I was at work during the Michael Cohen testimony, so I didn’t get to watch it. However, I did spend my lunch listening to live coverage on NPR. I listened to about an hour and got enough of a feel for things to come away with a few observations.
1. Sometimes it takes a sleazy creep to take down a sleazy creep
Frankly, Michael Cohen doesn’t come off as a person of great integrity. I guess that’s why he was a good choice to represent Donald Trump. There is an underworld mafia vibe about that relationship and it came out again and again during the testimony. Organized crime history is full of moments like we saw in the Cohen hearing. A mafia underboss or capo gets pinched covering up the dirty work for the boss. He’s facing jail time and decides to come clean and turn state’s evidence. It’s in every mafia movie ever made. And guess what? The courts accept that testimony and use it to go after the big guy. That’s exactly what we have here. But the Republican congressmen continually seemed to be oblivious to the fact that this kind of testimony can be perfectly valid and admissible. Perhaps that’s because they themselves remain loyal soldiers for the “Don”–pun intended.
2. Only one side was interested in listening to the testimony
I think it might have been even clearer listening on the radio than if I’d watched on tv that the Republicans weren’t interested in listening to Cohen’s answers. This was illustrated by the fact that they constantly asked questions and then, almost without fail, interrupted and tried to steer Cohen to say what they wanted him to say. They used their time to grandstand and try to completely derail any train of thought Cohen was putting together. The Democrats who asked questions let the man speak.
3. If some of these Congressmen are the best and brightest, we are in trouble
I was struck during my brief check in on the proceedings at just how poorly some of these people communicate. I don’t know if it’s because the GOP representatives were so angry that it caused them to stammer and stumble their way to their point (if there was one) or what, but several seemed to struggle to put a sensible sentence together. Oratory skills certainly aren’t what they used to be.
4. Katie Hill stole the show and shown a bright light on the GOP agenda
At one point in the middle of the circus, North Carolina Republican, Mark Meadows, obviously thought he had caught Cohen in a lie that very day regarding the way he’d filled out a form where he was supposed to disclose any contracts he had with foreign agencies. Cohen tried protesting this accusation, saying it was his understanding that the form was referring only to government agencies and that the foreign companies he had connections to were not government agencies. Bulldog like in both tenacity and intelligence, Meadows continually shouted Cohen down and swore over and over that the form required Cohen to report all of his connections with any foreign agencies. Meadows even called for a criminal investigation into the matter right in the middle of the hearing. He was literally giddy with excitement at what he thought he’d discovered. Enter Katie Hill, Democrat from California. She began her time by reading the actual form in question, for the record, which clearly said “government agencies”. Touché Ms. Hill, touché.
5. Donald Trump is neck deep in all kinds of crap
Yes, Michael Cohen is a known liar and has sleaze ball written all over him. But there’s no way he was lying about everything. He has the cancelled checks and documents to back much of what he says. He really didn’t say much that most reasonable Americans didn’t already know or suspect, but to have it all laid out in one place at one time for history to record did feel right and just. Our president, simply put, is a shady character without a moral compass. It is vital that this gets recorded in the annals of our history so that Trump can be placed along side other presidents who left a stain on the White House legacy–such as Andrew Jackson, whose portrait Trump hung by his desk in the Oval Office.
6. Elijah Cummings summed the circus up for all of us
At the closing of the hearing, the chairman, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings had the final word and he summed up the thoughts of level-headed Americans everywhere. I’ll close with his statement.
“You know I’ve sat here, and I’ve listened to all this, and it’s very painful. It’s very painful. You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen — and you’ve admitted that. And, you know, one of the saddest parts of this whole thing is that some very innocent people are hurting too. And you acknowledged that. And, um, that’s your family.
And, so you come here today, you… deep in my heart … when I practiced law I represented a lot of lawyers who got in trouble. And, you come saying I have made my mistakes, but now I want to change my life. And you know, if we … as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they’ve made mistakes to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well.
I don’t know where you go from here. As I sat here and I listened to both sides, I just felt as if … and you know… people are now using my words, that they took from me, that didn’t give me any credit. We are better than this. … We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.
And, you know, I told you, and for some reason, Mr. Cohen, I tell my children, I say ‘When bad things happen to you, do not ask the question “Why did it happen to me?” Ask the question, “Why did it happen for me?” I don’t know why this is happening for you. But it’s my hope that a small part of it is for our country to be better. If I hear you correctly, it sounds like you’re crying out for a new normal — for us getting back to normal. It sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays intact.”