Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


What Mueller Really Knows About Trump (And Russia)

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

Robert S. Mueller knows a great deal more than he put in his richly detailed 448-page report.

He says so again and again right in the report.

Two crucial words he put into the report at least eight times are messages to our Congress and the rest of us about how his investigation was hamstrung by rules from telling all that he and his team learned.

Those two words: “admissible evidence.”

The federal courts have developed ever more detailed rules about what evidence is admissible and what is not. The Justice Department has expanded its manual for prosecutors to adapt to these rules.

Only one group has benefitted more from these rules than white-collar criminals, who have lawyers like Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen to advise them on how to lie, cheat and steal without much risk of being indicted and much less risk of being convicted.

Our federal government makes only a minimalist attempt to pursue white-collar criminals. For example, during tax season in February only 71 criminal tax cases were filed in the whole country. Most of them involved drug dealers or bribe-taking politicians, not flat-out tax cheats. And there were just 52 convictions, half of the level of five years ago.

But the one group that benefits even more than white-collar crooks from court rules on admissible evidence are foreign agents and spies. That’s because they are beyond the reach of American law enforcement in most cases, Russian spy Maria Butina being a notable exception.

Mueller indicted 25 Russians, half of them military officers, and three Russian companies, but he has no way to bring them to trial unless they do something incredibly stupid like set foot on American soil. Capturing just one of them, and making him flip, would terrify Trump—and for good reason, based on the Mueller Report findings.

Congress, however, is not burdened by the evidence rules that constrained Team Mueller.

Our Congress can go wherever the facts point. That freedom can be abused, which Trump is sure to continually complain is the case. But the freedom to look for the truth also means that Congress can see past the smoke and spot the fires causing it.

Mueller, in closed-door sessions and in public testimony, will be free to tell what evidence he had, but that did not meet the standards of his charter, of the Justice Department manual governing its prosecutors, or federal court rules.

Attorney General William Barr, who lied through his teeth at his gratuitous press conference just before he gave the report to Congress, said that Mueller would be free to testify to Congress. We’ll see, but don’t count on Barr having been honest — because his actions over the years show he is not honest.

The report, in the language below from Page 18 of Volume 1, is pregnant with a message to Congress about evidence the special counsel could not include:

The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information-such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media—in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g., Justice Manual§§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or “taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well-numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.

Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated-including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

Mueller also notes, at page 182, that his office found significant evidence of involvement with Russians linked to the Kremlin, but brought charges in only some cases because of the admissible evidence rule.

Mueller said his team “determined that the contacts between Campaign officials and Russia-linked individuals either did not involve the commission of a federal crime or, in the case of campaign-finance offenses, that our evidence was not sufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction. At the same time, the Office concluded that the Principles of Federal Prosecution supported charging certain individuals connected to the Campaign with making false statements or otherwise obstructing this investigation or parallel congressional investigations.”

At page 193, Mueller wrote that his office “considered whether to charge Trump Campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 meeting [at Trump Tower]… The Office concluded that, in light of the government’s substantial burden of proof on issues of intent (‘knowing’ and ‘willful’) , and the difficulty of establishing the value of the offered information, criminal charges would not meet the Justice Manual standard that ‘the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.’ Justice Manual§ 9-27.220.”

He explains further on the next page that “the Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted ‘willfully,’ i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation.”

In other words, wrongful acts took place, but court rules and Justice Department policies together with missing, destroyed or unavailable (from the Kremlin agents in the meeting) evidence are too strict to make a criminal case, which requires convincing 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal intent.

And despite the axiom that ignorance of the law is no defense, it actually can be for white-collar crimes, as Mueller wrote at page 194. He focuses on the word scienter, a legal term that means knowledge of wrongdoing.

“Most significantly, the government has not obtained admissible evidence that is likely to establish the scienter requirement beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove that a defendant acted ‘knowingly and willfully,’ the government would have to show that the defendant had general knowledge that his conduct was unlawful,” Mueller wrote.

Think of that as the “too stupid to be guilty of a crime” defense.

Even if a fully un-redacted version of the Mueller Report becomes available –and it will, even if it not until some distant future day – it is vital that Mueller and his team testify before Congress.

Mueller almost shouts to us and our Congress that the full Mueller report is far from the full report on what his team learned about our president and his embrace of Kremlin help to get into the Oval Office.

We need to hear all the facts.

The 47 Minutes That Told Us Everything About Trump

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch.

Recently, I did something rare in my life. Over a long weekend, I took a few days away and almost uniquely — I might even say miraculously — never saw Donald Trump’s face, since I didn’t watch TV and barely checked the news. They were admittedly terrible days in which 50 people were slaughtered in New Zealand.  Meanwhile, the president indulged in another mad round of tweeting, managing in my absence to lash out at everything and everyone in sight (or even beyond the grave) from John McCain, Saturday Night Live, and the Mueller “witch hunt” to assorted Democrats and even Fox News for suspending host Jeanine Pirro’s show. In his version of the ultimate insult, he compared Fox to CNN. And I was blissfully ignorant of it all, which left me time to finally give a little thought to… Donald Trump.

And when I returned, on an impulse, I conjured up the initial Trumpian moment of our recent lives. I’m aware, of course, that The Donald first considered running for president in the Neolithic age of 1987.  He tried to register and trademark “Make America Great Again,” a version of an old Reagan campaign slogan, only days after Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election to President Obama.  He then rode that president’s “birth certificate” into the post-Apprentice public spotlight amid a growing wave of racism in a country founded on slavery that has never truly grappled with that fact.

Still, the 47 minutes and eight seconds that I was thinking about took place more recently. On June 16, 2015, Donald and Melania Trump stepped onto a Trump Tower escalator and rode it down to the pounding beat of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” (a song the singer would soon demand, without success, that the presidential hopeful not use). A minute and a half later, they arrived in the Trump Tower lobby. There, a clapping Ivanka greeted her father with a kiss on each cheek — the first signal of the corporatist, family-style presidency to come. Then, The Donald stepped to the microphone and promptly launched his run into fake-news history.

Sometimes, the only way to go forward, or at least know where you are in the present, is to go back. Yes, Donald Trump garnered much news with his announcement that day and was already visibly having the time of his life, but no one in or out of the media then thought he had a shot at being president. Even he was only burnishing his brand. As Michael Wolff reported in his book Fire and Fury, even on election night 2016, almost a year and a half later, with the possible exception of Steve Bannon, no one in the Trump camp, including The Donald, had the slightest expectation of his winning the presidency. All of them were just burnishing their future brands.

And yet, in the spring of 2019, those largely forgotten 47 minutes are worth another look because, in retrospect, they provide such a vivid window into what was to come, what’s still coming. They offer the future president not naked at last, but naked at first, and so represent an episode of revelatory wonder (and, had anyone then believed that he might actually win the presidency, of revelatory dread as well)

The Candidate Naked as a Jaybird

Having taken another look at that first speech, I now think of the Trump era so far as the 47-minute presidency. It’s nothing short of wondrous just how strikingly that de-escalatory ride and the Trumpian verbal strip tease that followed before a cheering crowd revealed, point by point, the essence of his presidency to come. And by the way, it was certainly indicative of that future presidency that the audience (reporters aside) listening to him in the lobby of Trump Tower seems largely to have been made up of out-of-work actors being paid $50 a pop to cheer him on. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the email sent out by Extra Mile Casting to recruit those extras read in part: “We are looking to cast people for the event to wear t-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement. We understand this is not a traditional ‘background job,’ but we believe acting comes in all forms and this is inclusive of that school of thought.”

And given what would happen, never has an audience been bought more cheaply or effectively.

It’s hardly news today that Donald Trump would prove a unique candidate in American presidential history. On that first day, the most uniquely unique aspect of his speech (and, in the age of Trump, I offer no apologies for such an over-the-top superlative) was the utter, even brutal, honesty with which he presented — or perhaps the better word would be displayed — himself to the American people. To paint an even more honest picture, the one thing he might have done was ride that escalator up, not down, to his announcement. After all, his would be an escalation presidency of the first order. In crisis — and when is The Donald not in crisis? — it’s in his nature to escalate.

So bear with me here as I take us back almost four years to look once again at how it all began, at the way in which, after those 47 minutes, you could have turned off your TV, blocked out all those cable news talking heads, and never looked at the man again. After all, by then you knew everything you truly needed to know (except one thing that I’ll return to below) in order to grasp the Trumpian moment to come. In that sense, I think it’s fair to say, without a hint of Trump Tower-style exaggeration, that The Donald was the most honest presidential candidate we’ve ever had.

Honesty may be an odd label to slap on such a man. After all, he lies incessantly. He misstates regularly. He creates false facts anytime he needs them and then sticks with them forever — and he did just that, with alacrity and aplomb, on his very first day. In some sense, almost everything he says might be considered a lie of sorts, but the lying, misstating, absurd claims, and over-the-top pronouncements are done so nakedly, are so easy to debunk (or, if you prefer, like much of his base, to accept as reality), that they might almost be considered another form of honesty. They are, at least, a form of Trumpian revelation and so nakedness.

The general rule of politics is, of course, that the one thing you don’t do is offer yourself exactly as you are, warts and all (or even all warts) and naked as a jaybird for everyone to see. But Donald Trump did just that. In those first 47 minutes and eight seconds, he undressed in front of America. And nearly four years later, it’s worth looking back to grasp just how clearly his future presidency could be viewed in that first naked moment of moments.

King Toot

In a sense, all you needed to know was this. In that announcement speech, it took him barely two minutes to make it to the Mexican border, where he remains today. Nor should it have taken long for any viewer to grasp a few other things about him: he wasn’t a man for scripts, but was a man for insults; the Trump brand was far more crucial to him than the American one; he wouldn’t just interrupt you or anyone else, but also himself; he was ready to use blunt, everyday language never before associated with presidential candidates, no less presidents, in public (“They talked about environmental, they talked about all sorts of crap that had nothing to do with it”); there were no claims too big (or false) for him to make, especially when it came to himself and his effect on the world; he had already perfected his own unique version of incoherence, or stream-of-consciousness speaking, into a vibrant art form (that, in another sense, couldn’t have been more coherent); and he had an ego, invariably on display, as big as… well, not just the Ritz but perhaps his then-still-under-construction Trump International Hotel just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House — and all of that was obvious even before he mentioned that “great, great wall” of his.

Despite an already existing following, thanks to his promotion of the Obama “birther” conspiracy theory, his adoring base did not yet exist. For him, however, it already did. It was, you might say, born ahead of its time. His first two words in that speech were “Wow. Whoa.” His reference point: the crowd of hired actors in front of him. “That is some group of people. Thousands.” Of them, he would momentarily say — no need to wait for the crowd controversy over his inaugural address more than a year and a half later — “There’s been no crowd like this.” But first, of course, just 20 words in, there had to be a plug for his brand. (“It’s great to be at Trump Tower.”)

And it didn’t take 30 seconds for the first insult du jour of his presidential run to make its appearance. Yep, there was that crowd, Trump Tower, and then naturally the matter of sweat and air conditioning. (“And, I can tell, some of the candidates, they went in [to announce their candidacies]. They didn’t know the air-conditioner didn’t work. They sweated like dogs… How are they going to beat ISIS?”) This was assumedly the first of what would be many insulting references to Republican senator and candidate Marco Rubio’s propensity to sweat, assumedly during his announcement of his candidacy that April. Though The Donald had barely begun, in what would be his typical fashion, he had already connected not blood, sweat, and tears, but air conditioning, sweat, and ISIS in the fashion in which he’s connected seemingly disparate things ever since.

And as Dr. Seuss might once have said: That was not all! Oh, no, that was not all! Those listening, at $50 a pop or not, quickly found themselves on the sort of high-speed train ride you can have in significant parts of the world — there are 27,000 kilometers of it China — but not in the United States, unless you’re at a Trump rally.

Just over two minutes in and the candidate-to-come had already zipped past China and Japan (“…they beat us all the time”) and arrived at that Mexican border. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…” A minute later, he leapt to the Middle East and “Islamic terrorism,” claiming “I’m in competition with them” because, he insisted, ISIS now had the Iraqi oil that “we should’ve taken” after the invasion and occupation of that country. With that oil money, he claimed, they had built “a hotel in Syria.” (Okay, it was, in fact, in Mosul, Iraq, and they didn’t build it, they took it over, but no matter.)

A headlong dash across the Iraqi border into Iran somehow brought him to American nukes (“Even our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work”) and next thing you knew you were ripping past the U.S. gross domestic product, which, he swore, was shockingly, unbelievably “below zero.” (He evidently meant growth in the GDP, not the GDP itself, not that that was true either.) And none of it — ISIS, Iraqis, Mexicans, Muslims, failing nukes, or even sweat and air conditioners added up to much of anything compared to “a disaster called the big lie: Obamacare. Obamacare.”

And that, mind you, was just the first nine minutes of his announcement, the rest of which — from China envy to Saudi love — similarly proved a remarkably apt outline of the presidency (and president) to come. But don’t let me forget one more thing: at the heart of that speech, as at the heart of everything else in the years that followed, was you-know-who and you-know-whose brand and business.

From those first moments, Donald Trump was always King Toot (as in, tooting his own horn). Yes, in that speech he plugged making America great again, mentioning the phrase, in whole or part, nine times. And it was indeed a brilliant slogan for him to adopt.  It allowed him to say something all too real that no other politician of that moment dared to say: that America wasn’t then the most exceptional or indispensable or greatest country on Earth; in those initial moments, that is, he inaugurated himself as our first genuine declinist presidential candidate (or at least the man who could save us all from further decline).  And whether as a repeated slogan or four words on a red cap, he rang a bell, loud and clear, in the white American heartland.

Still, read that speech now and you won’t doubt for a moment that his truest slogan wasn’t MAGA at all, but MTGAAA (Make Trump Great Again and Again and Again). In that sense, at the first rally of his presidency, he offered a remarkably forthright picture of what was to come.

He billed himself as a businessman of the first order for a country desperately in need of economic resuscitation — and his would indeed be a business presidency, if you mean his (and his family’s) businesses. That first speech would be larded with references to, and praise for, those very businesses and, of course, himself. He assured listeners that he was worth no less than $8,737,540,000 (though not according to Forbes) and that he wasn’t even bragging about it. (“I’m not doing that to brag, because you know what? I don’t have to brag. I don’t have to, believe it or not.”)

It took just 12 minutes for him to make it to his golf courses and then to his most recent book. (“I have the best courses in the world… Now, our country needs… a truly great leader now. We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal.”) No matter that Tony Schwartz, its ghostwriter, would later denounce him as “incapable of reading a book, much less writing one.”

In fact, no subject he raised that day seemed to lack a reference to the monuments, with their giant golden letters, that he had already erected to himself. The Saudis (“I love the Saudis. Many are in this building”), the Chinese (“The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower. I love China”), you name it and he linked it to his businesses. In, for instance, a passing discussion of the country’s sagging infrastructure (still crumbling almost four years later) — “It’s like we’re in a third world country,” he’d say that day — he promptly focused on his hotel-to-be in the nation’s capital.  (“You know, we’re building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Old Post Office, we’re converting it into one of the world’s great hotels. It’s gonna be the best hotel in Washington, D.C.”)

The emoluments clause in the Constitution? Don’t make me laugh. From the first second, Donald Trump couldn’t have made it clearer that, were you to vote for him, you would be putting his business and no one else’s, including yours, in the White House. Again, it was a rare moment of honesty, even if few truly took it in (or, at that moment, cared).

The Bankruptcy King in Person

All of this is, of course, ancient history, but as a document that first speech is anything but yesterday’s news. In many ways, it remains tomorrow’s headlines in a media world that, so long after, still can’t get enough of him. Had any of us truly been paying attention to more than the circus quality of the former ringmaster of The Apprentice taking his moment in the electoral sun, we might have noticed that Donald Trump was — give him credit — a strangely open book, no ghostwriters in sight. He’s remained so ever since.

That June 16th, he displayed himself nakedly — except for the orange hair — before that audience of reporters and hired actors, as well as the rest of America, and he’s never put on a stitch of clothing since. His initial TV moment was not a once-in-a-lifetime but a first-in-a-lifetime performance by a man in the process of creating a genuine what-you-see-is-what-you-get presidential run and presidency.

As I mentioned, however, there was an exception to everything I’ve written above, as there usually is to all rules in life. One thing was missing from his speech, as it would be from all of the speeches, tweets, and rallies to follow. The single hidden factor in the Trump presidency (even if, like everything else about the man from bone spurs to Roy Cohn, it was always in plain sight) contradicted his endless presentation of himself as the ultimate businessman and dealmaker for a floundering and foundering America.

Donald Trump wasn’t actually a successful businessman at all, not in the normal sense anyway. He was an economic magician (or, in classic American terms, a con man) who regularly ground business after business — a set of casinos (at a time when other casinos were thriving), hotels, an airline, and a series of other endeavors ranging from Trump Steaks to Trump Vodka to Trump University — into the dust of bankruptcy or failure. What made him such a magician was that, in case after case, his greatest “business” skill proved to be jumping ship, dollars in hand, leaving those who trusted him, had faith in him, believed in him holding the bag.

He had a history of screwing anyone who relied on him, whether we’re talking about the investors in his Atlantic City casinos or a bevy of small business types and others who worked for him — plumbers, waiters, painters, cabinet makers — and were later stiffed. In other words, Americans elected a bankruptcy king as their president and character will tell.

There really are no secrets here. In the end, Donald Trump clearly cares about nothing but himself (and perhaps his family as an extension of that self).

So read or listen to that first campaign speech again. Reintroduce yourself to Donald Trump presenting himself with naked honesty — with that single exception — and then consider the future for a moment. Whether in his first or second term (should he win again in 2020), if things start to head south economically, count on this: He’ll repeat his well-documented history and jump ship, leaving the American people, including that beloved base of his, holding the bag.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).

IMAGE: Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president, June 16, 2015.

Manafort Sentenced To Additional 43 Months In Federal Prison

Paul Manafort, the convicted felon who led Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign during a crucial period, was sentenced to an additional 43 months in federal prison on Wednesday — ensuring the disgraced Republican political operative will spend seven-and-a-half years behind bars for his crimes.

Manafort’s new prison time — which he received for committing conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice after Manafort attempted to tamper with witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — will be tacked on to the 47 months in prison Manafort was sentenced to last week by a federal judge in Virginia.

That 47-month sentence Manafort received was incredibly light compared to the 19- to 24-year sentence recommended for the host of crimes Manafort was both convicted of and pleaded guilty to committing. And the judge in the case — T.S. Ellis —has been widely panned for being sympathetic to Manafort, somehow saying Manafort had lived a “blameless life” despite Manafort’smany crimes and work for brutal and violent dictators.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson was much harsher in her sentencing than a federal judge in Virginia was last week.

Jackson chided Manafort during the sentencing, saying it was “hard to overstate” the numbers of lies he told and the fraud he committed. And she said he made these choices in order to “sustain a lifestyle at the most opulent and extravagant level” and to buy “more houses than one man can enjoy, more suits than one man can wear.”

Her tough words were widely expected, as Jackson had been much harsher on Manafort during the tiral process. She was the judge who decided to revoke Manafort’s bail last June and have him locked up while he awaited trial and sentencing, after it was determined that he committed more crimes after his initial indictment.

Still, Jackson said during the hearing that she did not take into account the Virginia sentence when determining how to proceed.

“What is happening today is not or can not be a revision of a sentence that is imposed by another court,” Jackson said, according to NBC News.

Trump, for his part, has not ruled out pardoning Manafort. However if Trump does pardon him, New York state prosecutors are weighing charging Manafort with state crimes that do not fall under Trump’s pardon power.

In total, at least six members of Trump’s campaign or inner circle have been indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty in Mueller’s probe — which is still ongoing. And dozens of other Russians and companies have also been hit with indictments for their hacking and meddling during the 2016 campaign.

The so-called “witch hunt” Trump has accused Mueller of conducting sure has found a lot of witches…

Published with permission of The American Independent.


Cohen Slated To Appear Before House Oversight Committee On Feb. 27

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen has waffled on whether he will testify for Congress before he reports to prison for the crimes he’s pleaded guilty to — but on Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee confirmed that he will be appearing publicly at a hearing on Feb. 27.

It was also announced Wednesday that the date on which he must report to prison has been pushed back two months — from March 6 to May 6. He has been sentenced to 3 years in prison.

As one of the people who had been most deeply involved in the darkest elements of Trump’s business — he frequently referred to himself as Trump’s “fixer”— his testimony has the potential to be a political spectacle and damaging to the president. Once a loyal aide, he now sees himself as a bold truth-teller speaking out against the president’s corruption. He has already pleaded guilty to committing campaign finance crimes at Trump’s direction, implicating the president himself in a crime, by arranging hush money payment ahead of the 2016 election for women who said they had affairs with Trump. He has also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about working on the president’s behalf to negotiate a deal with the Russian government to build a Trump Tower Moscow during the campaign.

He’s been scheduled to testify before but ended up backing out of the plans, most notably because Trump sent a threatening tweet demanding investigations of Cohen’s father-in-law. Cohen and his lawyer Lanny Davis said he felt threatened by these public messages, which many argued could constitute the crime of witness tampering and intimidation.

According to the Wall Street JournalCohen will not discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Cohen has previously said that Trump has not been honest about the Russia issue, and Mueller said he has provided details about central parts of the investigation.

But according to a memo released by Oversight Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Cohen will be expected to discuss a wide range of topics touching on the president. They include (as described by Cummings):

  • the President’s debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election
  • the President’s compliance with financial disclosure requirements
  • the President’s compliance with campaign finance laws
  • the President’s compliance with tax laws;
  • the President’s potential and actual conflicts of interest
  • the President’s business practices
  • the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C
  • the accuracy of the President’s public statements
  • potentially fraudulent or inappropriate practices by the Trump Foundation
  • public efforts by the President and his attorney to intimidate Mr. Cohen or others not to testify

Cummings noted that Cohen is testifying voluntarily and therefore is not under a subpoena. He will also meet with the committee on Feb. 28 to discuss matters that can not be discussed publicly.