- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is earning praise for her work during Michael Cohen’s public testimony on Wednesday, but there’s more to her line of questioning than meets the eye.
- Ocasio-Cortez followed the adage that “all politics is local” and tried to focus on the possibility of violations of New York state law.
- She also laid the groundwork for the House oversight committee to further its investigation.
- Read our full coverage of the hearing here.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is earning praise from pundits over her performance during Michael Cohen’s testimony, but there’s more to her line of questioning than meets the eye.
Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, testified publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in a long and sometimes heated hearing on Wednesday. He has pleaded guilty to charges in two separate investigations – one by the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and one by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York – and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Among the freshman Democrats questioning Cohen on Trump-related issues was Ocasio-Cortez, whose 14th Congressional District covers parts of the Bronx and Queens in New York City.
From her upset win in the 2018 congressional primary, where she unseated a powerful longtime Democratic lawmaker, to her boldly progressive agenda and high-profile tweets, Ocasio-Cortez has established herself as a force in the House. (She’s been branded as a bogeyman for those right of center and a hero for those on the left.)
Naturally, her line of questioning Wednesday drew attention.
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 27, 2019
Pundits praised her performance, including her use of time, efficient questioning, and lack of grandstanding, and the fact that she asked follow-ups to questions raised earlier during the hearing.
The line of questioning, however, which focused on Trump’s finances, revealed something more.
Ocasio-Cortez followed the adage that ‘all politics is local’
Not only did she focus on her “home borough” (the Trump Links golf course in the Bronx, which taxpayers paid millions to build), but she brought focus to issues at the state level.
Ocasio-Cortez pressed Cohen, asking whether Trump ever inflated assets to insurance companies and deflated the value of assets to local tax authorities.
“In just a few minutes she was able to touch on very, very serious issues, and what probably hasn’t been noticed too much is she got him to point to possible violations of New York state law,” Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, told the local Southern California radio station KPCC.
“Why is that significant?” Pitney continued. “Well if Trump tries to short-circuit everything through a bunch of pardons, that doesn’t apply to violations of New York state law.”
This was echoed by FiveThirtyEight’sGalen Druke.
“Ocasio-Cortez was the first to hammer home on possible tax fraud by Trump,” he wrote during a live blog of the hearing. “That is potentially being investigated by the Southern District of New York and the state of New York. Various legal experts believe that investigations out of those jurisdictions are more of a legal threat to Trump than Mueller’s is.”
She made the case for the House oversight committee to further its probe
During her allotted time, Ocasio-Cortez specifically asked Cohen whether talking to Trump Organisation CFO Allen Weisselberg and subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns were a necessary part of the committee’s investigation – laying the groundwork to look into those matters.
“To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.
“Yes,” Cohen answered.
“Who else knows that the president did this?” she continued.
“Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari,” Cohen answered.
“And where would the committee find more information on this?” Ocasio-Cortez asked. “Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?”
“Yes, and you’d find it at the Trump Org.,” Cohen replied, referring to the Trump Organisation.
Ocasio-Cortez later asked about tax-fraud allegations brought up in a New York Times investigation, to which Cohen replied that he wasn’t with Trump in the 1990s but that Weisselberg and Trump’s tax returns would help the committee investigate further.
- Read more:
- AS IT UNFOLDED: Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testifies before Congress in blockbuster hearing
- The most shocking statements and allegations from Michael Cohen’s bombshell congressional testimony
- Michael Cohen says Trump ‘is a racist’ who once asked him to ‘name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a shithole’
- Michael Cohen said Trump ‘frequently’ told him that Donald Trump Jr. has ‘the worst judgement of anyone in the world’
- Read Michael Cohen’s full testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform
- How Michael Cohen went from saying he would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump to implicating him in federal crimes
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