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February 28, 2019

Boston Globe: Here’s what Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Stephen Lynch said during the Cohen hearing

President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was grilled by a panel of US House representatives on Wednesday, with Massachusetts Democrats Ayanna Pressley and Stephen Lynch getting their fair share of hits in, and Boston University graduate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raising questions about Trump’s tax returns.

Speaking toward the first half of the Cohen hearing, Lynch fired back at GOP congressmen who were calling the former Trump attorney a liar.

Lynch shot back while addressing Cohen, saying committee Republicans ‘‘aren’t afraid you’re going to lie. I think they’re afraid you’re going to tell the truth.’’

He also listed the names of Trump associates who have pleaded guilty to various crimes, saying Republicans “for two years. . . refused to bring any of these people up before the committee.”

“Your side ran away from the truth. And we’re trying to bring it to the American people,” Lynch said.

When Pressley got her chance to speak, she took on the Trump Foundation, which she said was abused like a personal piggy bank.

During the line of questioning, Cohen confirmed he arranged in 2013 for a straw bidder to buy for $60,000 a portrait of Trump by artist William Quigley, an anecdote he also relayed in his opening remarks.

“Why would the president want to bid up the price for something he was ultimately paying for?” Pressley asked.

“It was all about ego,” Cohen said, noting the portrait was paid for by a check from the trust. “He tasked me to find a straw bidder, to ensure his painting, which was going last in the auction, would go for the highest amount of any of the paintings that had been put on the auction block for the day.”

Cohen said he believes the painting is currently hanging in one of Trump’s clubs.

The punchiest line of Pressley’s questioning came in the last 30 seconds of her time, in which she asked Cohen a pointed question.

“Would you agree that someone could deny rental units to African-Americans, lead the birther movement, refer to the diaspora as ‘s-hole countries,’ and refer to white supremacists as ‘fine people,’ have a black friend and still be racist?”

“Yes,” Cohen replied.

“I agree,” Pressley said.

Ocasio-Cortez used her time to question Cohen about how Trump dodged taxes, potentially laying the groundwork for the committee to seek the president’s tax returns.

Asking about providing inflated assets to insurance companies, Ocasio-Cortez said to Cohen, “Where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we’d need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?”

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

Bringing up reports of Trump devaluing assets to pay lower taxes, Ocasio-Cortez asked: “To your knowledge, was the president interested in reducing his local real estate tax bills?”

“Yes,” Cohen responded.

“And how did he do that?” Ocasio-Cortez followed up.

“What you do is you deflate the value of the asset, and then you put in the request for the tax department for a deduction,” Cohen said.

Referring to a New York Times article that alleges Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes, Ocasio-Cortez asked if it would be helpful for the committee to “obtain federal and state tax returns from the president and his company to address that discrepancy?”

“I believe so,” Cohen responded.