In questioning Cohen, Ocasio-Cortez focuses on potential Trump fraud

In a day filled with theatrics, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to be elected to the House, focused her allotted five minutes for questioning Michael Cohen on details that could fuel future fraud investigations of the president.

In a House Oversight Committee hearing that lasted most of the day and featured grandstanding from legislators on both sides of the aisle, the New York congresswoman’s questioning of the president’s former personal attorney moved along at a speedy clip. It also gave the committee a checklist of potential future witnesses who might know more about a series of fraud accusations against Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez began her questions by asking about a collection of documents allegedly collected by American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer magazine, which Cohen had called a “treasure trove” of incriminating information about Trump. Cohen said he didn’t know the documents’ current location, but that the people who would know were David Pecker, chairman of AMI, who was recently accused of attempted extortion by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; Barry Levine, the National Enquirer’s former executive editor; or Dylan Howard, AMI’s vice president.

Ocasio-Cortez then turned to discussing potential insurance fraud by Trump. Cohen stated that the president had reported inflated assets to insurance companies and that former Trump Organization officials Alan Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari would know more about the practice. She then segued into asking about information that Trump has avoided releasing since he began his campaign.

“Where do you think the committee might find more information on this?” asked Ocasio-Cortez, referring to the alleged insurance fraud. “Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?”

“Yes,” said Cohen, “and you’d find it at the Trump Org.”

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Michael Cohen testifies before House
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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, arrives to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, is sworn in to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 27, 2019. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 27, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, listens during a House Oversight Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Cohen plans to tell a congressional committee about alleged misdeeds by his former boss, claiming that Trump knew during the 2016 presidential election that his ally Roger Stone was talking to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks about a release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, listens during a House Oversight Committee hearing with Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Cohen plans to tell a congressional committee about alleged misdeeds by his former boss, claiming that Trump knew during the 2016 presidential election that his ally Roger Stone was talking to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks about a release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, pauses while speaking during a hearing with Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Cohen plans to tell a congressional committee about alleged misdeeds by his former boss, claiming that Trump knew during the 2016 presidential election that his ally Roger Stone was talking to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks about a release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 27, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-NY) listens as Michael Cohen, attorney for President Trump, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 27, 2019. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, holds document during a House Oversight Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Cohen brought documents to Wednesday's congressional hearing to back up his case that his former boss is a 'con man' and 'a cheat.' Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: A copy of a check paid to Michael Cohen by President Trump is displayed as Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump testifies before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., is seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Rayburn Building featuring testimony by Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, and ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Rayburn Building featuring testimony by Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 27, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Rayburn Building featuring testimony by Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: From left, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., are seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Rayburn Building featuring testimony by Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal attorney is seen on the tv at the Fox News Headquarters in the Newscorp Building on 6th Avenue in New York February 27, 2019 as the Ticker Tap flashes headlines while he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Cohen brought documents to Wednesday's congressional hearing to back up his case that his former boss is a 'con man' and 'a cheat.' Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listens to testimony by Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Cohen was also questioned about an October 2018 report in the New York Times that Trump had participated in a series of tax schemes related to his father’s real estate empire. Cohen said the activity in the report predated his time working with Trump but that the committee should talk to Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, who was granted immunity last year in the federal government’s investigation into Cohen. Again, Ocasio-Cortez asked if it would be helpful for the committee to acquire Trump’s tax returns in order to further investigate those charges, and again Cohen agreed that it would.

Ocasio-Cortez and Cohen then discussed Trump’s practice of increasing and decreasing the values of his properties, particularly his golf courses, to avoid tax bills, a tactic that was described in an August 2016 report by the Washington Post. It said Trump had valued his golf course in Jupiter, Fla., at $50 million but that his attorney had argued for three straight years that for the sake of calculating the tax bill, it should be declared as worth “no more than $5 million.” Cohen said that this tactic was identical to the tax treatment Trump used for Trump National Golf Course in Briarcliff Manor, N.J.

Cohen’s testimony in front of the House was the second in three straight days of hearings for the former Trump Organization and Republican National Committee employee, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress and campaign finance fraud. He spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on Tuesday and is set to do the same with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

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