As Michael Cohen prepares to publicly testify before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Rachel Maddow looked to history for clues about what might happen if the former Trump lawyer hands over evidence implicating Donald Trump in a crime, as he is expected to do.
According to the MSNBC host, there are clear parallels between what’s about to happen this week and what happened during Richard Nixon’s presidency.
When federal prosecutors obtained evidence that Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, committed crimes, the Justice Department told the White House that they were preparing a 40-count indictment against Agnew.
After “secret negotiations” with the DOJ, Nixon’s vice president agreed to leave office in exchange for pleading guilty to one of the 40 counts.
According to Maddow, there is a possibility that when Michael Cohen hands over evidence of Trump’s crimes on Wednesday, the same pattern of events could play out.
“If Michael Cohen is, in fact, about to hand over to an investigating congressional committee tomorrow evidence related to the president committing financial crimes, felonies while in office, we are now getting to the point where that Agnew precedent sort of crashes into the current history we’re living through with this current sitting president,” she said.
Rachel Maddow explains why Michael Cohen’s testimony is going to be a big deal. #ctl #p2 #maddow pic.twitter.com/eWpJurZrsy
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) February 27, 2019
If Michael Cohen is, in fact, about to hand over to an investigating congressional committee tomorrow evidence related to the president committing financial crimes, felonies while in office, we are now getting to the point where that Agnew precedent sort of crashes into the current history we’re living through with this current sitting president. … Because of the anticipation of the kinds of documents that Cohen might be about to hand over, what he may be able to testify to in terms of the president’s behavior, I do think it’s reasonable to expect that the prospect of Michael Cohen’s open testimony tomorrow may be causing some consternation at the Justice Department right now, right? I mean, this doesn’t happen very often. But if clear evidence of the president’s involvement in felonies since he’s been serving as president, if clear evidence of that is made public tomorrow, I mean, the Justice Department has to be prepared tonight for how they’re going to react tonight or not to the public airing of that evidence. They’re also presumably preparing for the possibility that this evidence may generate a formal criminal referral from Congress concerning the president’s alleged crimes. They may refer this matter for prosecution to the Justice Department.
Since Trump took office, there has been a non-stop category five hurricane of scandal and corruption, all while he remains in the White House.
After everything that has come out, it’s easy to settle into the mindset that there is no bit of information that can topple this president, no matter how damning.
But as Rachel Maddow said on Tuesday, what is about to happen this week takes us to uncharted territory in the Trump era. For the first time, Congress may receive concrete evidence that the president of the United States committed crimes.
In response, lawmakers have the ability to “generate a formal criminal referral,” as Maddow said.
If the Department of Justice under Trump has any interest in upholding the law, history has demonstrated that what Cohen is about to do could trigger the end of this presidency.
Follow Sean Colarossi on Facebook and Twitter
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.