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I had low expectations for Cohen's hearing yesterday. Or to be more accurate: I had high expectations for its entertainment value, but very modest expectations for how substantively informative it'd be. Turns out, the hearing was indeed entertaining, but also hugely informative.
Due to the format, as well as Congress' general and non-partisan inability to ask useful questions, the information was presented in a disjointed, strung-out fashion, with much never getting followed up on, but still -- there was a ton that we learned.
Cohen is a lying liar, and most of what he says should be used as a signpost that points to areas for further investigation, but not taken as significant evidence in itself. Still, there's one thing even Cohen is unlikely to lie about: specific facts about the SDNY investigation.
Cohen wants a sentence reduction, and that kind of lie would crush his hopes and be easily detected. So, with that in mind, here are three of things from yesterday's hearing that seem like they could turn out to be pretty big deals.
1) There are ongoing SDNY investigations into Trump-related matters, and Cohen is in "constant contact" with the office about them. Part of that investigation is almost certainly looking into whether Trump himself attempted to obstruct justice in the Cohen case.
Rep. Krishnamoorthi asked Cohen when was the last time he'd communicated with either Trump or an agent of Trump, and Cohen said it was approximately 2 months post-raid. Cohen would not, however, answer questions about what Trump/Trump's agent had communicated to him.
"This topic is being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, I've been asked by them not to discuss it or talk about these issues."

Given the timing of the communication and SDNY's interest in it, we can make a pretty good guess about what happened here.
The obvious/most plausible explanation is that whatever Trump said to Cohen (or whatever Trump had his agent say to Cohen) could be interpreted as an effort to obstruct justice, either by coordinating with Cohen or perhaps coercing him, and the SDNY is now investigating that.
Cohen also referenced multiple other investigations into Trump-world, but gave less away about the specifics, though the Stormy payment and "retainer" reimbursement appear to be a part of that investigation's focus.
Cohen also indicated that there are additional investigations un-related to Trump and presumably not matters of public national importance: "There are ongoing investigations currently being conducted that have nothing to do with this committee or congress that I am assisting in."
2) The Buzzfeed article about Trump directing Cohen to lie to Congress was mostly correct, just too aggressive in its phrasing. Trump did instruct Cohen to lie to Congress, but he did it through his attorneys, not personally.
We already knew that Cohen's statement to Congress about how long Trump Org had continued to work on the Trump Tower Moscow project was a lie. What Cohen confirmed yesterday is that Trump's attorneys reviewed and edited a draft of his prepared testimony before he gave it.
And Trump's attorneys made changes to Cohen's proposed testimony about Trump Tower Moscow: "There were several changes that were made including how we were going to handle that message [about] the length of time that the Trump Tower Moscow project stayed and remained alive."
In other words, Trump's attorneys were involved in developing the specific lie Cohen was to tell Congress about Trump Tower Moscow (and possibly Jared's/Ivanka's attorney was as well).
There are two explanations for this: either Trump lied to his attorneys about the length of the Trump Tower Moscow project, or Trump's attorneys independently decided to develop a strategy of lying to Congress about key facts, and Trump went along with the plan.
Which of those explanations applies here matters a heck of a lot for Jay Sekulow's purposes, but for Trump it doesn't make much of a difference. Either way, he encouraged, assisted, and supported Cohen in lying to Congress.
3) The Stormy Daniels payment was personally directed by Trump; the payment was made because of concerns about the impact Stormy would have on the election; and attempts were made to hide the payment by disguising it as Trump Org business activity.
Weisselberg & Cohen tried to develop a way to launder money through Trump Org to pay Stormy, such as by (1) having someone throw an event at a Trump club and pay the money to Stormy/Cohen instead of Trump, or (2) have someone join a club & pay the membership fee to Stormy/Cohen.
But they couldn't find anyone able to do either, and when it came "down to the wire," Cohen just paid it himself. Unfortunately, no one pressed Cohen for details, but we now know there were serious efforts to use Trump club events as a way to launder money for the hush payments.
Given the timing Cohen testified to, the $130K the Trump campaign paid for Trump club events during *the exact period that Cohen & Weisselberg were discussing how to launder $130K through Trump club events* still seems potentially significant, and I hope SDNY has checked into it.
And more generally, it is unlikely that this was the very first time the idea of using Trump Org as a laundering vehicle had ever come up. A question that Cohen should've been asked: what other expenses has Trump paid for over the years by way of misdirected club fees? /end
Oh and also 4) Cohen taped his convo with Trump about the Stormy payment because he knew he'd need it to blackmail Trump into paying him back when Trump inevitably tried to skip out on the bill. This is the purest thing, it's like The Gift of the Magi, only for terrible people.
*The Grift of the Magi
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