Politics roundup: Michael Cohen wreaks havoc with a recording


A recording could make things awkward for the White House. Meanwhile, Putin waits, tariffs keep causing trouble, and someone might get impeached

Michael Cohen turns tables with a recording

Michael Cohen, the long-serving lawyer to the President, recorded a conversation between him and the President that seemingly confirms an attempt to cover up the President’s extramarital affair. The conversation, which was recorded about two months before the 2016 election and without the then-candidate’s knowledge, includes discussion of payments to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model.

McDougal alleges that she and the now-President had an affair shortly after his wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to a son in 2006. McDougal sold her story to The National Enquirer for a reported total of $150,000. The Enquirer declined to release the story, though it retained the rights and effectively barred McDougal from speaking to anyone else on the subject.

Though the recording abruptly stops before the end of the conversation, it contains some notable details. The pair discusses McDougal’s $150,000 payment and potentially buying the rights to her story from the Enquirer. In the brief recording, it becomes clear that the president was aware of the situation.

Exculpation, maybe

This stands in stark contrast to denials issued by White House officials, including former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and adviser Rudy Giuliani. Prior to the release of the recordings, Giuliani even claimed that the content would be “exculpatory”, clearing the President of any wrongdoing.

The consequences of this recording are unclear. There is no smoking gun, no direct admission of campaign funds being used to illegally fund the payment. There are multiple points in the recording where words become garbled and unintelligible. It’s therefore difficult to make conclusions. Was one party pushing for a suspicious cash payment, or were they talking about a more easily traced check?

What about all of the political talk in the recording? Does this point to Cohen acting as an “agent” of the Republican campaign, rather than a personal lawyer? If so, Cohen’s actions could constitute an undisclosed expenditure and therefore a violation of campaign finance law. Or, given the success of flat denials even in the face of clear evidence, this current fracas may come to nothing after all.

Still, the White House has reason to be nervous. Now that Cohen is surrounded by federal prosecutors and the threat of a long prison sentence, he may start talking in an attempt to save himself.

Pompeo answers questions, Putin has to wait

After last week’s U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki, U.S. lawmakers were generally confused and concerned. Why had the President played so nicely with Vladimir Putin, the Russian head of state who likely personally ordered cyber attacks that affected the 2016 U.S. elections? Did that chumminess speak to deeper, more worrisome ties between the two?

It was left to officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to put a more professional gloss on the proceedings. On Wednesday, Pompeo spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Committee’s Chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), went so far as to say that the White House was “making it us as they go” in terms of its foreign policy.

Pompeo emphasized that the State Department would not go easy on Russia, threatening “severe consequences” if the Kremlin or any other Russian agency attempted to interfere in future elections. He also defended the private meeting between Putin and the U.S. President in Helsinki.

Meanwhile, Putin will have to wait a bit longer before he steps on American soil. In the wake of the Helsinki meeting, the White House revealed that it had invited Putin for a visit later this year. The subsequent backlash, however, has made officials think twice. Rather, according to national security adviser John Bolton, everyone wants to wait until the “Russia witch hunt” is over. Bolton is presumably referring to the ongoing investigation into election interference headed by Robert S. Mueller III, which the White House has consistently and colorfully referred to as a “witch hunt.”

Though White House officials were initially up-front about their invite, Russia never officially accepted or denied the offer. After all, said Russia, the two Presidents would be able to meet at other events, such as at the November G20 summit in Argentina.

White House tries to fix homegrown problems stemming from trade war

The ongoing trade war between the United States and other countries over newly-implemented U.S. tariffs is certainly having an effect. However, that effect has produced some serious repercussions, including some that are currently affecting U.S. farmers.

The American agricultural industry was one of the first domestic realms to feel the effects of the trade war. Various groups have estimated that corn, wheat, and soybean farmers have already lost around $13 billion thanks to trade retaliation stemming from U.S. tariffs.

Those tariffs, in this case, are heavy taxes on foreign imports such as aluminum and steel, are intended to raise the price of foreign goods, making domestic, U.S.-made good more affordable to consumers.


Tariffs have also pushed other countries to economically retaliate via trade and tariffs of their own. Tariffs on Chinese goods have also damaged the United States’ relationship with one of its biggest trading partners.

The $12 billion in farm aid proposed on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture still leaves farmers of the nation’s top crops at a significant loss. Critics also point out that this high-dollar band-aid is being deployed to fix a problem of the government’s own making.

Farmers aren’t the only ones who are starting to balk at the effects of tariff-related backlash. Automakers could get hit, too, along with American distillers and other manufacturers. The President’s appeal to “just be a little patient” may fall flat, especially considering that November midterm elections are only months away.

Conservatives file impeachment articles against Rosenstein

On Wednesday, conservative lawmakers filed articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. These House Republicans, led by Freedom Caucus leaders Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), allege that Rosenstein is withholding information vital to the Russia investigation. “It’s time to find a new deputy attorney general who is serious about accountability and transparency,” said Meadows.

Shortly after the articles were filed, other lawmakers spoke out against the move. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan came down against it, saying that Rosenstein hasn’t done anything that merits such a drastic move. However, Meadows has also said that Ryan will support charging Rosenstein with contempt of Congress if the Deputy Attorney General turns over documents that were subpoenaed in March.

Opponents of this move point out that Rosenstein has quite a bit of power over Robert S. Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation last March, citing his previous involvement with the Republican campaign under investigation. Since then, Rosenstein has done little to hamper the investigation. If he were removed from office, a new Deputy Attorney General might be more open to following the whims of an anti-Mueller White House.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

Have you heard of Edythe Eyde? If you haven’t already, take a seat, because, under the pen name of “Lisa Ben”, she created the first known lesbian publication in the entire world.

She grew up in Palo Alto, California. During World War II, Eyde worked as a secretary at the War Dog Reception and Training Center in San Carlos. By 1947, she was working at RKO Studios. That’s where Vice Versa, the first-ever lesbian magazine was created.

Eyde used RKO equipment to design her magazine, a very necessary move when a connection to any LGBTQ publication could land you in jail.

Next. Politics roundup: U.S. conference with Russia generates unrest, confusion. dark

Read more about Edythe Eyde at The Washington Post. She also sat down for an interview with Eric Marcus at the Making Gay podcast, which is more than worth fifteen minutes of your time. Check out her profile at the Advocate while you’re at it.