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Oregon State University expert comments on Michael Cohen hearings

Oregon State University, College of Engineering

Newswise — Christopher Nichols, an associate professor of history at Oregon State University, has these thoughts about the Michael Cohen hearings:

"The Michael Cohen hearings are arguably the most significant insights we have yet had in the public record into the inside network and circle of President Donald J. Trump from his time in business through his ascendancy to the White House. There is a little doubt that we are witnessing history in the making. Takeaways from the Cohen public testimony, which appears credible though it comes from an admitted and convicted liar, include evidence and allegations about false statements by and for the president. Cohen has presented further information via disclosure of private conversations with Trump about his biases and motivations, which Cohen characterizes bluntly as ranging from racism to deception to outright lies, financial fraud, and intimidation that appeared to be systematic and endemic to the Trump organization before, during, and after the presidential campaign of 2016. These hearings also reveal the dimensions of partisan politics in all their dysfunction - the questions, lines of inquiry, allegations, and ad hominem attacks offer a window into the paths forward both parties are likely to travel including through the 2020 presidential campaign. 

"So, one outstanding question is whether this represents a moment like John Dean's famous testimony to the Senate in June 1973? Dean's testimony was not the end for Nixon, or for Watergate, but historians now tend to depict it as a pivotal juncture of hearing from within about the depth of Nixonian malfeasance. The testimony had next to no impact legally but in the court of public opinion it was deeply damaging. Dean, who, like Cohen, admitted to paying "hush money" and lying (to obstruct justice), implicated an array of Nixon Administration officials, notably Nixon himself. He also undercut assertions of Presidential authority and credibility, and his assertions were then corroborated by the White House tapes when they were disclosed. Is this similar? Is the Mueller report a comparable next such step? The jury is still out, this may take some time, so in my view as an historian I suggest we not jump to too many conclusions despite the sensationalism of the hearings. That said, one thing we can conclude is that this is clearly history in the making."

More information about Nichols: https://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/users/christopher-mcknight-nichols

Nichols is available for print, radio and tv interviews. Oregon State University has on-campus tv and radio studios. He can be reached at Christopher.nichols@oregonstate.edu.

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