A fascinating exercise it has been of the self-immolation of Republican members of the House Oversight Committee in its hearing with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen yesterday. These overwhelmingly southern white males followed one another with an overly exercised circus-like effort to divert attention from the blistering indictment of President Trump that was the real substance of the hearing.
When President Trump winds up behind bars, which will happen at some point, it will become clear that all these ridiculous Republicans will have contributed to the thorough demise of their political party, headed toward the same shameful dustbin of history that will encase the sad remnants of Putin’s failed effort to undo the American democracy in this decade.
Unlike what these Republicans insisted yesterday, Michael Cohen had no incentive to lie at these hearings, none. He’s looking at three years in prison, and if he’d been shown to lie in the interim, the penalties would have been only greater against him. Instead, this man who knows where all the bodies are buried, proverbially, in the organized crime world of Donald Trump, and served up enough documentation at this hearing to send Trump behind bars for many years.
It was Rep. Ro Khanna of the oversight committee who nailed the core issue the most firmly yesterday, describing what Cohen presented as “a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud,” a conspiracy involving four persons — Trump, Trump Jr. and Weisselberg — but where only one of whom (Cohen) is going to jail, at least so far.
The evidence, the exhibits of cancelled checks and financial forms, were provided to prove Cohen’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“These Republicans are not concerned that Cohen is lying, but that he has stopped lying,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin.
But despite all the evidence presented, including Cohen’s testimony concerning Trump’s relationship with convicted Russian mob figure Felix Sader in shady real estate deals in Manhattan, Cohen’s testimony of Trump’s ongoing involvement with his real estate interests in Moscow, and in making illegal payments to reimburse Cohen for the hush money he paid to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, the Republicans on the committee showed zero interest in any of that. Completely ignoring all that evidence, instead, they single-mindedly sought to discredit Cohen as a witness as a way of protecting Trump, and therefore from the charges against him.
It is astonishing how lacking these Republicans are in seeing themselves accurately through the lens of American public opinion. There is only a shrinking corner of the electorate still cheering them on.
Cohen was eloquent in his opening statement yesterday. “The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump. Today, I’m here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump,” he said. “I hope my appearance here today, my guilty plea, and my work with law enforcement agencies are steps along a path of redemption that will restore faith in me and help the country.”
Cohen’s profile of Trump, as a personality, as one who has known him as up close and personally as he has, was devastating. “Mr. Trump is an enigma,” he said. “He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”
Cohen added, “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make a brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation — only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.”
He then provided more details on his allegation that Trump is a racist, a conman and a cheat.
“The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact, he did the opposite,” Cohen said.