The dust is still settling on Michael Cohen's testimony about President Trump on Wednesday, but some consensus is emerging among Democrats: that newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may have asked the sharpest questions of all, ones that might lead to specific new lines of inquiry into Trump's finances. The details:
- The video: Watch the exchange between AOC and Cohen via PBS News Hour.
- Fact-checker's view: Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's Fact Checker columnist, sums things up in a tweet: "Some lessons that other lawmakers could learn from @AOC's good questioning of Cohen: a) follow-up on previously asked questions that still need answers b) be precise and detailed and c) avoid much grandstanding. You might elicit news." Colleague Aaron Blake of the Post writes that her "simple but effective" questions "actually unearthed new information."
- 3 names: At one point, AOC asked, "Did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?" Cohen said yes. "Who else knows the president did this?" she asked, to which Cohen listed three members of the Trump Organization, "Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari." And just like that, her question gave House investigators and federal prosecutors "yet another trail to chase," writes Jonathan Swan at Axios.
- Ramifications: AOC "was the first to hammer home on possible tax fraud by Trump," writes Galen Druke of FiveThirtyEight. "That is potentially being investigated by the Southern District of New York and the state of New York. Various legal experts believe that investigations out of those jurisdictions are more of a legal threat to Trump than Mueller's is."
- Tax returns: AOC also seemed to lay a path for Democrats to subpoena Trump's tax returns, per Quartz. "Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?" she asked Cohen in regard to allegations that Trump lied about his assets. At another point: "Would it help for the committee to obtain federal and state tax returns from the president and his company to address that discrepancy?" Cohen agreed it would.
- Bartending helped: Amid widespread praise for her questions, AOC tweeted: "Thanks! Bartending + waitressing (especially in NYC) means you talk to 1000s of people over the years. Forces you to get great at reading people + hones a razor-sharp BS detector. Just goes to show that what some consider to be 'unskilled labor' can actually be anything but."
- Beating the hype: Yes, AOC is going to get attention no matter what she does, writes Ed Kilgore at New York, and he's been skeptical about all the hype. But on Wednesday, near the end of a long hearing, AOC was "crisp, succinct, and very focused on raising some previously undiscussed potential criminal liability issues for Trump that Cohen’s testimony suggested (e.g, insurance fraud), including several where the hot-button issue of Trump’s missing tax returns might be germane."
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