Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. This public testimony was sandwiched between two closed-door sessions before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on Tuesday and Thursday.
Like almost everything that happens in Washington, DC – with the possible exception of a State Funeral – the Committee not only split clearly along party lines in the Committee room, but could have held the hearing in two different time zones.
The Democrats were in the uncomfortable position of playing nicely with Cohen in their zeal to get the goods on Donald Trump. A year ago if you mentioned Michael Cohen to a sitting Democrat it would have conjured up a being with horns and a tale, breathing fire.
On Wednesday, for Democrats, he was the Prince of Good Works for turning on Trump.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) asked Cohen how many times, in the decade Cohen worked for Trump, he had been asked to threaten somebody.
Cohen said it was many times.
“50 times?” “More”
“100 times?” “More”
“200 times?” “More”
“500 times? “Probably. Over the ten years.”
On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans spent at least the first four hours making certain that their constituents understood that Cohen’s testimony was not just tainted, it was poisoned by his previously lying to just about anyone he thought he needed to lie to for whatever reason.
Cohen is going to jail for three years and, according to his own testimony, has lost his license to practice law as of the day before which he found out from news reports.
We know that Cohen was a thug when he was actively working for Trump. We know he has pleaded guilty to a bunch of federal crimes.
Some cable chat shows leaped on Cohen’s statement that he did not get a job in the White House after the election because he didn’t want a job in the White House. Like Trump, getting his talking points from TV, this led Republicans on the Committee to pepper Cohen with questions on this point.
He insisted he did not want a job in the White House because he would not have been able to continue performing his “fixer” [my word] duties for Trump if he were on the public payroll.
To help with the credibility issue, Michael Cohen brought a long several documents: Two checks for $35,000 each that Cohen said were part of the Stormy Daniels hush money deal; two “Statements of Financial Position” that Cohen said showed inflated assets to make Trump appear to be wealthier than he is; and, a Statement of Net Worth that includes a listing of a value of $4 billion for the Trump brand which the NY Times calls “staggering.”
We knew all this before Wednesday, nevertheless, as former NJ Governor Chris Christy pointed out in a contemporaneous TV appearance, “The interesting thing is that there hasn’t been one Republican yet who has tried to defend the president on the substance, and I think that’s something that should be concerning to the White House.”
When asked if he would entertain book or movie opportunities, Cohen said people have already reached out to him about that. He was asked if he would entertain additional deals?
“Yes,” he said.
When another Member asked if he would promise, under oath, to donate any profits from such endeavors to a charity.
“No,” Cohen said.
No one doubted he was telling the truth about that.
One of the problems with having a Committee with 42 Members each getting five minutes is that, if time is strictly kept, you’re looking at 3½ hours. Add to that, the duplication of questions and the preening for the folks back home and you can easily double that.
As CNN’s Jake Tapper summed up: “Michael Cohen, who once said he would ‘take a bullet’ for the President today called him a ‘racist,’ a ‘con man,’ and a ‘cheat.’”
While all this was going on, Donald Trump was in Hanoi, Vietnam meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to a NY Times article showing the documents Cohen brought along and to a CNBC piece explaining what they mean.