The Current

Michael Cohen's testimony alone not enough to indict Trump, says expert

Testifying in Washington on Wednesday, Michael Cohen painted a damning picture of Donald Trump. We examine the accusations, and ask whether the words of a confirmed liar could ever be used in an effort to indict the U.S. president.

Impeachment ‘ultimately’ up to U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, says Anthony Gaughan

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, arrives to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (AFP/Getty Images)

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Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday was personally and politically damaging for Donald Trump — but it won't be enough to indict the U.S. president, says one expert. 

"First, Cohen is not a credible witness because of the fact that he … previously plead guilty to having lied to Congress," Drake University law professor Anthony Gaughan told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"And although I personally think he told the truth yesterday, I don't think any prosecutor would rely on Cohen as a star witness, particularly when you're talking about bringing charges against people close to the president, or even the president."

Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, spoke publicly on Capitol Hill this week to reveal details about what he alleges was criminal conduct on the part of the president. Cohen himself was sentenced in December to three years in prison for campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

Michael Cohen on Wednesday called U.S. President Donald Trump a 'racist' and 'con man.' (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

He testified that Trump is a "racist" and "con man" who told him to lie about a real estate project in Russia. Cohen also provided evidence of "hush money" payments from Trump's bank account that were meant to cover up his alleged affair with an adult-film actress — something Cohen also said Trump ordered him to lie about.

However, Gaughan said it is "ultimately" up to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to justify impeaching, and subsequently removing, the president.

"Secondly, the special counsel Robert Mueller is working under Justice Department regulations that maintain that you cannot indict a sitting president," he added.

Republicans not swayed: Gaughan

Removing a sitting president requires a two-thirds "super-majority" vote in the U.S. Senate — the house currently controlled by the Republicans.

"It was quite clear from the very partisan approach that the Republican minority took in yesterday's hearing that they are not persuaded that there is enough evidence to convince them to abandon their support for Donald Trump," said Gaughan.

Trump, following meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, called Cohen a liar. However, he claimed to be "impressed" with Cohen for not lying about collusion with Russia.

To dissect Cohen's testimony, Tremonti spoke with:

  • Emma Loop, a Capitol Hill reporter for Buzzfeed News, based in Washington, D.C.
  • David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who has covered Trump for three decades.
  • Anthony Gaughan, a law professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Produced by John Chipman and Ines Colabrese.

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