The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Michael, Is It True?

The president’s former fixer called Trump a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat,” but faced questioning over his own past lies.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Wednesday, February 27.

“Every day, most of us knew we were going to come in and lie on something.”

In a wild day on Capitol Hill, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and self-described “fixer,” testified before the House Oversight Committee about his work for Trump. Reporters, Hill staffers, and members of the public—including a World War II veteran celebrating his 100th birthday—piled into the hallway of the Rayburn House Office Building outside the room where the hearing was taking place, trying to catch a glimpse of Cohen. More on what we learned from his testimony, below.

Meanwhile, the House passed a major gun-control bill aimed at bolstering background checks for firearms sales—the most sweeping gun-control legislation considered in more than two decades. Its path through the Senate, however, is dim.

And President Trump is in Vietnam, opening the first day of talks with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

Donald Trump tweets: "Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately)."

Filling in the Gaps: Ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, Michael Cohen released a copy of his written testimony, in which he described the president as a “racist,” a “conman,” and a “cheat.” Cohen also alleged that Trump knew of conversations with WikiLeaks over hacked emails relating to Hillary Clinton—which the president has previously denied—and said that Trump received a copy of a check reimbursing him for hush-money payments. He also said that the president directed him to lie to Congress, and that the president was aware of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Is He Telling the Truth?: Cohen faced questions from Republicans and Democrats, who both probed the fact that Cohen has admittedly lied in the past. Democrats asked him to speculate about the president, and Republicans questioned his credibility. Here are some of his noteworthy remarks:

1. “There was nothing that happened at the Trump Organization … that did not go through Mr. Trump with his approval and sign-off.” In an exchange with Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, Cohen described how Trump oversaw all goings-on within his businesses, including, allegedly, hush-money payments to women he had affairs with.

2. “Ask Ms. Patton how many people who are black are executives at the Trump Organization? And the answer is zero,” Cohen said, arguing with Republican Representative Mark Meadows about whether the president was racist.

3. There was “no doubt in my mind,” Cohen said when Chairman and Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings asked whether he had “any doubt” that President Trump knew a check he had written was used to reimburse Cohen’s hush-money payment to a woman Trump had an affair with.

4. “Look at what happened to me. I had a wonderful life. I have a beautiful wife and two amazing children. I achieved financial success by the age of 39. I didn’t go to work for Mr. Trump because I had to. I went to work for him because I wanted to. And I’ve lost it all,” he said, expressing regret over his work for Trump.

Read more striking moments from the hearing.


A WWII veteran celebrating his 100th birthday at Michael Cohen's hearing

Sidney Walton, a World War II veteran celebrating his 100th birthday outside of Michael Cohen’s hearing. (Elaine J. Godfrey via Twitter)

Ideas From The Atlantic

Two Views of a Single Presidency, by David Frum
“That preference for anonymity has begun to end. On the same day—January 29—Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and Trump ally, released a memoir of his political career, Let Me Finish, and the former Trump communications aide Cliff Sims published an account of his service in the Trump White House, Team of Vipers. Each book offered up some news-making stories.” → Read on.

My Newspaper Died 10 Years Ago. I’m Worried the Worst Is Yet to Come, by John Temple
“I feel like a ghost. I have one foot in a world that no longer exists. When my students look at me, they know not the world whence I come, and it disappeared only 10 years ago. I’m a survivor of the waning days of metro newspapers with knowledgeable beat reporters, journalists who spent years developing expertise in the courts, or local government, or schools.” → Read on.

Is Bernie Sanders a Leftist or a Moderate?, by Conor Friedersdorf
“In sum, one cannot draw any easy conclusions about how Democrats will understand Sanders’s candidacy—or assess his chances of beating President Donald Trump—merely by knowing whether they want a more centrist or leftist party.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

The Overdue Death of Democratic “Pragmatism, by Alex Shephard, The New Republic
White House Bans Four Journalists From Covering Trump-Kim Dinner, by Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, The Washington Post (🔒paywall)

We’re always looking for ways to improve The Politics & Policy Daily. Comments, questions, typos? Let us know anytime here.

Were you forwarded this newsletter? Sign up for our daily politics email here. We have many other free email newsletters on a variety of other topics. Find the full list here.