Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) may have only had a few minutes to question Michael Cohen on Wednesday, but she extracted some stunning confessions.
In her back-and-forth with Trump’s former fixer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a freshman member of the House Oversight Committee — did the practical work of a member of an investigative body, asking about not only the alleged crime, but about the evidence that would confirm any potential crimes as well as others with knowledge of a possible violation of the law.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?
MICHAEL COHEN: Yes.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the president did this?
MICHAEL COHEN: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?
MICHAEL COHEN: Yes, and you’d find it at the Trump [Organization].
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "Did the President ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?"
— CNN (@CNN) February 27, 2019
Under New York state law, filing a false insurance claim for more than $1 million is a class B felony. As Rep. Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the fact that Trump may have intentionally inflated his assets to justify higher insurance claims than he was owed is worth additional investigation. Subpoenas for top Trump Organization officials like Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg may be forthcoming to determine whether or not Trump did, in fact, defraud insurance companies by filing claims greater than the amount he would be owed based on the actual value of the insured property.
New York law stipulates that the maximum sentence for a nonviolent class B felony would be up to 25 years in prison. And because the alleged crime happened on a state level, Trump would not be able to pardon himself.
While Cohen alleges Trump inflated the value of his properties for insurance purposes, he also told Ocasio-Cortez that Trump intentionally devalued his properties for tax purposes. As legal experts told Vox in October, that may amount to tax avoidance — which is legal — but not necessarily tax evasion, which is illegal, as Congress has yet to pass a law making it a crime to intentionally devalue property for tax purposes.
Michael Cohen’s public hearing before the House Oversight Committee was the second of three Congressional hearings this week, but the only one of the three that was open to the public. He is due to testify before the House Intelligence Committee later this week.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.
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