their Grammy.

 

We piled into the car for the odyssey home, while the American Ninja Father quickly ran through several strategies to overcome the latest obstacle put in our path.  Remarkably, and while breathing deeply to keep his cool, he fashioned a way toward the finish line, while the youngest was insisting upon pasta, “because I fell,” and the two older girls were howling over being hungry.  These obstacles had teeth and tempers.

 

We walked in the front door of his house, and the American Ninja Father set a world record for sprinting to the stove and simultaneously whipping up a dinner of scrambled eggs, croissant rolls and pasta for dinner.  The obstreperous obstacles had been tamed, and the day had been saved.  For the American Ninja Father, operating without the glare of TV cameras or the financial rewards of winning a commercial competition, it was just another day, as tomorrow would be.

 

 

Born to Write

 

I can’t get away from Bruce.

 

Everywhere I turn, everytime I look at TV, every publication I read, Bruce’s brooding face beckons me.

 

It’s so odd, since I’ve never liked New Jersey, hated the “Jersey Boys “ musical, and detested the stereotype of Italians created by “The Sopranos, generic jerks from Jersey. Yet, I cannot escape the most famous son of New Jersey since Frank Sinatra, whose velvety voice my mother adored.

 

I never adored Bruce’s raspy voice, but his words and his writing have taken my breath away, now, for the first time, when both of us are 69 years old.  After decades of listening to Springsteen’s songs, it’s his words, thoughts and actions which have turned me into a geriatric groupie.

 

It happened unexpectedly, while researching the official biography I’m writing about the singer/songwriter/humanitarian Harry Chapin.  Sure, like many others, I was struck by Bruce’s break-out hits in the 1980’s—Born in the USA and  Glory Days.  Both dominated the airwaves while I worked for an old ballplayer turned politician. Mario M. Cuomo, who articulated Springsteen’s working class anger in a less aggressive way.

 

It was Harry Chapin, six years after his death, who first brought me in close contact with Bruce, at a Carnegie Hall memorial  benefit concert on the 45th Anniversary of Harry’s birth.  I sat with my 12-year old son, and his mother, my partner of 15 years, less than 10 feet away from Springsteen.  He came out on the big stage, and talked about how Chapin would never stop bugging him about giving more of his earnings to people less fortunate—the poor, the hungry.

 

“Harry would stand outside my hotel window, and tell me that when he performed, he’d give one dollar for the other guy, and keep one for himself, “ Bruce said, “ and I’d nod my head, just to get rid of him and get some sleep.”  Then, Springsteen, holding his electric guitar and wearing an harmonica around his neck, stepped up to the microphone and in his haunting voice sang “Remember When the Music,” and left all of us in the audience gasping for air.

 

I hadn’t thought much about Bruce Springsteen for a few decades, until I learned that he had quietly picked up the humanitarian mantle worn by Harry Chapin, raising millions of dollars for non-profit organizations like World Hunger Year (WHYHunger), which Chapin founded with former Catholic priest and DJ, Bill Ayres.   Harry’s hectoring had hit home with the working class hero from Freehold, New Jersey.

 

Then, earlier this year, while carefully sifting through articles about celebrities using their gifts to improve the world, I came across a 20-year old interview done with Springsteen, by the writer Will Percy, the nephew of the great writer Walker Percy.  The “Springsteen Interview,” appeared in the Summer/Fall 1998 issue of the publication of WHYHunger, in a special edition devoted to Artists Against Hungerand Poverty.   In it, Springsteen didn’t just talk about his burgeoning humanitarian work, which he came to later in his career, but about the artist’s obligation to reach the public’s conscience.

 

“What’s interested me since I was young, “ Bruce told Will Percy, “ was how we live in the world and how we ought tolive in the world. I think politics is implicit. I’m not interested in writing rhetoric or ideology.  I think it was Walt Whitman who said ‘the poets job is to know the soul.’ You strive for that, assist your audience in finding and knowing theirs.  That’s always at the core of your writing, of what drives your music.”

 

“What a writer or artist does, “Springsteen continued,  “is to raise fundamental questions about the way we behave toward one another, and then move these questionsfrom the aesthetic into the practical, into some sort of action; whether it be action in the community or action in the way you treat your wife or your kid…”

 

“The way all those things intersect,” he said, “ is what interests me.  The way the social issues and the personal issues cross over one another; to me, that’s how people live. In some fashion that’s my intent to establish a commonality by revealing our inner common humanity, by telling good stories about a lot of different kinds of people.”

 

This past week, as his incredibly successful show Springsteen on Broadway , is winding down its’ year-long run before being aired on Netflix, December 15,  Esquire Magazine published another remarkable interview with Springsteen (“Beneath the Surface with Bruce Springsteen”, by Michael Hainey, November 27, 2018) in which he underscored that he was still striving to create a place where “the political and personal came together, to spill clear water into the muddy river of history.”

 

In his beautifully written autobiography Born to Run (Simon & Schuster, NY, 2016),  Springsteen is both more introspective then he’s ever been, and more outspoken about the political and social life of the USA of today,  a country different from the one in which he was born, worried that “the moral high ground has been swept away from underneath us.”

 

Yet somehow, despite the “crimes against humanity” which Bruce believes Trump commits each day by intentionally dividing and hurting people, the honesty of Springsteen’s life and his writing uplift me, and his voice is more clear and true to me than it has ever been.

 

 

Trump, Tabloid TV & The Truth

 

I had trouble sleeping last night.

 

I made the mistake of viewing Leslie Stahl’s October 14, 2018, “60 Minutes” Interview on-line, before bedtime, and it gave me a terrible case of agita all night long.

 

Here was Trump, back for the second time in two years, with an A-list TV journalist, Leslie Stahl, who confers credibility upon the subjects of her interviews.  Just appearing on camera with her elevates the Self Made Fraud’s status, and he knows it.

 

Trump dominated his time on the Tube with his endless stream of lies—lies that flow as endlessly as his breath—and Stahl’s comebacks were too little, too infrequent, or non existent. Here are just a few examples:

 

 

  • Trump matter-of-factly lied about the country being more divisive under Obama, and Stahl failed to question the lie, or demand proof;

 

  • Trump bragged about being responsible for the best economy in the nation’s history; Stahl failed to point out that it has been a 10-year long recovery, started under Obama, following the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, when unemployment hit 10% as Obama took office;

 

  • Trump made light of getting his Mob during his Mississippi Hate Speech to laugh at Dr. Ford, and despite Stahl’s pushing back on his inhumanity in doing so, she was silent in the face of Trump’s justification that it was payback for the treatment of Kavanaugh.  When Trump voiced the rich, white man’s lament that Kavanaugh’s life was “ruined,” Stahl failed to ask “What about Dr. Ford?”  She also failed to mention the 100,000 documents on Kavanaugh’s background that were suppressed, or the severe limits place upon the FBI’s investigation, or the recently filed formal judicial complaints against Kavanaugh by a number of Federal Judges.

 

  • In the context of Trump’s verbal abuse of Dr. Ford where he openly mocked her before his own angry Mississippi Mob, Stahl failed to bring up the charges of sexual harassment or abuse against Trump by 19 women, all of whom he has dismissed as “liars.”  Stahl also failed to ask Trump why he always sides with men accused of sexual assault or harassment (Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Rob Porter, Judge Roy Moore, and Brett Kavanaugh).

 

  • Stahl failed to question Trump about the in-depth New York Times investigative report about the Trump family’s massive tax evasion scheme going back 30 years, and their scheme of defrauding federal, state and NYC taxpayers as well as illegally raising the rents on their own tenants for decades.

 

  • Stahl failed to ask Trump about the allegations in the new book out by a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter documenting Trump’s decades long relationship with the Russian Mafia, and the Mueller indictments of many Russian Oligarchs and organizations;

 

  • Trump stonewalled about the Saudis murder of a Washington Post Journalist  and American resident, and Stahl failed to ask him the obvious question of whether his own “Enemy of The People,”  Stalin-esque rants vs. journalists and specifically, the Washington Post,  might have emboldened the Saudi Prince to order the brutal murder of this journalist;

 

  • Stahl failed to question the Kushner & Trump financial entanglements with the Saudis, and how that might be impacting Trump’s own response to the case; She also failed to press on the issue of whether US Intelligence officials knew ahead of time of the threats on the journalist’s life, and what information, if any, Jared Kushner may have shared with the Saudis.

 

  • Stahl asked Trump for a”pledge” not to fire Robert Mueller, and when he refused to give it, she failed to follow-up with a question on the guilty pleas, indictments and convictions of his former Campaign Manager, National Security Director, top aides and personal attorney.

 

  • Trump claimed to know more about NATO’s importance to world peace than Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Stahl failed to challenge Trump on that empty assertion.

 

Tragically, Leslie Stahl’s gift of free prime-time television to Trump, reminded me of Meredith Viera’s similarToday Show gift seven years ago, when the Self Made Fraud lied to her about having sent investigators to Hawaii to dig up information on Obama,  “proving” he wasn’t born in the USA.  Viera, a kind-hearted, good soul,unaccustomed to such bald-face lying on national television by the people she interviewed, blinked incredulously a few times—like a deer in the headlights– but did not challenge Trump’s lies, giving him the golden opportunity to launch his pernicious and racist  “birther movement,” during breakfast  to millions of Today’s viewers.

 

Trump, a creation of tabloid tawdriness and fictitious TV over-exposure, intuitively understands the same thing about American television that trial lawyers–like his scummy chum Roy Cohn–understand about juries: say anything, and it cannot be unheard. In a fast-moving TV interview, there is no judge to overrule such lies; only a journalist, overwhelmed by the time constraints of the medium. In fractions of seconds, an impression is made, and when repeated often enough, it takes on the trappings of truth. Trump knows this better than anyone since Roger Ailes—the man who sold a repackaged Richard Nixon to the nation in 1968– and he has Bill Shine—the sex abuse apologist from Fox News—at his side each day to reinforce it.

 

With the stakes so high for all of us who believe in human decency, the importance of truth and the rule of law, the solutions for good journalists and credible media organizations are draconian: deny Trump airtime altogether until he stops lying, or call him out on every single lie, each and every time he or a member of his administration utters one. Only ABC’s George Stephanopolous, CNN’s Chris Cuomo,  and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and a handful of others have shown a willingness to do this among television journalists.

 

Alternatively, we can continue to push hard to have Trump’s lifetime of lies and fraud tested in Courts of law at the national, state and local levels and before Grand Juries, as well as in the court of public opinion at the polls.  Trump knows full well that each of those remedies take more time than a quickie TV interview, and that his constant hate speech, lying, and inhumane public polices can do enormous damage to individuals and institutions before any final verdict comes in, and while his cash flow continues.

 

Years after the public grew tired of The Apprentice, NBC cancelled it, yet the corrosive effect of brainless, low cost/high profit “reality” programming on television—and on public life—is still being felt.   Television adapted and survived, with many viewers changing the channel to other forms of entertainment, like HBO and Showtime, and now Amazon.  The question is, can democracy survive the onslaught of a fact-free universe, fast and obscene amounts of money, and increasing inhumanity, and if it doesn’t, what alternative form of government will we turn to?

 

Enlisting for Life in the Fight for Women

 

The closest Mario Cuomo ever came to running for President was during the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, in October, 1991.

Cuomo was so furious over the timidity of the Democrats, who controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time—Chaired by Senator Joe Biden—and their failure to leap to Anita Hill’s defense, that it almost pushed him into the 1992 Presidential race. Cuomo was outraged over how terribly he believed women—personified by the dignified Professor Hill—were being mistreated by Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee, how the Democrats failed to stop the GOP bullying of her, and how they didn’t make Professor Hill’s war into their own.

I thought of Cuomo’s visceral reaction to the Thomas Hearings while I was watching the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on the Supreme Court Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.  I carefully listened to the wrenching testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, sometimes choking back tears at the pain she had endured as a 15-year old girl, and the trauma that haunted her for the next 36 years.  I intuitively understood Dr. Ford’s years of repressing a bad memory, since I had done the same thing for more than three decades concerning a gun-related incident in my own family, that did not involve sexual abuse, only uncontrolled anger.

So when Judge Kavanaugh descended into raw aggression and a toddler-like tantrum from the beginning of his testimony, I again thought of my father’s out-of-control temper as his way of trying to bull himself through any bad news.  Only, my father wasn’t a federal judge, nor a nominee for the highest court in the nation.  He was a working stiff, a maintenance man, with a drinking problem, and all of his children bore scars from his explosive anger.

Instead, here was Kavanaugh, a spoiled, Prep School rich boy, who lived a gilded-life like the President who nominated him, and chose to answer an allegation of sexual abuse and attempted rape with the kind of aggressiveness and uncontrolled behavior some of his high school and college peers remembered about him.  Only this time, he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, which made his ugly un-judgelike behavior even more bizarre.

Kavanaugh’s outburst also stripped bare his inherent partisan hatchet-man role, and his fealty to conspiracy theories.  He channeled Donald Trump when he screamed at Democratic Senators for never getting over Trump’s election, and went after the Clinton’s for a “revenge-grudge” against him.  Odd, since it was Kavanaugh, as an assistant to Special Prosecutor Kenneth Star, who spent two years and three million dollars pursuing a nut-case conspiracy theory that the Clintons were behind the suicide of Vince Foster.

But Kavanaugh’s crazed carrying-on was not the only distressing part of the Senate Judiciary Committee showdown between Dr. Ford and Trump’s mini-me.   The failure of Senate Democrats to get equally emotional and hard edged was just as disturbing.  I could hear Mario Cuomo’s voice in the back of my head, raising the following questions:

  •  Why the hell didn’t at least one Democratic Senator put the bullying Kavanaugh in his place, and tell him that HE was under investigation, NOT them?
  •  Why didn’t the Democratic Senators have a cross-examination strategy?  Why didn’t all the Democrats cede their time to the two female Prosecutor Senators among them, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar—the Senators who made Kavanaugh most uncomfortable—to have a consistent, continuous and coordinated cross-examination?
  • ·Why didn’t the Ranking Minority Member on the Committee, Senator Diane Feinstein, object on Personal Points of Privilege EVERY time any GOP Senator referred to or disparaged her. Feinstein, my own Senator whom I am supporting for re-election,  should have insisted on speaking and correcting GOP lies each time they misrepresented what she did with Dr. Ford’s letter, and should have dared Grassley to shut her up.
  •  Why didn’t Richard Blumenthal use his great quote on “credibility” to bring up Kavanaugh’s lack of credibility in his past testimony and his lying, under oath, about stolen Democratic documents, and the Bush Administration’s torture policy?

 

  •   Why did Democratic Senators quietly sit by and not scream Points of Order, when Senator Lindsey Graham unilaterally took another 5 minutes—after ceding his 5 minutes to Phoenix Sex Crimes Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell?
  •  Why did Senator Mazie Hirono not scream out “Point of Order,” at Judiciary Committee Grassley when the GOP abandoned the use of  Prosecutor Mitchell despite Senator Grassley’s commitment to Hirono and all Senators that ALL GOP Senators had ceded their time to Prosecutor Mitchell to cross-examine Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh?
  •  Why didn’t one single Democrat leap to Senator Klobuchar’s defense when the overly aggressive, nasty Kavanaugh sneered at her and asked if SHE  ever became “black out” drunk?
  •  And why did not one Democratic Senator raise the issue of how Kavanaugh’s aggressive, out-of-control manner, behavior and histrionics were exactly like the aggressive behavior of every out-of-control alcohol driven sexual predator?

I remembered Mario Cuomo’s white-hot anger at injustice on this historic day of testimony by Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh. I could see Anita Hill’s quiet dignity in the face of a cascade of insults from crapulent white men, satisfied in their own self-righteousness.   I thought of all of that, and of the bright, hopeful eyes of my three young granddaughters, and resolved even more to fight with my last breath to repair the world for them.