Cummings' prayers come true; Michael Cohen will testify - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Cummings’ prayers come true; Michael Cohen will testify

BALTIMORE – The last time Rep. Elijah Cummings found himself in the midst of an investigation into the private life of an American president, he was on the other side of the fight.

This time, it’s Donald Trump. Last time, it was Bill Clinton. This time, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings will lead the interrogation of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and fixer, over such issues as hush money to a porn star and a Playboy model.

Last time, with Clinton and his sexual affair with a young White House intern, Cummings could only offer a prayer.

The memory came back Sunday night, as Cummings was featured in a CBS-TV “60 Minutes” segment. They showed him outside his row house, located in the heart of his West Baltimore congressional district.

In the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that’s where I bumped into Cummings one day when the whole country was wondering how Clinton was holding up under the intense scrutiny of his sex life. Cummings said he’d seen the president a few days earlier.

“He pulled me and (New York Rep.) Charlie Rangel aside at the White House,” Cummings said, “and he asked us to pray with him.”

“What did you pray?” I asked. “The Lord’s Prayer?”

“Lord’s Prayer?” Cummings cried. He sounded offended. He reached out one large hand and laid it atop my head.

“My daddy and mama are both preachers,” he said. “Man, I can pray!”

In the White House, he said, he put his hand on Bill Clinton’s head and asked God for strength to survive a difficult time.

“That’s what we were taught at home,” Cummings said. “Every piece of life is part of your journey, but ask for the strength to deal with it. Be strong, bear your burdens. Stay steadfast in your efforts to see the big picture.”

What makes such talk ironic is that, for the first two years of the Trump administration, Cummings didn’t have a prayer. With Republicans in control of the House, he was blocked left and right. Now the Democrats are in charge, and ready for a fight, and it’s Cummings who’ll punch the opening rounds.

The big change became clear last week, when it was announced that Michael Cohen will testify February 7, in open hearings, before Cummings’ committee.

Finally, he’ll be able to ask Republicans questions that he’s been blocked from asking until now. Over the previous two years, Cummings issued 64 subpoena requests that went nowhere. (They were requests because the minority party needs majority-party approval.) The Republicans turned back every single request.

Those days are over.

Cummings’ committee will want to question Cohen about Trump’s sexual relations, because this time such behavior actually matters to the whole country. Unlike the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, where every detail was unclothed for the whole country to leer over it, Trump tried to silence his women with hush money arranged through Cohen – and, most importantly, they did it just weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

But Cohen’s valuable beyond the salacious stuff. He knows 10 years worth of Trump secrets. One concerns Trump’s dealings with the Russians over a possible Trump Tower in Moscow. Those negotiations were held during the campaign but were kept secret from voters.

Another issue is the meeting at New York’s Trump Tower between Russians and Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort. It’s not just one meeting. Trump’s connections to Russians goes back roughly 35 years, when Russian Mafia big shots were bailing him out of financial problems by buying apartments from him at wildly inflated prices.

“They practically turned Trump Tower into a Russian dormitory,” remarked Craig Unger, the New York Times reporter and author of the authoritative “House of Trump, House of Putin.”

Unlike Trump, who grew up supported by his father’s millions, Cummings was the son of two former South Carolina sharecroppers who moved to Baltimore and became preachers. From them, Cummings learned how to pray.

He’s still praying for some honest answers. But this time, it’s not God’s word he’s awaiting, it’s Michael Cohen’s.                 

About the author

Michael Olesker

Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of five previous books, including Michael Olesker's Baltimore: If You Live Here, You're Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts' Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press. Contact the author.

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