Good morning, Power people. Trump's about to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Hanoi right before Michael Cohen is set to take the spotlight on the Hill. What could go wrong? Tips, comments, recipes? Send away and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
BREAKING LATE LAST NIGHT: Michael Cohen's extraordinary 20-page prepared congressional testimony that he plans to today publicly deliver before the House Overight Committee, first obtained by Politico's Andrew Desiderio, alleges that President Trump was a “racist,” “a conman,” and “a cheat” who was aware of the WikiLeaks drop of hacked Democratic National Committee emails prior to their release and implicitly pressured Cohen to lie about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
TRUMP TOWER MOSCOW: “To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen intends to say of his former boss. "He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. And so I lied about it, too – because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.”
“In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie,” Cohen plans to say.
WIKILEAKS: “A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes,” Cohen writes, alleging that Roger Stone told Trump that WikiLeaks's Julian Assange notified him ahead of time there would be "a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign."
Reminder: "[Trump] told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to two sources familiar with the matter," CNN reported at the end of November 2018.
DOCUMENTS: Trump's longtime fixer and lawyer will also present the committee with several documents to corroborate his allegations, including a $130,000 wire transfer from Cohen to adult actress Stephanie Clifford's attorney in the final days before the 2016 election "that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump."
Cohen will provide a copy of a $35,000 check from Trump's personal bank account with his signature on it from August 2017 — “when he was President of the United States” — reimbursing Cohen for his payment to Clifford. The $35,000 check, Cohen says, was one of 11 installments for which Trump allegedly reimbursed Cohen throughout 2017.
“The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws,” Cohen writes.
Another potentially problematic anecdote that Cohen will provide today is of a June 2016 interaction he witnessed between Trump and his son Don Jr. in Trump tower that happened soon before the planned meeting with a Kremlin-aligned lawyer who promised to provide dirt on Clinton.
“I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father’s desk — which in itself was unusual,” Cohen writes in his opening remarks. “People didn’t just walk behind Mr. Trump’s desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: “The meeting is all set.” I remember Mr. Trump saying, “Ok good . . . let me know.”
Just hours ahead of Trump's first meeting and dinner with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Trump tweeted the below of Cohen:
Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also. He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2019
- “Hey @MichaelCohen212 — Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” Gaetz taunted yesterday. “Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot.”
High stakes: Gaetz's warning, which legal experts said could amount to witness tampering, reflects the high-stakes nature of Cohen's testimony tour and the swirling concerns over just how damaging it might be to Trump. Cohen's closed-door 9 hour appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday appears to have been persuasive to some:
- “Two years ago, when this investigation started, I said it may be the most important thing I’m involved in my public life in the Senate,” Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, told reporters after Cohen's first hearing. “And nothing I heard today dissuades me from that view.”
- “I look forward to tomorrow to be able to, in my voice, tell the American people my story,” Cohen told reporters after the hearing. “I am going to let the American people decide exactly who’s telling the truth.”
While White House and Trump allies attacked Cohen and prepare to aggressively question him, Democrats are carefully considering the optics of seeming to defend someone who pleaded guilty to several counts of lying to Congress.
- “Every single Republican will be trying to make Cohen look less credible but we're playing a fine line ourselves between not making this wacko look like a hero. But at the same time, if there is something valuable that we can take back to the American people, we need to do so -- there's this fine balancing act here," a House Democratic aide with knowledge of the preparations told Power Up.
Turf war alert: House Democrats are privately scrambling to streamline their lines of inquiry to avoid duplicative efforts, refrain from impeding special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and elude the appearance of overzealous partisanship.
My colleagues Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian looked into efforts to prevent “a simmering turf war from erupting during their first blockbuster hearing” with Cohen, "an early test of whether they can pursue complex and crisscrossing probes of the administration without turning on each other."
- "...several Oversight Committee members are balking at terms the panel chairmen agreed to, dictating that all Russia matters will be addressed by the Intelligence Committee alone,” they report. “The disagreement flared up during a late-night strategy session Monday, when some senior Oversight Committee lawmakers said they wanted to ask Cohen about Trump Organization connections with Russian oligarchs and Russia finances.”
- Oversight Committee Democrats, unhappy with the agreed upon limits of Russia-related questioning, argue that "the public has a right to hear why Cohen lied to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election,” and today's hearing is Cohen's only public hearing.
- “We’ve had to juggle a number of equities . . . and do our best to accommodate the interests and concerns of the special counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told Rachael and Karoun. “My understanding is that whether questions are posed or not posed that go beyond what the chairman [Rep. Elijah Cummings] has said, that the witness will only be responding to things within the scoping document.”
At the White House
"DOESN'T GIVE AN [EXPLETIVE]": Trump will meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un today at 6:30 p.m. in Hanoi (which is 6:30 a.m. Eastern). Trump and “his friend” will have a one-on-one meeting followed by a “social dinner,” according to the White House's daily schedule.
- “All false reporting (guessing) on my intentions with respect to North Korea. Kimg Jong Un and I will try very hard to work something out on Denuclearization & then making North Korea an Economic Powerhouse. I believe that China, Russia, Japan, & South Korea will be very helpful!," Trump tweeted before his first meeting with Kim.
Trump's approach to Kim and the summit has centered around “a public embrace of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, referring to the brutal authoritarian ruler as “my friend” and holding up Vietnam as a model for economic growth for Kim’s nation if he pursues steps to denuclearize,” David Nakamura and Simon Denyer report.
- “White House aides have said the president is determined to sell Kim on a vision of modernization and present him with a choice between continued global isolation and burgeoning economic growth if he gives up the North’s nuclear weapons program,” they report.
Ahead of Trump's first day with Kim, Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Andy Kim (N.J.) introduced a resolution calling for an end the Korean War.
- Khanna: “Historic engagement between South and North Korea has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to formally end this war. President Trump must not squander this rare chance for peace. He should work hand in hand with our ally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to bring the war to a close and advance toward the denuclearization of the peninsula.”
- Former President Jimmy Carter: “I commend this important resolution that will help bring this nearly 70 year conflict to a close. I have visited North Korea several times to talk with their leadership and study the best path forward for peace. Ending the threat of war is the only way to ensure true security for both the Korean and American people and will create the conditions to alleviate the suffering of the ordinary North Koreans who are most harmed by ongoing tensions.”
But Trump's Twitter feed this morning suggests that preparations for the evening with the North Koreans might have veered off-track. Cohen's hearing will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern and while the White House has attempted to downplay the timing of the hearings and their content, reporters have drawn out the White House's private concerns and plans to tune in.
- “White House officials in Washington will be watching Cohen's testimony and taking notes, in case the President wants to be briefed on what was said, according to a senior White House official. The official told CNN the expectation is, however, that Trump will stay up overnight in Hanoi and watch Wednesday's hearing,” according to CNN's Jeremy Herb, Gloria Borger and Manu Raju.
- “It’s unfortunate this is happening now,” a White House official told The Post, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Cohen hearing.
- “For the Democrats to try to counter program that kind of progress — to try to perhaps somehow distract him with this nonsense by, you know, a convicted felon who's been lying to those same committee, it just goes to show you how much those Democrats really disdain Trump but also America,” Don Trump Jr. told Tucker Carlson last night.
- “We told him we’d only bother him if really urgent and we don’t see that happening. He knows Cohen is a liar,” my colleague Robert Costa reports of his conversation with Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani last night. “We’re not bothering him. He doesn’t give a [expletive].”
On eve of Cohen, called Giuliani. He’s been quiet in recent wks, but talkative tonight.— Robert Costa (@costareports) February 27, 2019
“There is not really a war room. I’ll be in New York and Jay will be in Virginia and we’ll stay in touch by phone.”
Updating POTUS? “We’re not bothering him. He doesn’t give a [expletive].”
On The Hill
GOP FALLS IN LINE . . . AGAIN: The House passed a disapproval resolution on Tuesday to terminate Trump's national emergency declaration on the Southern border. But the vote fell short of a majority-proof veto. The Senate is now obliged to consider the measure, and there's some chance GOP defections could result in passage. Trump has said he plans to veto the resolution, however, and a veto override is much less likely.
- “The 245-to-182 tally was mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans defecting to side with Democrats on a vote that effectively became a test of GOP loyalty to Trump. Despite their frequent complaints of executive overreach during the Obama administration, most Republicans fell in line with Trump’s decision to try to circumvent Congress to get billions of dollars for his border wall. As a result, the vote fell well short of the two-thirds majority that would be required to overcome Trump’s threatened veto,” my colleagues Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim, Paul Kane, and John Wagner report.
- Double standard: “I’ll be real honest, if Obama had done this, Republicans would be going nuts. That’s just the reality,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told The Post. “Even if Obama had the authority to do it, just like I think President Trump does.”
Next Steps: The Senate now has 18 days to take up the resolution, which only requires a simply majority. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters the Senate will vote on the resolution before the next congressional recess.
- “That means only four Republican votes in favor would ensure passage of the disapproval resolution — presuming that Democrats stick together as expected,” my colleagues report. “Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) have said they plan to vote for the disapproval resolution, and other Republicans have been voicing concerns, including at a closed-door lunch Tuesday with Vice President Pence where about a half-dozen senators spoke up with reservations, according to one person in attendance.”
- Among those still making a decision: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
- “I haven't reached a total conclusion," McConnell told NBC's Kasie Hunt about whether he had decided if Trump's emergency declaration is legal or not.
13 House GOP votes against Trump on border wall emergency:— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) February 26, 2019
(Written in haste, forgive any misspellings.)
MUST WATCH: A highlight from the Senate Finance Committee's grilling of seven pharmaceutical company CEOs yesterday about why drug prices are so high. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) quizzed Jennifer Taubert of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, on "pseudo-addiction" -- "a bogus idea promoted by opioid manufacturers in the early days of OxyContin that suggested that if a patient was showing signs of addiction—such as demanding higher doses from more doctors—it might be a sign that they actually aren’t getting enough opioids,” according to The Atlantic's Olga Khazan.
Taubert did not appear prepared for the question.
NEW: Former VP Biden says there is a consensus following a family meeting about his potential run for president: "The most important people in my life want me to run." - @mikememoli pic.twitter.com/rf18GHBQkD— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 26, 2019
2020 WATCH: Vice President Joe Biden doesn't want us to be surprised if he decides to run for president. That's what he told the audience during an appearance at the University of Delaware on Tuesday — but, he still hasn't "made the final decision."
All signs point toward the former veep jumping into the race. Even his family wants him to run, reports the Associated Press's Thomas Beaumont.
“There’s a consensus that I should, that they — they, the most important people in my life — want me to run,” Biden told the group of a recent meeting between his grandchildren. “I’m certain about where the family is.”
Biden did not provide a timeline but vaguely outlined some contours of what his campaign would look like, despite some clear hesitations:
- “I will not be part of a super PAC,” Biden said.
- “Finally, Biden said his team is putting together a campaign organizational plan that 'reflects who we are as a country, made up of women and men and African-Americans, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, to reflect who I am,'" Beaumont reports.
“I don’t want this to be a fool’s errand . . . I want to make sure that if we do this, and we’re very close to getting to a decision, that I am fully prepared to do it,” he said.
IS TRUMP A RACIST? Separately, in an interview published yesterday with The Root, 2020 candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris said that she is "open to seeing sex work decriminalized" and discussed why she thinks Trump is "racist":
- “When you talk about his statement on [Charlottesville], when you talk about him calling African countries s-hole countries, when you talk about him referring to immigrants as rapists and murderers, I don’t think you can reach any other conclusion,” Harris said.
“You can be elected, but if you actually are a leader then you don’t condone and support and counsel hate,” Harris said. “You call bigotry what it is. You call racism what it is.”
🚨Scoop: @JoeBiden has made job offers in New Hampshire, a source directly familiar tells me.— Hanna Trudo (@HCTrudo) February 26, 2019
In the Media
Update from another congressional hearing: Democrats grill Trump officials over family separations and threaten wider legal probe. By The Post's Nick Miroff, Maria Sacchetti and Felicia Sonmez.
Another book from another former Trump staffer: Gary Cohn is writing a memoir of his career, including his tenure in the Trump White House. By CNBC's Kayla Tausche.
On the universal background check bill: Why Democrats are not afraid of gun control anymore. By Ronald Brownstein for CNN.
In the category of adorable animals we don't deserve: Meet Pigcasso — the pig who was saved from a slaughterhouse and became a world famous painter. By CBS News's Sophie Lewis.
At the intersection of public-health crises and our criminal justice system: The Jail Health-Care Crisis. By The New Yorker's Steve Coll.