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Michael Cohen

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  • Boris Epshteyn calls Michael Cohen a "rat" in a Sinclair must-run segment airing across the country 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Sinclair Broadcast Group’s local TV stations around the country are currently airing a commentary segment in which former Trump administration official Boris Epshteyn declares Michael Cohen a “rat.”

    Cohen, a former longtime personal lawyer and “fixer” for President Donald Trump, testified publicly in a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27. In his sworn testimony, Cohen offered new details about the president’s awareness of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 election and Trump’s role in arranging hush money payments to women he had sexual relationships with, among other damning information. Cohen also testified that the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. had played more significant roles in a Trump Tower Moscow project and in arranging the hush money payments than previously disclosed.

    In a new “must-run” segment about the testimony airing on dozens of Sinclair-controlled local news stations, Epshteyn -- a former Trump aide and Sinclair’s chief political analyst since 2017 -- fell in line with other pro-Trump media attempting to downplay the testimony. Epshteyn also emphatically denounced Cohen as a “rat.”

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: President Trump's former personal attorney and rat, Michael Cohen, was questioned in a heated, all-day hearing in front of the House oversight committee this week. Despite Cohen’s scathing opening remarks, there were three key takeaways from his hearing.

    One: Cohen said under oath that he did not take a trip to Prague to collude with Russia on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump. Cohen stated that he did not have any evidence whatsoever of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    Two: Cohen said that he did not seek a position in the Trump administration. Many in the president’s inner circle as well as acquaintances of Cohen's have taken to Twitter to deny that ridiculous claim. That may mean that Cohen perjured himself again in his congressional testimony. If so, Cohen could face additional jail time on top of the three years that he’s due to start serving in May.

    Three: Cohen repeatedly called himself a liar, exposing his bias against the president and making a total fool out of himself.

    Here’s the bottom line: The good news for Democrats? They got an opportunity to continue to talk about President Trump and the Russia investigation for just a little longer. The bad news? Cohen’s testimony exposed their narrative for what it really is: totally fabricated nonsense.

    Epshteyn previously worked in the Trump White House on the communications team after a stint on the Trump inaugural committee. He also served as a Trump media surrogate throughout the campaign and during the first days of his presidency. Epshteyn is personal friends with the president’s sons Eric and Donald Jr., and he has been spotted at Trump International Hotel multiple times, including with Don Jr.

    Epshteyn privately testified before the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 on matters related to Russian collusion in the 2016 election.

    The segment began running on Sinclair stations on February 28, and so far it has aired on at least 35 stations in at least 25 states. It is accompanied, typically in the same newscast, by an opposing “must-run” segment from Sinclair’s new liberal commentator Ameshia Cross.

  • Here's the powerful testimony from trans service members you missed while media aired the Cohen hearing

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    While national news was airing longtime Trump fixer and attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House oversight committee, transgender service members testified in front of Congress for the first time about the Trump-Pence administration’s ban on transgender service members.

    On January 22, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to proceed while it is considered by lower courts. According to the National Center For Transgender Equality, it is estimated that more than 134,000 veterans and 15,000 current service members identify as transgender.

    A month after the Supreme Court’s decision -- and for the first time in history -- active duty, out trans service members and their allies addressed Congress about the harmful impacts of the Trump-Pence ban and highlighted how the policy contradicts medical and scientific consensus.

    Here are some of their most powerful statements from the February 27 hearing:

    Capt. Jennifer Peace: President Donald Trump’s tweets announcing the ban made me question why “risk my life again when the people that I am serving do not even want me here?”

    REP. LORI TRAHAN (D-MA): We’ve all gone through parts of our career where, you know, we’ve faced difficulties. So, I’d love for you to share with us maybe some of your more difficult times in the military, and in that moment, it would be nice to know, was it being transgender that held your back? Or was it just a difficult time in the military?


    CAPT. JENNIFER PEACE: The second [most difficult time] was when I was on leave. I was actually enjoying a little bit of a vacation when I woke up to the tweets from the president of the United States, and I think it was at that moment that I for the first time really questioned why am I still waking up and putting on this uniform when time and time again I am told that I am not able to serve? Why should I wait around to deploy and risk my life again when the people that I am serving do not even want me here?

    Peace: If trans folks “are told they are not good enough to serve the United States military, then now the entire United States sees trans people as somehow less.”

    PEACE: I think it’s also important to look at how this is going to affect the broader population. Whether deserved or not, there is a hero culture that has risen in the military over the last decade. All of us get thanked for our service and called heroes almost every day that we go out amongst the public. Officers and noncommissioned officers in the military are regularly rated as some of the most respected professions in the United States. So now if transgender people can no longer join the military, if they can’t be awarded Meritorious Service Medals, Purple Hearts; if they can’t deploy around the world; if they are told they are not good enough to serve the United States military, then now the entire United States sees trans people as somehow less.

    Staff Sgt. Patricia King: “My authenticity inspired that of my soldiers, along with strong leadership, and hard work, and solid training.”

    STAFF SGT. PATRICIA KING: My authenticity inspired that of my soldiers, along with strong leadership, and hard work, and solid training. We built cohesion in a way that I have never seen in my 19 years of service. That’s the value of inclusion. That’s the value of having open trans service. From austere conditions in the field to deployed conditions in combat to life in the barracks, I have witnessed firsthand that troops want strong leaders, leaders who care about them, leaders who can inspire them. They don’t care if that soldier is trans. They don’t care if that leader is gay or bi, white or black, male or female. And they don’t care which bathroom or shower you use. The question that resounds in their mind are, can you do your job and accomplish your mission? Can you put rounds on target in the heat of battle? Can you look out for your troops’ best interests? If a soldier’s leader can do those things, everything else really doesn’t matter.

    American Medical Association’s Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld: “There is no medically valid reason ... to exclude transgender individuals from military service.”

    DR. JESSE EHRENFELD: I would like to state unequivocally for the record that there is no medically valid reason, including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, to exclude transgender individuals from military service. This is the position of most major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, all of whom disagree with the Department of Defense’s rationale for a transgender ban.


    A major report -- noted by Chairwoman Speier earlier -- by several retired military surgeons generals rejected the Department of Defense’s rationale for exclusion, concluding that the Department of Defense’s report is contradicted by ample evidence clearly demonstrating that transition-related care is effective [and] that transgender personnel diagnosed with gender dysphoria are deployable and medically fit. The Department of Defense’s report’s conclusions that transgender are not fit to serve contradicts the medical and scientific consensus. Transgender individuals are fully capable of serving. There is nothing about being transgender that diminishes a person’s ability to serve in the military.

  • How Fox & Friends spun Michael Cohen’s opening statement

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The hosts and guests of Fox & Friends, President Donald Trump’s favorite morning news program, spent the hours before longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony running cover for the president.

    According to a copy of his opening statement obtained by reporters early Wednesday morning, Cohen will provide details to the House oversight committee about what he says is Trump’s knowledge of plans by WikiLeaks to release damaging emails about Hillary Clinton and of a meeting between the president’s son and Russians during the 2016 election, as well as Trump’s aggressive pursuit of a business deal in Russia at that time. He will also discuss the president’s role in an illegal scheme to keep his affairs private by paying hush money to women including the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels. In the statement, he describes Trump as a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat.”

    Like the president and virtually everyone who has served him, Cohen is a liar -- in May, he will report to prison after pleading guilty to charges that include lying to Congress. But according to his statement, he also plans to provide physical evidence to the committee to bolster his remarks. Those documents include a $35,000 check signed by Trump that Cohen says was a reimbursement for payments he made at the president’s behest in order to silence Daniels.

    On Fox & Friends, Fox personalities are furiously spinning this damning story in three ways.

    Nothing to see here

    Fox’s hosts and guests have been telling their audience that Cohen’s allegations are really much ado about nothing.

    “This is a melodrama, it’s a soap opera, it’s a tabloid all wrapped into one,” in the words of contributor Jason Chaffetz, who as a Republican member of Congress previously chaired the oversight committee. “Michael Cohen didn’t serve in the government, he wasn’t part of the executive branch, everything that they’re talking about happened before Donald Trump became the president.”

    After co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Chaffetz about Cohen’s allegation that longtime Trump political strategist Roger Stone was keeping Trump apprised of communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign, both Chaffetz and co-host Steve Doocy replied, “Where’s the collusion?”

    Fox contributor Dan Bongino had a similar response later in the program when Kilmeade detailed Cohen’s Stone claim and asked, “What changes after that?” Bongino replied, “Nothing. I mean, there's nothing there. There's no there there.” He later added, “None of this is great politically. The question is, is it criminally damaging? And the answer is no.”

    Bongino also argued that Cohen’s presentation of the reimbursement check he says he received from Trump for paying off Daniels is irrelevant. “I don’t think it’s damaging at all,” he told Kilmeade. “This has all been baked into the cake. There’s no news here.”

    Meanwhile, co-host Ainsley Earhardt argued against believing anything said by Cohen, who worked in a senior role for the president for a decade, saying, “Plus when Michael Cohen talks, you kind of tune him out now because you don’t know what to believe; you don’t know which Michael Cohen you’re getting.”

    Shame on the Democrats

    Fox’s pro-Trump team repeatedly attacked congressional Democrats for scheduling the hearing at all, saying that it seemed intended to detract from Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, which the program has been describing in hagiographic terms.

    “You’ve got this major news story that’s happening on the other side of the world, and then in D.C., they’re trying to put this guy who already lied to that very committee ... and they’re putting him on the stand the very day that our president’s talking to Kim Jong Un,” Earhardt complained. “The public’s not stupid.”

    Similarly, Chaffetz said, “This Cohen situation is such a distraction from what is going on that is actually going to matter in the world.” Kilmeade replied that the hearing was undermining the president’s ability to negotiate with both North Korea and China, saying, “This is really hurting our country, not a party or a person.”

    And Bongino panned the timing of the hearing as “really one of the more disgraceful episodes in a litany of disgraceful episodes we’ve seen from this radical, far-left Democrat (sic) Party.”

    Abject, self-described rumor-mongering

    On Tuesday night, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is one of Trump’s most fervent supporters, alleged on Twitter that Cohen has “girlfriends,” asking whether Cohen’s wife and father-in-law were aware of them and asking of Cohen’s wife, “I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot.” After numerous commentators pointed out that Gaetz appeared to be illegally tampering with a congressional witness, he deleted the tweet and apologized.

    Doocy asked Bongino about Gaetz’s allegations on Wednesday morning on the specious grounds that Bongino is also from Florida. Bongino replied, “There’s a rumor about some apartment complex that was used by Cohen to, let’s say, keep some people in he probably shouldn’t have been dealing with, I guess is the best way to -- that’s what’s out there; that’s what’s circulating on Twitter. We’ll see if there’s anything to that. I believe that’s what [Gaetz] was alluding to.”

    Fox & Friends has previously drawn criticism from Fox executives and a federal judge for its practice of sharing stories and rumors from the internet on the program without making the slightest attempt to verify them first.

  • No crime but a witch hunt: Pro-Trump media’s off-the-wall reactions to Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen were found guilty and pleaded guilty, respectively, each on eight criminal counts, right-wing media immediately rose to President Donald Trump’s defense. Multiple media figures claimed that none of the charges had anything to do with Trump and that Trump’s former associates pleaded guilty to crimes that “don’t exist.”