Politics roundup: Cohen spills all before Congressional committee, but does it mean much?


Former lawyer Michael Cohen had plenty to tell the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. How much should we buy and what does it mean for the President?

Cohen testifies before Congress

This week, former Presidential lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress. His statements generated a whirlwind of press coverage, nearly as soon as they were out of his mouth. In the course of his appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Cohen took another dramatic turn against the President. Where Cohen had previously said that he would take a bullet for his client, he now claims that he is ready to reveal everything.

Cohen alleges that the President knew WikiLeaks was going to publish hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee over two years ago, a data breach that proved to be significant in the 2016 campaign. Cohen also claimed that the President was involved in the pay-off of Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor who says she had an affair with the married President. He said that he would present a check, signed by the President, to the House Committee. The check, Cohen says, was issued to him as reimbursement for paying Daniels with his own money.

Perhaps most alarmingly, Cohen said that federal investigators are looking into criminal charges possibly involving the President. So far, this information has not been made public. If it’s true that the President is the subject of a federal inquiry of this nature, this will be the first time we’ve heard of it.

There remains plenty of uncertainty. It’s not as if Cohen has established himself as a truthful person. He made a career out of covering up ethical gray areas for the President, not to mention outright scandals. How much should we believe Cohen when he says that the President is a thoroughly corrupt individual, or that a 2020 upset could generate outright hostilities?

Republican lawmakers generally put themselves in opposition to Cohen, leading to some intense exchanges between Representatives and Cohen himself. In his concluding remarks, ranking Republican Jim Jordan (Ohio) said that “There are things [Cohen] said today . . . that just don’t add up.”

Democrats, meanwhile, were more receptive to Cohen’s claims. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) took a gentler tack. “If we as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they made mistakes to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well,” he said in his final remarks.

India and Pakistan’s undeclared war heats up

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan are facing their own troubles. While tensions between the two nations have been high for many years, thanks to border disputes, terrorists, and armories on both sides stocked with nuclear weapons, there hasn’t been an outright war between them.

There still isn’t one now, but recent exchanges have made everyone nervous. The current tensions started about two weeks ago, when an attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy killed 40 people. Jaish-e Mohammed, a Pakistan-based terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. India responded with air strikes against what it claimed with non-military terrorist encampments across the India-Pakistan border.

India is claiming that the strikes are in self-defense, after years of terrorism hitting the country via Pakistan. Yet, this was the first time that India has ventured into Pakistani territory since 1971. With this in mind, Pakistani military forces delivered their own blows across the border. Indian jets responded and were lost in the process.

Pakistan captured one Indian pilot, but is now saying that he will be returned as a “peace gesture,” according to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Given the history and misinformation involved, this has become an intensely complicated situation. Resolutions will be hard-won regardless of how they are reached. It doesn’t help that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is thinking about upcoming elections in his own country. He is surely hoping that his nationalist rhetoric will see him and his supporters through, and may think that backing down in this conflict will hurt his chances. Never mind that it might also be one of the only ways to avoid outright war.

US.-North Korea talks end abruptly

Things were looking pretty good for the latest round of meetings between the United States and North Korea. But, as you are already well aware, politics (modern or otherwise) has a tendency to change on the spot. On Thursday, those talks seemingly dissolved as the U.S. President walked away.

What went wrong? It had to do with sanctions against North Korea. The White House asked for all North Korean nuclear sites to close in exchange for lifted sanctions. However, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was unwilling to close all sites. Sanctions, which limit or outright ban exchanges of important goods like coal and oil across North Korean borders, have always been a part of these talks.

As much as Kim and his government want to import oil or make money off seafood exports, they are also reluctant to give up their nuclear arsenal. In their minds, to do so would leave them open to intimidation by other nations, if not outright invasion. If our glimpses of North Korean culture and political rhetoric are anything to go by, the specter of giving up their independence and their culture is a nightmare for many North Koreans.

House votes to block national emergency

On Tuesday, the House voted to overturn the President’s declaration of a national emergency. The national emergency is intended to secure funds for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, circumventing a failed deal with Congress to fund it in the standard manner via a bill. With the national emergency announcement, many raised worries about a constitutional crisis. Should a President have this kind of power, where they can simply walk around Congress and, by extension, the will of the American people, to get what they want?

Almost as swiftly as it was announcement, the national emergency faced challenges. Multiple states sued to stop the emergency funding. This week, the House of Representatives also voted to overturn the move.

The resolution, which passed 245 to 182, now moves on to the Senate. While the upper house is still controlled by a majority of Republican Senators, the bill isn’t totally dead in the water. A number of Republicans, including Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), have expressed their displeasure with the national emergency funding.

Along with Thom Tillis of North Carolina, they make up the three Republican Senators who support a disapproval resolution. Even with the White House warning that defecting Senators were putting themselves “at great jeopardy”, politically speaking, that has done little to deter some.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

Gritty is a fever dream. Gritty is a Muppet gone very, very bad. Or, depending on your personal inclinations, he is something very right. Gritty is a manifestation of our moderns times, or simply just a bright orange hooligan in a hockey jersey. Except for the times when he’s wearing nothing at all. Thank goodness for that long fur.

Last on the list, it seems, is the fact that Gritty is the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers. In some respects, Gritty, the googly-eyed nightmare creature that has become beloved in Philly and beyond, is only related to hockey some of the time.

That’s probably not what his design team had in mind. Gritty debuted in September 2018, after the team finally admitted that it needed a mascot. They tried their best to avoid copying any existing mascots, wanting to create something entirely new. They sure did.

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Most people were against the shocking figure of Gritty, who is best described as a bottom-heavy and weirdly aggressive lump of neon orange faux fur.

My, but how things have changed. Gritty has quickly become a beloved hometown mascot. He’s also now the subject of many a think piece, as well as a figurehead of the alt-left in Philadelphia and beyond. What a time to be alive.