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How a former independent counsel analyzes the legal implications of Cohen’s testimony

Michael Cohen’s testimony raises many questions about President Trump’s personal, political and financial dealings. For analysis of its potential legal implications, Judy Woodruff turns to Solomon Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation of the early 1990s.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to the legal questions Michael Cohen's testimony may raise for the president.

    Solomon Wisenberg was deputy independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation in the early 1990s, in which he personally questioned President Bill Clinton.

    Mr. Wisenberg, thank you very much for joining us again.

    Did you hear anything in today — thank you.

    Did you hear anything in today's testimony that you think places President Trump in any or further legal jeopardy?

  • Solomon Wisenberg:

    I didn't hear anything in the testimony today that puts him in any further legal jeopardy.

    His jeopardy is what it is. There was, to me, nothing new about this testimony. It was a circus, frankly. And it was a circus to put it on, and most of the questioning by Republicans had a circus atmosphere. But there's really nothing new.

    But Congressman Schiff did point out something that I think is important. If you have been following the case and all of the Mueller investigation and all the indictments that have come out, presumably, only a relatively small group of people does that, right?

    But now, by putting it on television and having it on all the cable networks all day long, there are some people who might have learned things that they didn't know before, because they didn't spend all day looking at indictments and criminal informations.

    But there is absolutely nothing new of any substance that came out today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, whether it was Michael Cohen talking about the president directing him to make hush money payments, his providing a copy of the check the president gave him to reimburse him for hush money, whether it was the comments that he made about telling a bank the president was worth more than he was, you're saying all of that doesn't really add up to anything legally?

  • Solomon Wisenberg:

    Well, no. No, I'm not. I'm saying it doesn't add up to anything further.

    Take away the last thing you mentioned about the banks, and just focus on the hush money payment to the women. That's all contained in Michael Cohen's plea papers in the Southern District of New York. I can guarantee you there's nothing he said today that hasn't been said to the prosecutors in New York.

    And that's a very strong case there against Cohen and potentially has some real danger for the president. But there's nothing new from the testimony today. That's — that's my point. I don't at all say that there's nothing of significance. There's no news.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, in fact, he did refer on several occasions today, Michael Cohen did, to those investigations under way in the Southern District of New York.

    Do you have a sense of what the Southern District has, what it's pursuing?

  • Solomon Wisenberg:

    Well, we know from the Cohen papers that they have got a credible case having to do with violations of the campaign finance law.

    The problem for people who are interested in indicting the president is, number one, we're not going to see a sitting president indicted, in all likelihood. And, number two, there is a different standard. Every defendant is different. There's a different standard for the person whose campaign it is than it is for somebody who works on his campaign.

    And there's a high level of intent required if you're going to convict somebody for that. So there's a difference between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen.

    Having said that, the Southern District of New York doesn't — doesn't mess around. I mean, they have got a very strong case there. I just think it might be ultimately more relevant to impeachment than to any prosecution of President Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Impeachment, of course, something the Congress would undertake, were it to take place.

    Solomon Wisenberg, we thank you very much.

  • Solomon Wisenberg:

    No problem.

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