Michael Cohen Testimony: Where the Buck Stops

Michael Cohen’s testimony on the floor of the hearing room Weds. Photo by Sarah Silbiger, NY Times.

Dear Friend and Reader:

Those who took the time out to watch Michael Cohen’s testimony Wednesday heard him describe what is essentially a vast criminal syndicate led by Donald Trump, which has accompanied him into the White House. Cohen hinted that federal prosecutors in New York City (the Southern District of New York) had a long way to go unraveling the president’s crimes.

Cohen was Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer, who pled guilty to various federal crimes charged by the Special Counsel and by prosecutors in New York City. He was the archetypal right-hand man who makes problems — serious problems — go away. Cohen helped get Trump elected many different ways, including setting up the first campaign website, ShouldTrumpRun.com, in 2011.

Thursday’s print edition of The New York Times.

While I will get into the astrology in detail on Sunday’s program, there was one particularly stunning aspect: the Sun conjunct Nessus, to the degree. Someone Trump used as a weapon was now coming back to him as one. Additionally, Cohen was taking total responsibility for his actions. He was dealing, in the spirit of Nessus: the buck stops here.

It was not that much new information came out of the full day of testimony, but for the first time, we heard about it live, from a direct witness and participant, being asked real questions. All those questions lead to a bigger one, about our ability to respond.

No, the bigger question was not whether Cohen would get a book deal or become a TV pundit when he got out of jail. (Republican representatives who questioned him were obsessed with that notion; that was apparently on the talking points memo.)

Despite the snide, condescending jeering by nearly all Republican representatives, Cohen remained cool and calm, responding with only mild annoyance when he was attacked.

One of my Facebook friends, Marsha Downs, observed, “They accused him of lying before to Congress. He did previously. Now he turned his story 180º and they accuse him of lying. How can he be lying both ways? Too bad they didn’t take more time to look into what cover ups he was doing for Pinocchio instead of talking about book deals. It was a total mockery.”

Apologies to Pinocchio.

Scenes From the Life of ‘Individual 1’

First a few highlights from the day.

Cohen testified that just before the election happened, he paid for the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels, who once had sex with Trump, with $130,000 out of his home equity line (so Cohen’s wife would not see the money come out of a family account).

Trump then personally repaid the hush money to Cohen, while he was president. These are violations of federal campaign finance laws for which (among other crimes) Cohen will be serving three years in federal prison starting this spring.

The president was personally implicated in that crime — a felony — by federal prosecutors as “Individual 1,” an unindicted coconspirator.

If the past is any precedent, which apparently it is not, this would be enough to entirely derail the Trump presidency.

Regarding conspiring with the Russians, Cohen was under orders from federal prosecutors not to discuss that in public (it’s reserved for today, during a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee). However, Cohen said Trump was aware of the plan to have WikiLeaks distribute damaging emails hacked from the computer network of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016.

He said that Trump was fully aware of the famous “Trump Tower meeting” on June 9, 2016, where the arrangements were made — the candidate was informed by his son, in front of Cohen. During Watergate, the question was, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Apparently, the president knew everything.

William Quigley’s portrait of Donald Trump was purchased by a straw bidder at auction for $60,000. Trump reimbursed him with funds from his charity, according to his former attorney who set up the deal, and placed the portrait at one of his resorts.

And speaking of Trump Towers, negotiations for the Moscow edition proceeded through the 2016 campaign, during the time that administration officials had numerous contacts with Russian operatives, and the Russians hacked the DNC. As Trump has said many times, that must mean “no collusion.”

Legal Threats, Bone Spurs, and the Portrait

There were some historical gems as well. Cohen said he threatened to sue or have criminally prosecuted various Trump enemies no fewer than 500 times during his 10-year tenure (this would work out to about once a week). Threatening litigation was a modus operandi of the Trump organization; now we know how often.

Cohen said he personally helped cover up how Trump deferred service in Vietnam allegedly due to having bone spurs, as “diagnosed” by a close family friend who was a podiatrist.

And Cohen said that he once arranged to have a straw bidder push up the auctioned price of a portrait of Trump, then repaid the bidder with money from the Trump family charity. Trump then kept the portrait for himself (now displayed at one of the president’s resorts; the charity has been de-registered and is under investigation by the New York State attorney general).

We are hearing all of this in the context of what we have learned from the investigation of Robert Mueller III, the Special Counsel, which has secured numerous indictments, convictions and guilty pleas of people close to the president, including his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his political consultant Roger Stone. There are more to come.

Among the most impressive guilty pleas was that of Michael Flynn, a former Marines general who was briefly the national security advisor to the president. On his second day at work, Flynn lied to top FBI agents about his contact with Russians during the campaign and the transition, which is a federal crime.

Numerous Russian individuals and organizations have been indicted for manipulating the election, something that every U.S. intelligence agency agreed happened (and which is still happening). There were more than 100 contacts between Trump campaign officials and various Russians leading up to the election, set to the tune of Trump’s ongoing praise of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Get Dr. Amp’s Golden Shit Shovel for Just $29.95

There are a lot of people who think this is no big deal. Also, many are overwhelmed by what feels like the ever-faster treadmill of American life. Many don’t have the emotional energy to muster any resistance. Yes, there is a lot to respond to and too many people are working 12 or 14 hours a day.

Dr. Amp’s shiny gold shit shovel — from Twin Peaks season 3, episode 12.

Yet there’s also the blasé view that this is all just a kind of joke, or some partisan exercise. Maybe they don’t know the details (Robert Mueller is a Republican, and was named by one; all of the currently seated U.S. attorneys were named by Trump personally).

I think the greater problem is one of context. All of this is set within a world where reason, rationality, custom and tradition are crumbling. What we are experiencing is a little like having a great car with four-wheel drive and fantastic tires, stuck in three feet of mud.

Or maybe it’s 18 inches of shit — a joke from the 2017 run of Twin Peaks, wherein a psychiatrist named Dr. Jacoby sponsors his video podcast selling shovels for $29.95 so you can dig yourself out.

Last week and in many prior editions, I described how the problem is related to digital consciousness. This is insidious because we are so surrounded by it, and so dependent on it. Can you leave the house without your cell phone? I suggest you try, as an exercise.

If you are reasoning, and you have some historical context, and if you care about integrity, then you probably think this is all troubling. And the problem is that a great many people lack these faculties, or rather, they have been etched away. Based on known data demonstrating how the digital environment affects us, it’s fair to call this brain damage. Or maybe the equivalent of psychic carbon monoxide poisoning, that you don’t know is killing you until it’s too late — if you ever wake up.

We have time to wake up. We have the ability to dig ourselves out of the shit. We have the ability to make changes — but only if we want to. That is the thing.

With love,
eric

Planet Waves Weekly Horoscope for Feb. 28, 2019 (#1238) | By Amy Elliott

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You are a human being with feelings, so it’s pretty much a given that you’ll have moments when you’re a little rough around the edges; when you feel like part of you could burst out. There may well, of course, be excellent reasons for this. In some circumstances, responding with perfect equanimity would require a total lack of emotion. Don’t judge yourself, therefore, if sometimes you show your wild side. Instead, look for the lesson within it, and for its hidden gifts as an unexplored dimension of your personality.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Prepare to take your place in the universe; to shake off any remnants of self-depreciation or fearfulness with which we so often clothe ourselves and conceal our inner light. It’s time for others to see your unique gifts in their full beauty. This will likely happen gradually, as your confidence develops little by little; and claiming your true merit always brings its challenging moments. Yet it’s a goal worth pursuing with determination and vigor. Take courage, and whenever an opportunity finds its way to you, at least consider saying yes.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Over the next few weeks you’d be best advised not to push the river. Stick to maintenance tasks; keep things ticking over and respond to your environment rather than initiating. Be careful also to examine your motives; be honest with yourself if you’re tempted to further your own cause at the expense of others, or to rebel against some stricture for reasons that are not entirely clear to you. Any attempt at either is likely to come unraveled. If you have frustrations or grievances, air them sincerely and with a view to peaceful resolution.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — There is a fine line between discipline and suppression, between consistency and rigidity. If you are feeling trapped or stuck, you probably need to consider changing things up or giving yourself a little more space. Some form of structure is important to maintaining ongoing projects, though remember you are made of flesh and blood, and can no more lock yourself into a 24/7 constant routine than you can fit inside a shoebox. Eventually, something would have to give. Instead, take care of yourself consciously.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Aim for impeccable conduct in terms of anything to do with contracts, personal obligations or promises you’ve made. Try not to leave anyone in doubt of your integrity. Should you by any chance fail to deliver on something, apologize, confess any errors and make amends where appropriate; clear up any ambiguities. Act as if your every deed carries weight. There is presently a lot of confusion in the world; lines are blurred and truth is saleable. You are in a position to set a better example, if you’re willing.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Be gentle and patient with partners. Especially if a particular issue seems obfuscated or not quite certain, for the time being follow the lead of others involved, and try to bring to the situation what is needed from you. If that’s not obvious, ask. Take care not to project anything onto loved ones that does not originate from them. Offering support without any attached expectations would also be wise (as well as the best policy ethically). You may not get the exact response desired, but your kindness will be noticed.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Make sure you leave a clear path this week for your imagination to run freely. You might not feel the benefits of this immediately, so be patient with the process; you may find you need to give time and energy to exploring your ideas, perhaps in a similar manner to the inspired painter shutting themselves in their studio for several days. In our era, most people have too many commitments to practice that level of intense devotion; instead, there are ways to integrate this aspect of life into your regular schedule.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Follow any creative promptings you might have, even if they seem to lead into rabbit holes. The more these ideas are tuned to your unique consciousness, the better; this is soul-level work, connecting you directly with the Divine, however you view it. Even if the flow of inspiration is a slow drip rather than a rushing river, go with it and see where you end up. This has nothing to do with keeping score or competing with anyone else; it’s a journey of personal growth and healing that’s vital to you and you alone.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You may find yourself tackling a specific puzzle relating to your origins or early family life. The key to success here is to avoid making assumptions, and to try to view the matter from every possible perspective. If you think you’re likely to harbor certain biases, get the benefit of outside opinions from people you know you can trust. Connect with your spiritual contact of choice if you wish. Note that this doesn’t mean your viewpoint is invalid; rather, it’s a crucial piece of the pattern. Yet understanding the other parts also should help immensely.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Go easy on yourself just now, and make sure you reach out and communicate with someone you trust if you need to. Emotions are likely to run strong; keep yours close to the surface, where you can see and deal with them, rather than burying them out of reach. This may feel challenging, but it’s an excellent catalyst for healing deep-seated issues and learning at the level of soul. You need to get to a place where you can be yourself wholly and without compromise, and that requires frank and fearless transparency.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — If you’ve been feeling a bit frayed around the edges in the past week, that should now begin dissipating, and hopefully you can sense somewhat more comfortable turf beneath your feet. Even so, being consciously kind to yourself may well do you good. Welcome Venus into your sign with a little self-pampering; maybe take an extra long bath, or visit a spa, or spend a few hours in surroundings you love. Err on the side of more rather than less, if needs be; for one thing, you’ve almost certainly earned it.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Remember that there is no need to partake in the absolutist judgments of the modern digital era — especially in terms of evaluating yourself, which is where a black-and-white perspective falls ridiculously short. You are a complex being, and if the answer to the mystery of you isn’t at least the length of War and Peace, you’d probably be missing quite a bit of information. Ultimately, you are here, and with free will before you to shape the future. What’s more, the fact that you actually care is what truly matters.

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