When Michael Cohen testified in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer was put through the wringer by his toughest questioners on the committee: Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Katie Hill. The freshmen Democratic congresswomen each went in strong with their lines of questioning, and didn’t hold back.
While many of the Republicans on the committee spent their time focusing on Cohen’s felony conviction, Hill was among the first members to ask tough questions of Cohen. She got him to confirm that he misled the public about Trump’s knowledge of the Stormy Daniels affair hush payments at the president’s request and that he had evidence (“11 checks,” according to Cohen) that Trump was allegedly part of a “criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.” Later, after an afternoon recess, the next three congresswomen hit Cohen with back-to-back lines of powerful inquiries.
Ocasio-Cortez spent much of her time asking Cohen specifically about Trump’s taxes — including questions about whether Trump devalues his real-estate holdings to get local tax breaks. “Would it help for the committee to obtain federal and state tax returns from the president to address that discrepancy?” Ocasio-Cortez asked Cohen, seemingly paving the way for conversations about such requests.
Then came the one-two punch of Pressley and Tlaib, who each put Cohen through harsh scrutiny before both homing in on his comments about Trump being racist. “Would you agree that someone could deny rental units to African-Americans, lead the birther movement, refer to the diaspora as ‘shithole countries,’ and refer to white supremacists as ‘fine people,’ have a black friend and still be racist?” Pressley asked Cohen, seemingly referring to Lynne Patton, the black employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development whom Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, pointed to earlier in the day as proof that Trump is not racist.
“Yes,” Cohen said.
Pressley replied, “I agree,” before yielding her time.
Tlaib had the floor next, and told Cohen that “the people at home are frustrated” and want the “criminal schemes to stop.” She added that her residents don’t need a collusion case to know that Trump has abused his power. Echoing Pressley’s statements, Tlaib said, “Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them, does not mean they aren’t racist … The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself.” Her comments led Meadows to demand her comments be striken from the record, and Meadows and Chairman Elijah Cummings later had a back-and-forth about race and friendship. But nevertheless, Tlaib stood strong that the behavior, if not the person, was racist.
These women may have only been in Congress a few short weeks, but clearly, they’re already leaving their marks as lawmakers who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions and stand up for what’s right.