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A new Michael Cohen recording hurts his credibility — but it makes the case against Trump look even stronger

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- Commentary

A new Michael Cohen tape is making waves — and this time it’s Cohen who was recorded without his knowledge

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen denied responsibility for tax and bank crimes he has already pleaded guilty to in a secretly recorded phone call with actor Tom Arnold.

President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, is scheduled to report to federal prison on May 6 to serve a three-year sentence. In August 2018,  he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and bank crimes as well as criminal campaign finance violations — undisclosed hush money payments in which Trump is directly implicated.

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Arnold gave a copy of the 36-minute recording from last month to the Journal, which reported that Cohen told Arnold, “There is no tax evasion” and has posted highlights of the recording online. This directly contradicts Cohen’s guilty plea, and will likely be used to cast doubt on his credibility as a witness against Trump.

But the call suggests something much more damning for the president. When Cohen pleaded guilty to the campaign finance crimes, he said Trump — named in court filings as “Individual-1” — directed him to carry them out, which exposes the president to potential criminal liability. In the recording, Cohen seems to suggest that the evidence on the campaign finance charges was the strongest the prosecutors had. He said “they had me on campaign finance.”

Some of Trump’s defenders, most notably Rudy Giuliani, have suggested that having decisively caught Cohen on financial crimes, prosecutors used that leverage over him to force him to plead guilty to the campaign finance crimes in a way that implicated the president. This new tape suggests the opposite — SDNY’s evidence for the campaign finance crime in which Trump is implicated was so thorough and incontrovertible that Cohen pleaded guilty to other crimes he thinks he could have fought.

However, there was another factor in Cohen’s decision, according to the report. He feared that his wife may be implicated in the charges against him.

“I love this woman,” Cohen told Arnold, “and I am not going to let her get dragged into the mud of this crap. And I never thought the judge was going to throw a three-year fricking sentence.”

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During the conversation with Arnold, Cohen complains about how much he has lost. “You would think that you would have folks, you know, stepping up and saying, ​‘You know what, this guy’s lost everything.’” And the 52-year-old attorney discussed the toll his legal problems have taken on his family, telling Arnold, “My family’s happiness, and my law license—I lost my business.… my insurance, my bank accounts. All for what? All for what? Because Trump, you know, had an affair with a porn star? That’s really what this is about.”

The porn star Cohen is referring to is Stormy Daniels. The campaign finance violations stemmed from hush money payments Cohen made to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom alleged that they had extramarital affairs with Trump. Because the payments were made by Cohen directly ahead of the 2016 election and in order to help Trump’s chances, prosecutors have said — and a judge agreed — that they constituted an illegal undisclosed campaign contribution. The president has denied these claims.

According to Arnold, Cohen didn’t know he was recording their March 25 conversation.

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Trump has committed 6 impeachable offenses: Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe says ‘the evidence is all there’

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe broke down the six impeachable offenses President Donald Trump has committed during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Tribe has argued 36 cases before the United States Supreme Court and taught at Harvard Law for 50 years. He co-authored the 2018 book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment with Joshua Matz.

"Everyone was in the loop, it was no secret. That was the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland yesterday as he implicated the president, Secretary of State, White House chief of staff, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other administration officials in the plot to bribe the president of Ukraine to publicly launch an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress and that the president was withholding," O'Donnell reported.

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Rachel Maddow breaks down how public opinion is catching up with the facts of Trump’s impeachment

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Thursday broke down how the details from the televised impeachment hearings are being reported in local newspapers.

The host read the headlines from multiple newspapers following the damning testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The Los Angels Times headlined, "Sonland implicates president." "Envoy says Trump directed effort," was The Wall Street Journal headline.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, "'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret': Defiant Sondland says he followed Trump's orders."

"Trump directed pressure on Ukraine, ambassador says," headlined The Kansas City Star.

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Shep Smith blasts autocrats in first public remarks since leaving Fox News — and donates $500,000 to protect journalists

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On Thursday, for the first time since exiting Fox News, reporter Shepard Smith gave public comments at the International Press Freedom Awards — and used the occasion to blast autocratic leaders who use their power to suppress journalism.

"Intimidation and vilification of the press is now a global phenomenon. We don’t have to look far for evidence of that,” said Smith. "Our belief a decade ago that the online revolution would liberate us now seems a bit premature, doesn’t it? Autocrats have learned how to use those same online tools to shore up their power. They flood the world of information with garbage and lies, masquerading as news. There’s a phrase for that."

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