I listened to and watched Michael Cohen’s testimony today before the House Oversight Committee, alternately on the radio in the car and on my computer in coffee shops.
(2-27-2019) He painted a picture of Trump that gels in every way with the person Trump presents to the world himself — nothing surprising to see there. He answered questions from the committee members — truthfully, I assume, because Elijah Cummings, the committee chair, told the audience and the other committee members several times that he had talked to Cohen before the hearing, that he had warned him that if he was caught in any lies this time around, he would immediately notify Robert Mueller, and it could affect his plea deal and his prison time.
Most of the information we heard for the first time in Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee only confirmed what we already knew or strongly suspected: that Trump knew about everything involving himself, his business, Trump Tower Moscow, and the hush money payments, and that he probably knew beforehand that Julian Assange of Wikileaks was going to leak documents that would hurt Hilary Clinton’s election campaign. So my thoughts are about other matters.
1. Stormy Daniels went to a gossip paper with her story about the affair she had with Donald Trump while his wife was pregnant with his youngest son. Trump told Michael Cohen to buy her rights to the story, to prevent it from coming out right before the presidential election. Cohen is going to jail for lying to Congress and the Special Counsel about — among other things — these hush money payments. The biggest irony, to me, is that it wouldn’t have mattered if the story had come out. It wouldn’t have made the slightest difference in the election results. Just like Cohen’s testimony today won’t make a difference to Trump voters and most Republicans in the Congress.
2. Someone asked if Cohen was aware of any other catch and kill situations (buying story rights so they don’t get published) than those involving the two women. He answered something like: No, not with other women. They didn’t follow up. Was I the only one face-palming myself?
3. The Republicans on the House Oversight Committee said it was pathetic that the Democrats’ best witness to Trump’s fraud and lies and cheating actions is Michael Cohen, who is going to prison for his own fraud and lies and cheating actions. So, do the Republicans on the committee suggest that they not investigate the fraud and lies and cheating because there’s too much of it going around?
They claim that the Democrats should at least bring forth an honest witness. I doubt it’s possible to find anyone who has spent any amount of time in Trump’s inner orbit who’s clean — who is not a fraud, a liar and a cheat. Gerry Connolly, D-VA, pointed out that most mafia convictions are based on the testimony of other mobsters. You work with what you have.
By the way, when all those Republicans on the committee think for a few minutes about what they are saying — that if someone has lied once, he is always lying — they might want to take it back. Because who hasn’t ever lied? More specifically, do you know any politicians who have never lied?
4. Jim Cooper, D-TN noticed that Cohen’s refrain in his testimony was, “And yet I continued to lie for him.” So he asked what the breaking point was; at what point did he decide to tell the truth? Michael Cohen’s testimony:
“Several factors, Helsinki, Charlottesville, watching the daily destruction of our civility to one another […], it’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for, because I lied for Mr. Trump.”
He gave himself a lot of historical significance with that answer, and I doubt it’s true. I’m sure he decided to tell the truth when he saw it was in his best interest to do so, when he got caught. On the other hand, he is right. He is guilty and responsible for the state of the country, and so is everyone else who has helped deceive the people in order to get Trump elected president of the United States.
5. In his final remarks before the House Oversight Committee, Cohen addressed Trump.
“We honor our veterans, even in the rain. You tell the truth even when it doesn’t aggrandize you. You respect the law and our incredible law enforcement agents, you don’t villainize them. You don’t disparage generals, gold star families, prisoners of war, and other heroes who had the courage to fight for this country. You don’t attack the media and those who question what you don’t like or what you don’t want them to say (sic that sentence!). You take responsibility for your own dirty deeds. You don’t abuse the power of your bully pulpit to destroy the people who speak out against you. You don’t separate families from one another or demonize those who look to America for a better life. You don’t vilify people based on the god they pray to. And you don’t cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies. Finally, you don’t shut down the government before Christmas and New Year’s just to appease your base. This behavior is churlish, it denigrates the office of the president, and it’s simply un-American. And it’s not you.”
“And it’s not you.” Even now Trump had a hold over him. Even in Michael Cohen’s testimony, in which he came clean and told us everything he knows about Trump — about his racism, and sleaze, and bank fraud, and cheating, and campaign finance shenanigans, he couldn’t conclude with his bizarrely moralizing sum of everything wrong about Trump without taking it back immediately afterwards.
Michael Cohen is clearly a crook and a coward, but he also has real reasons to be afraid for himself and for his family. He’s not just afraid of Trump, but, by his own admission, he’s afraid of the president’s supporters, who could interpret the president’s threatening tweets as a licence to kill. This is the level he and Trump and everyone involved in his election have dragged the country down to. Mobster threats from the don-in-chief and mobster testimony from the capo.
Header image: screenshot from c-span: https://www.c-span.org/video/?458125-1/michael-cohen-president-trump-he-racist-con-man-cheat