Michael Cohen appeared before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday for the first time since agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in both the Southern District of New York and the Special Counsel’s Office investigation. In his opening statement, Cohen revealed stunning new details suggesting President Trump had prior knowledge of Wikileaks’ intention to release emails hacked from the DNC and the Clinton campaign, about his possible awareness of his son’s attempts to get ‘dirt’ on the Clinton campaign from Russian nationals, about the president’s involvement in hush money payments used to influence the election, and about the president’s lawyers’ involvement in “editing” his previous false testimony to Congress.
The members of the Oversight Committee, moved by this historic moment and united by the common cause of scrutinizing these jaw-dropping claims and moving to hold the president responsible. Kidding!! Committee Republicans instead sought to undermine Cohen’s claims by impeaching his character, over and over and over again.
Here, five ways Republicans tried to discredit Cohen.
“Mr. Cohen, you’ve claimed to have lied, but you’re not a liar,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said. “Just to set the record straight, if you’ve lied, you are a liar by definition.”
The record, for what it’s worth the record, at that point, was quite clear on the point. Cohen admitted in his opening statement that he lied to Congress and the American public. But in case there was an ambiguity, Republicans hammered the point home.
Cohen, Jim Jordan said, is “a guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress.”
“A scorned man who is going to prison for lying to Congress,” Rep. Mark Green repeated. “He’s going to prison for lying to Congress and he’s the star witness to Congress.”
“You’re a pathological liar, “ Rep. Paul Gosar charged. “You don’t know truth from falsehood,”
Rep. Mark Meadows charged that Cohen fabricated his claims painting Trump as a racist, asking Cohen if he had the remarks on tape. “You’ve taped everybody else!” Meadows said.
A convicted felon
“Mr. Cohen, can you tell me the significance of May 6?” Rep. Michael McCloud (R-TX) asked. May 6th, it turns out, is the day Cohen is scheduled to turn himself in to federal authorities to serve his sentence for tax evasion and lying to Congress. Republicans hammered him on the point again and again.
Jordan kicked it off, characterizing Cohen as “A guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress.” He went on to pull out a poster with prosecutor’s description of Cohen blown-up in extra large font. “Here’s what the U.S attorney said about Mr. Cohen: ‘While Mr. Cohen enjoyed a privileged life, his desire for ever greater wealth precipitated an extensive course of criminal conduct. Mr. Cohen committed four — four — distinct federal crimes over a period of several years. He was motivated to do so by personal greed. And he repeatedly — repeatedly — used his power and influence for deceptive ends.’”
“Cohen’s consciousness of wrongdoing is fleeting, his remorse is minimal, his instinct to blame others is strong. There’s only one thing wrong with that statement. His remorse is nonexistent. He just debated a member of Congress saying, ‘I really didn’t do anything wrong with false bank things that I’m guilty of, I’m going to prison for,” Jordan said.”
Rep. Mark Green joined in: “If you read the sentencing report on Mr. Cohen words like ‘deceptive’ and ‘greedy’ are scattered throughout that report. It paints a picture of a narcissist, a bully, who cannot tell the truth whether its about the president or about his own personal life.”
A tool of the Democratic Illuminati
In his own opening statement, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attempted to paint the entire hearing as a sham, orchestrated by a shadowy liberal cabal intent on impeachment. “Lanny Davis choreographed the whole darn thing,” Jordan declared, exasperated. “Lanny Davis! the Clintons’ best friend, loyalist, operative. Lanny Davis put this all together.”
Tom Steyer, Jordan intimated, was also involved. “They just want to use you, Mr. Cohen,” Jordan said. “You’re their patsy today. They’ve got to find somebody somewhere to say something so they can try to remove the president from office. Because Tom Steyer told them to.”
Tom Steyer, Jordan went on to note that Steyer had recently organized town halls in the districts of Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). That’s true, but it undercuts Jordan’s point: Steyer is currently running ads and holding town halls in an attempt to strong arm Democrats who he believes to be insufficiently bullish on impeachment, including Nadler and Cummings. If they were already in on the scheme as Jordan is suggesting, such efforts wouldn’t be necessary.
“Remember how all this started,” Jordan went on, conspiratorially. “The Clinton campaign hired Perkins law firm, who hired Glenn Simpson who hired a foreigner Christopher Steele who put together the fake dossier the FBI used to get a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. But when that whole scheme failed and the American people said we’re going to make Donald Trump president, they said we’ve got to do something else.”
A man who was and is looking to make a buck
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) drew attention to shady business dealings Cohen engaged in after Trump was elected, offering consulting services to the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, the Kazakh bank BTA, and Korea Aerospace Industries. During the hearing itself, Meadows announced he would seek a criminal referral against Cohen for illegal lobbying activity and violations of FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
For her part, Rep. Virginia Foxx wanted to know how Cohen planned to make money now that he could no longer practice as a lawyer. (On the eve of Cohen’s testimony, an appeals court in Manhattan granted a request to remove Cohen’s name from the state bar’s list of attorneys allowed to practice in New York.) The implication was that Cohen would seek to profit from his redemption tour. “Can you commit under oath that you will not — that you have not and will not pursue a book deal?” Foxx asked Cohen. (He said no.)
“Can you commit under oath that you will not pursue opportunities to provide commentary for a major news network based on your experiences working for the president?” she asked. (“No,” again, he replied.)
“Can you commit under oath that you will not pursue political office in the state of New York?” (“No,” Cohen answered.)
An embittered ex-employee who desperately wanted to work in the White House
Cohen, the Republicans insisted, turned on Trump because he wasn’t given a job in the White House. (The president’s sons, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, live-tweeting the hearing, vigorously agreed with the characterization.)
“Here’s what I see,” Jordan said. “I see a guy who worked for 10 years and is here trashing the guy he worked for for 10 years, didn’t get a job in the White House, and now, now you’re behaving just like everyone else who got fired or didn’t get the job they wanted — like Andy McCabe, like James Comey — same kind of selfish motivation after you don’t get the thing you want. That’s what I see here today and I think that’s what the American people see.”
Cohen, for his part, shrugged off the aspersions cast on his character. “I just find it interesting, sir, that between yourself and your colleagues that not one question so far since I’m here has been asked about President Trump,” Cohen responded to Jordan at one point. “That’s actually why I thought I was coming today. Not to confess the mistakes that I’ve made. Yes, I’ve made mistakes and I’ll say it now again and I’ll pay the ultimate price and I am not here today and the American people don’t care about my taxes, they want to know what it is that I know about Mr. Trump and not one question so far has been asked about Mr. Trump.”