President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday, in what proved to be an unusual combination of politics and theater. While President Trump may have been the hearing’s intended target, Cohen himself proved to be the focal point.
For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand,” Cohen said. “I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump.”
Both Republicans and Democrats used their allotted time questioning Cohen to offer their own narratives regarding the disbarred lawyer. Republicans, who almost universally used their time to lament the proceedings and rehash Cohen’s previous offenses, worked hard to discredit the man, though in that effort it would seem they were not entirely successful. While within the conservative base, many may be inclined to dismiss Cohen’s testimony as that of an admitted perjurer, Cohen managed to escape the hearing with many outside the GOP claiming he seemed more credible than ever.
In fact, Cohen countered some attacks by saying he was simply doing what Republican lawmakers were doing in the hearing: trying to protect the president.
Look at the old adage our moms taught us: Liar, liar, pants on fire,” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said. “No one should ever look at you and give you credibility. It’s sad.”
“It’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for. I’m responsible for your silliness, because I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years,” Cohen replied. “I can only warn people. The more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly, [the more people are] going to follow the same consequences that I’m suffering.”
When asked about a supposed video showing Donald Trump striking Melania Trump in an elevator, Cohen stated plainly that he did not believe such a tape existed, but went further to add that Trump “would never” hit his wife. Cohen’s seeming unwillingness to entertain some potentially negative lines of questioning for the President went far to defang conservative arguments that he was nothing more than a disgruntled former employee that would hurt the president any way that he could.
Democrats, on the other hand, hoped to paint Cohen as a broken man in search of redemption, framing the convicted felon as a man who was trying to make right what he had helped to do wrong–a characterization that, at times, Cohen either tried to or sincerely adopted himself; depending on whether or not you take him at his word.
However, the day could hardly be marked as a victory for Left either. While Cohen may have offered a number of seemingly damning anecdotes about what a “liar” and a “conman” the president is, very little of what he offered served the end goal of many Democrats: removing the president from power.
Trump once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a shithole,” Cohen said. “This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.”
Cohen may assert that the president has said racist things, he may contend that he’s lied to journalists and reporters, and objectively, that could all be true and it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans in an impeachment hearing.
Cohen testified that Donald Trump was personally aware of his payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, which contradicts the President’s statements regarding the subject, but like much of Cohen’s testimony, simply saying a meeting or conversation took place isn’t the same as proving anything. He also said that Trump may have insinuated that he should lie to Congress, but he stopped short of suggesting the president told him to do so.
To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election,” Cohen said. “He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. And so I lied about it, too — because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.
Cohen’s testimony did provide Democrats with a list of names and topics to investigate further, which could potentially lead to trouble for the business mogul turned politician, but his testimony did not offer the smoking gun many may have hoped for. Republicans on the panel also managed to scrounge up some victories: namely taking the opportunity to discuss their own politics on the national stage.
Perhaps the most important part of Cohen’s testimony was something he wouldn’t discuss at all: the revelation that the president is currently under yet another investigation, this time conducted by prosecutors of Manhattan’s Southern District.
Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven’t yet discussed today?” Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois asked Cohen.
“Yes and again those are a part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.”
Ultimately, Cohen’s testimony and the accompanying media barrage echoed the majority of President Trump’s administration: allegations, accusations, and political warfare–all with no end in sight.