Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is earning praise from pundits on her performance during Michael Cohen's testimony, but there is more to her line of questioning than meets the eye.
Cohen, President Donald Trump's forms lawyer and fixer, testified publicly before the House Oversight Committee in a long and sometimes heated hearing on Wednesday. He previously pleaded guilty to charges in two separate investigations – one by special counsel Robert Mueller's office, the other by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York – and was sent to three years in prison.
Read more: The most shocking statements and allegations from Michael Cohen's bombshell congressional testimony
Among the freshman Democrats questioning Cohen on Trump-related issues was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who serves the 1
Winning in the 2018 congressional primary where she has a powerful longtime democratic lawmaker, her boldly progressive agenda and high-profile tweets, Ocasio-Cortez has established herself as a force in the House. (She's been branded as a bogeyman for those right-of-center and a hero for those on the left.) [NaturallyRepOcasio-Cortez'slineofquestioningdrewattention
Pundits praised her performance, including her use of time, efficient questioning, her lack of grandstanding, and the fact that she asked follow-ups to questions raised earlier during the hearing.
However, her line of questioning, which focused on Trump's finances, revealed something more.
Ocasio-Cortez followed the adage that "all politics is local"
Not only did she focus on her "home borough" (the Trump Links golf course in the Bronx, which taxpayers paid millions to build), but she brought focus to possible issues at the state level.
Ocasio-Cortez pressed Cohen, asking if Trump ever inflated assets to insurance companies and deflated the value of assets to local tax authorities.
"In just a few minutes she was able to touch on very, very serious issues, and what has not been noticed too much is she got him to point to possible violations of New York state law," Jack Pitney, professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, customs local Southern California radio station KPCC.
"Why is that significant?" Pitney continued. "Well if Trump tries to short circuit everything through a bunch of pardons that doesn't apply to violations of New York state law."
This was echoed by FiveThirtyEight's Galen Druks.
"Ocasio-Cortez was the first to hammer home on possible tax fraud by Trump," he wrote during a live-blog of the hearing. "That is potentially being investigated by the Southern District of New York and the state of New York. Various legal experts believe that investigations of those jurisdictions are more of a legal threat to Trump than Mueller's."
The case for the House Oversight Committee to further its probe
During her allotted time, Ocasio-Cortez specifically asked Cohen if speaking to Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and subpoena Trump's tax returns were a necessary part of the committees investigation – laying the groundwork to look into those matters.
"To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.
"Yes," Cohen answered.
"Who else knows that the president did this?" she continued.
"Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari," Cohen answered.
"And where would the committee find more information on this?" Ocasio-Cortez asked. "Do you think we 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 replied, referring to the Trump Organization.
Ocasio-Cortez later asked about tax-fraud allegations brought up in a New York Times investigation, which cohen replied that he wasn't with Trump in the 1990s, but that Weisselberg and Trump's tax returns would help the committee investigate further .