Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s Personal Attorney, Gives Explosive Testimony Before Congress
On February 27, Michale Cohen, who acted as President Donald Trump’s attorney from 2006 to 2018, appeared before the House Oversight Committee for questioning regarding the President’s alleged crimes. Although his testimony did not point to any direct evidence of President Trump directly colluding with the Russian government to influence the results of the 2016 Presidential Election or the 2018 Midterm Elections, Cohen’s testimony painted a scathing picture of the Trump Administration overall. Through his testimony, Cohen alleged that Trump approved a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels in 2017, had knowledge of the 2016 WikiLeaks email dump in advance, and wanted Congress to receive misleading testimony about his close ties to Russia. Cohen expressed remorse for his actions and his loyalty to Trump during a blockbuster hearing before the House Oversight Committee that lasted more than seven hours.
In the hearing, Michael Cohen described President Trump as an “intoxicating” presence. “It seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were wrong.”I regret the day I said ‘yes’ to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way,” said Cohen in a 20-page opening statement. “I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore.” In his closing remarks, Cohen addressed the President head-on, ticking off items on a lengthy list of criticism of Trump’s behavior in office, ranging from his weather-based decision to skip a ceremony honoring veterans to his attacks on law enforcement, the media, and others. “You don’t use the power of your bully pulpit to destroy the credibility of those who speak out against you. You don’t separate families from one another or demonize those looking to America for a better life. You don’t slander people based on the god they pray to, and you don’t cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies,” he said. “And finally, you don’t shut down the government before Christmas and New Year’s to appease your base. This behavior is churlish, it denigrates the office of the president, and it’s un-American, and it’s not you.” Cohen also used the hearings to make new claims that contradicted Trump’s previous statements regarding his ties to Russia, though he said that he knew of no direct evidence that Trump or his Presidential campaign colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Michael Cohen also provided the committee with a series of documents, including letters he authored threatening Trump’s high school, college and the College Board from releasing his grades and SAT scores, according to Cohen’s prepared opening statement. Cohen also presented a pair of reimbursement checks he received for the $130,000 hush payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump, an affair Trump says did not happen. Cohen’s documentation and testimony said Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), “raises grave questions about the legality of President Trump’s conduct and the truthfulness of his statements while he was president.”
Over the course of the hearings, Democrats sought to ask Michael Cohen substantive questions and generally respected his time, whereas the Republican members on the committee largely sought to discredit and delegitimize Cohen’s testimony, with one lawmaker describing him as a “pathological liar” due to his previous false statements to Congress. Congressmen Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC), two of President Donald Trump’s strongest Congressional allies, claimed that the Democrats are merely using Michael Cohen to “try to remove the president from office because Tom Steyer told them to.” Additionally, Congressman Meadows correctly pointed out during the hearing that Cohen acted in violation of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 26(b)(3) (which governs Attorney-Client Privilege) by recording his conversations with President Trump and revealing confidential information that was discussed with the President. Moreover, President Trump predictably responded to the hearings by stating that Cohen “lied a lot” and stated that the hearings were “fake” and a partisan tool used by the Democrats.
2. Second North Korean Summit Abruptly Ends
President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un’s Second Summit Abruptly Ends Without Concrete Agreement Between Both Leaders
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly broke off their long-awaited summit on February 27, canceling a planned signing ceremony. “Sometimes you have to walk, and I think that was one of these times,” President Trump said at a press conference that was moved forward by almost two hours after the talks collapsed. “We had some options. At this time we decided not to do any of the options. We’ll see where that goes.” Trump further added.
The President indicated that the discussions stalled due to Kim’s demand that all sanctions be lifted in exchange for concessions on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The summit ended with a handshake, according to President Trump, who characterized the talks as “very friendly.” President Trump said Kim has a “certain vision, it’s not exactly our vision but it’s a lot closer than it was a year ago.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the news conference that he hopes a deal will be reached “in the weeks ahead.” He added: “We didn’t get all the way. We asked him to do more, he was unprepared to that. I’m still optimistic.” While President Donald Trump has said he was not in a hurry to make a comprehensive pact with Kim, Trump touted a “very strong partnership” with the North Korean leader before departing Vietnam for the US empty-handed. Trump also said that Kim had pledged that “testing will not start” of rockets or missiles “or anything having to do with nuclear.”
The apparent breakdown in talks is sure to come as a relief to many North Korea experts, including some Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who worried Trump was ready to make concessions to Kim without securing a firm and verifiable disarmament commitment. In rare remarks to Western reporters before the summit was abbreviated, Kim, who spoke through an interpreter, said that he was willing to consider “denuclearizing.” “If I’m not willing to do that, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Kim said as he sat across the negotiating table from Trump. President Trump himself repeatedly emphasized that he was in “no rush” to get a comprehensive agreement with Kim, playing down expectations for a full nuclear disarmament pact.
President Donald Trump praised Kim for discontinuing missile launches after their first summit in Singapore last year. “We don’t want the testing. And we’ve developed something very special with respect to that.” Kim said during his opening remarks in Hanoi that skeptics of the relationship would be watching closely and see the two leaders “side by side as if they’re watching a fancy movie.” Kim and Trump had a one-on-one session in the morning, followed by a meeting with a larger group of officials from both sides. But everything fell apart around the lunch hour. Before the summit’s unexpected ending, Kim was asked whether he was confident he could strike a deal with Trump. “It’s too early to say,” Kim replied. “I would not say I’m pessimistic.” President Trump said he was willing to take his time — a necessity, it appears, if he is going to eventually persuade Kim to disarm. “Chairman Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal,” Trump said. “Speed is not important.”
3. Netanyahu Indicted
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu To Be Indicted On Corruption Charges
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges arising from three separate corruption investigations, pending a hearing, Israel’s attorney general announced late on February 27. The announcement, close to April’s general election, marks a dramatic moment in Israeli politics and a major blow to Netanyahu as he seeks a fifth term in office. Netanyahu repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, denouncing the investigations as a media-led witchhunt (much like his close friend US President Donald Trump. In a prime time broadcast shortly after the announcement, Netanyahu blamed the left for pressuring Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointee, to issue an indictment “The left understands that they will not beat me at the ballot box,” Netanyahu said. “They exerted extraordinary pressure on the attorney general to issue an indictment even though there is nothing, to influence the elections and to crown a left-wing government.” “This entire house of cards will collapse. I am sure of it 4,000%,” he added, referencing one of the cases against him.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is entitled to a hearing on the impending indictment before charges are formally issued, but that is not expected to take place until after the election. Under Israeli law, Netanyahu is not required to step down if he is indicted. He is only required to step down if he is convicted and that conviction is upheld through the appeals process, which could take years. Netanyahu’s main challenger in the upcoming elections, former military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, called on him to resign after the attorney general’s announcement. “Because of the circumstances which have arisen, sitting [in a future government] with Benjamin Netanyahu is not something which is on the table,” Gantz said in response to Netanyahu’s statement. “Benjamin Netanyahu — I turn to you this evening. Get over yourself and show national responsibility. Resign from your position. If you prove that you are innocent, you can return to the public realm and again lead your movement,” Gantz added.
The recent developments cloud an already murky Israeli political landscape, as well as raises questions regarding Benjamin Netanyahu’s record as Prime Minister. Whereas supports of Zionism (both in Israel and abroad), as well as several Arab leaders, have praised Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to defend Israel, Netanyahu’s record as Prime Minister is far more mixed overall. Opponents of Benjamin Netanhayu have long criticized his government for its mass human rights abuses against the Palestinian people (which have been deemed as “war crimes” by the United Nations), rabidly anti-Iran policies (which many
4. Trump Gives Incoherent Speech
President Donald Trump Gives “Incoherent” Speech At The Annual CPAC Conference
In the longest speech of his presidency to date, President Donald Trump riled up the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 2, letting loose on topics ranging from the Russia investigation and the Democratic presidential field to free speech on college campuses. President Trump, still reeling from a blistering week both at home and abroad, claimed he was being “sarcastic” and “having fun with the audience” when during the 2016 campaign he urged Russia to hack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails. “I’ve learned with the fake news, if you tell a joke, if you are sarcastic, if you’re having fun with the audience, if you are on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena, and if you say something like ‘Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton’s emails! Please, Russia, please! Please get us the emails! Please!’” Trump said in a mocking tone. Trump was referring to a press conference in July 2016 during which he said, “Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens that’ll be next.” According to an indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller, Russians made their first attempt to hack Clinton’s personal servers that same day.
President Donald Trump’s remarks, which ran for more than two hours, came just days after he returned from a trip abroad to meet with North Korean leaders, during which he suggested that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was not responsible for the death of American college student Otto Warmbier. “I’m in such a horrible position because in one way I have to negotiate. The other way, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier, and I love Otto. And it’s a very, very delicate balance. He was a special young man and to see what happened was so bad,” Trump said, appearing to explain his previous comments. “All of the sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit,” Trump said, about Mueller’s probe. “Robert Mueller never received a vote, and neither did the person who appointed him,” Trump continued, as he attempted to portray Mueller’s team as a group of the “angriest Democrats.”
March 2 marked President Trump’s CPAC speech since he was elected president. In the past, Trump has used CPAC to energize his conservative base, and this was no exception. President Trump used the speech to attack the Democrats as socialists, warned once again of a caravan at the southern border full of “stone cold killers,” and referred to 2020 Democratic candidates as “maniacs,” accusing their party of supporting “extreme late-term abortion.” President Trump also attacked 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, lamenting that he should not have referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas” so early on in the election cycle. “I should’ve saved the Pocahontas thing for another year because I’ve destroyed her political career and now I won’t get a chance to run against her, and I would’ve loved it,” Trump told the crowd. “I don’t want to knock out all the good stuff and end up with somebody that’s got talent.” Trump also invited activist Hayden Williams on stage as he announced he plans to sign an executive order “very soon” requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want to receive federal grants.