AOC triggered the Trump lawsuit. She’s a better politician than you think
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed to join the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee after her first election in 2018, her late chair Elijah Cummings asked him clearly, “Are you ready to do the job?” The question wasn’t surprising, given that his impression of her was the same as many in Washington.
Ocasio-Cortez had just won a stunning primary loss to Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley and had become instantly famous for her outspokenness and social media presence. It could have given the measured but never shy president an understandable pause. Despite its name, the committee often turns into a place where braggarts hang out to hang out on camera, allowing them to further their profiles by appearing on cable news that night. Cummings was clearly not looking for more.
But New York Attorney General Letitia James’ announcement of a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump — which Ocasio-Cortez sparked by questioning former Trump fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen — shows that the answer to Cummings’ question is a resounding “yes.” And moreover, it shows how, despite being perhaps the most visible Democratic congresswoman not named Nancy Pelosi, AOC fans and critics underestimate her.
James – who, after ousting former Governor Andrew Cuomo and now bringing this lawsuit against Trump, may well be America’s most powerful black politician – said the investigation began after Cohen explained in Congress how the former president had inflated his assets.
Cohen’s remarks came in response to questions from none other than Ocasio-Cortez in February 2019 when he testified before the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. At the time, Cohen was in the early stages of a political about-face. Having already threatened and belittled people for defending Trump, he was beginning to turn against his longtime benefactor.
It was also Ocasio-Cortez’s first committee hearing since she was sworn in. I was in my office watching the audience, expecting them to pontificate once their turn on the stage came. Instead, she asked some of the most nuanced questions of the entire audience. In particular, she asked Cohen if Trump had knowingly inflated the value of his assets, to which he replied in the affirmative.
The questions were particularly pointed, and she focused more on hard facts than many Republicans — who primarily used the hearing to demonstrate who Big Daddy Trump’s biggest apologist might be — and some Democrats, who chose to use their time more for monologue than investigation. Indeed, AOC squad member Rashida Tlaib from Michigan sparked a row when she accused then-Rep Mark Meadows of being a fanatic, which led her to take performative umbrage at such an accusation. It was a performance that Meadows pulled off so well that Trump awarded (punished?) him a job as the last White House chief of staff.
While it may have taken more than three years for Ocasio-Cortez’s shrewd questioning to bear fruit, the fact that his investigations led to today’s trial speaks volumes about his political skills. AOC is often masterful at asking the questions others don’t think to ask. And that can have far-reaching consequences. Not only did his questioning of Cohen lead to James’s trial, but the specific allegations – that Trump inflated his worth and lied about his wealth – hurt the former president particularly. Trump projects an image – an image beloved by his fans – of a highly capable emperor of New York business. That image is now being dismantled, and he’s starting to look like a crook, just in time for the midterms and the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.
Ocasio-Cortez has struggled since she was sworn in to Congress three years ago. Conservatives, apparently enraged by her popularity with young voters, repeatedly reduced her to her previous occupation by calling her “the bartender”, or verbally harassed her on the steps of the US Capitol. This vitriol reached its most revolting nadir when Paul Gosar released an anime parody that depicted her being killed off in cartoon form.
And despite its wide popularity with the online left, AOC doesn’t wield much influence within the Democratic Party. Contrary to popular belief, the more left-leaning voices are not the base of the party – rather it is black voters, especially older ones who lean overwhelmingly towards the conservatives for the moderates, who make up a large part of the base. . As a result, Ocasio-Cortez’s favorite presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, lost the Democratic nomination to Joe Biden and she had just 60 seconds to speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2020. In Congress, she and his fellow team members lost their fight. to pass Build Back Better alongside the bipartisan infrastructure bill and had to swallow a much thinner climate bill drafted by Joe Manchin that included the sale of leases for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska .
But her ability to ask measured questions that get results shows she’s a valuable asset to Democrats going forward. Plus, while many political pundits like to compare her to some of the Republican bomb-throwers like Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz, they’re all fundamentally not serious about doing the jobs their constituents have told them to. elected. On the contrary, they have shown time and time again that they are more interested – to borrow a phrase from the right – in pointing out the virtue at their base. Whatever our thoughts on the merits of Ocasio-Cortez or the rest of the squad’s politicians, there’s no denying that they’re here to work.
It’s an important distinction, and it will serve them all, especially since the Democrats are expected to largely lose their majority in the House in November. It will be the first time since Ocasio-Cortez’s tenure that Democrats will be in the minority. So, for now, she can continue to serve as someone who will ask pointed questions that none of her contemporaries will ask. One could imagine that it makes Elijah Cummings proud.