The following is a running commentary on Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 27, 2019.
10:00 AM The Republicans claimed they didn’t get some relevant material early enough and thus wanted to postpone the hearing. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) demanded a vote to postpone the hearing because Cohen’s testimony was released Tuesday night without with 24 hours notice They knew this would fail. Still, they had to posture with feigned outrage.
I am viewing on MSNBC though I did check to make sure Fox News was also broadcasting the hearing. A friend watched the Fox commentary prior to the hearing and she told me they were spinning it like crazy. Here’s how the far right Washington Examiner put it in “Michael Cohen opening statement makes no sense”
Cohen will say he was in the room in 2016 when Trump took a call from his longtime adviser Roger Stone, who alerted then-candidate Trump that he had phone calls with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that a cache of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton would soon be public. This claim implies that the FBI, House, Senate and all of the news media have been searching for clues that Trump knew about the email hacks, and yet the first we’re hearing about it is from Cohen, who is just about to go to prison?
The simpler explanation is better: Cohen is desperate and bitter. The media are trying to polish the turd of his credibility by noting he has “nothing to lose” in telling the truth. That’s true, but people who shoot themselves after committing mass murder having nothing to lose, either.
I will update this column with my impressions, in italics, throughout the day.
10:15 AM Chairman Elijah Cumming’s announced that they will not restricts Mr. Cohen’s statements, even those related to Russia in that Cohen made some of this in his written opening statement.
10:20 Ranking Member Jordan personally attacks Rep. Cummings. Attacks Cohen as a convicted perjurer. Desperate, he brings up Steele dossier. Manages to attack Hillary Clinton. Attacks Cummings, “this is how you’re going to operate.”
10:25 Michael Cohen is sworn in. Reads opening statement which he notes includes confirming documents. Of Trump, he says “he is a racist, he is a con man, and he is a cheat.” He says he will include a copy of hush money check from Trump, copies of 2011-13 financial statements, a copy of the article with Trump’s handwriting on it related to a contribution Trump made, a threat he made against colleges and college board not to release his SAT scores.
“Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress, that’s not how he operates.” and “in his way he was telling me to lie.” He asked “how’s it going in Russia” referring to the Moscow tower project.
This obviously exposes Trump once again as a liar about having dealings in Russia.
Talking about covering up Trump’s evasion of the draft speaks directly to the president “I find it ironic that you are in Vietnam now.” This is about as timely as it gets considering Trump is probably watching this from Hanoi.
11:10 Jordan tries to undermine Cohen’s testimony because he worked for Trump for 10 years and is getting back at him because he didn’t get a job in the White House.
11:20 Mark Green (R) Begins by attacking Cohen as a convicted felon and liar. The Republicans pretend not to understand that it is common for criminals who once lied to testify credibly in later trails. Tried a gotcha question with “who paid your expenses to be here today?” Foiled, Cohen says he paid his own expenses. I thought good trial lawyer never ask a question they don’t already know the answer to.
The Republicans only have one line of attack. Not the facts. It is trying to impugn Cohen’s credibility. This gave me time to make this image:
11:40 Meadow’s trots out a black former employee of Trump, has her stand up, to prove that the president isn’t a racist. Cohen counters with “ask her how many top executives who are black worked for Trump?” Says “the record attests you are not a nice guy.”
Cohen obviously angry, doesn’t back down. He is well prepared. Give yes and no answers when appropriate. Shakes head in disgust at Meadow’s questions.
Hice (R) asks who he consulted with prior to the hearing. He says his lawyers Lanny Davis and Michael Monico (about) who are sitting behind him. Asked who is paying Lanny Davis. Cohen says “no one.”
Again, after two hours all the Republicans have is that Cohen was convicted of lying to Congress.
Ranking Member Jim Jordan is taking the lead in aggressively attacking Cohen. Let’s not forget that Jordan was accused of “turning a blind eye” to sexual abuse 20 years ago by the team doctor of wrestlers he coached at Ohio State.
12:30 N.C. Rep. Foxx (left) who only has the fact that Cohen won’t commit to not writing a book, working on a movie, or being a TV commentator in the future to impugn his testimony. Cohen answered with one-word responses: “no” to each.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) reminds us that no RICO case ever is brought to trial without having testimony from mob witnesses who committed crimes but who are granted immunity.
Another Republican, Rep. Cloud makes Cohen recite what he’s been convicted of and when he has to begin his sentence. When Cohen offers more damning comments about Trump Cloud cuts him off. Do they know they are losing the optics battle with anyone who isn’t a Trump sycophant? He wants Cohen to commit to donating any remuneration from books or other deals to charity.
Is it just my own prejudice but do most of the Republicans look and sound like ignoramuses?
1:55 Jamie Raskin (D) has Cohen describe in detail how payoffs to Karen MacDougal were made. Raskin was a constitutional law professor who has said that if Trump is implicated in crimes committed while he was president he should be impeached.
2:10 Amazing! Rep Justin Amash is the first Republican who actually asks questions that allow Cohen to explain his testimony. If anything he is sympathetic to Cohen. Cohen thanks him for his questions!
2:20 Rep Bob Gibbs (R) suggests that Cohen shouldn’t be saying these things about the president while he is overseas trying to do what’s right for the country. He actually sounded tearful. Again the refrain, why if you worked for the president for 10 years, if you had any sense of integrity, didn’t you leave before now? He is trying to say Cohen is motivated by promises of future benefit for his testimony. Says this is political theater. Cohen “it is not” – I have worked with him for 10 years. Gibbs finishes that with all these deals Cohen will be doing pretty good in five years.
Talking about political theater, the smirking self-satisfied looking Jim Jordan, the cover-up former Ohio State wrestling coach, is taking center stage as GOP member yield time t him whenever possible. Cover-up seems to equal having been a liar.
2:45 No Republican bombshells yet, not even any effective gotchas. They are acting just like mob lawyers trying to discredit witnesses.
2:50 Rep. Jackie Speier gets Cohen to give a number of how many times he helped Trump make problems or potential problems go away by threatening people: about 500.
Rep. Mrs. Miller (R): Another political game for the purpose of discrediting the president, and to impeach the president. Ho Hum, but she reveals name of a book Cohen was working on “Trump Revolution from the tower to the White House.” Again, more about his perusing the book deal in the future says “anything to sell books” and calls him a man who has gladly exploited the president for his own profit.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D) gets Cohen to reveal Trump knew about and directed a company to use bots to rig a poll.
3:15 GOP Rep. W. Stuebe suggests that because he doesn’t have records of everything Cohen accuses him of means – well – something bad. He manages to effect a stern look of condemnation and disbelief. I wonder if he practiced in front of a mirror or if it merely comes naturally to him.
3:30 Republican Chip Roy condemning “this unbelievable circus” manages to give a Trump stump speech.
Democrat Stacey Plasket from the Virgin Islands has Cohen remind us that he was Vice Chair of the Republican National Committee. She gets Cohen to say a statement made by Rudy Guiliani was inaccurate, among other inaccurate statements made by Trump associates.
Rona Graff, Trump’s personal assistant, was brought up several times, probably assuring she will be called to testify.
The Big Reveal: Cohen can’t talk about open investigations in the Southern District of New York. The Big Apple may turn very rotten for Donald Trump and Company.
4:30 California Democrat Ro Khanna questions about the possibility that Cohen knows about but can’t discuss matters about Donald Trump and the Trump Organization being involved in the investigation into a criminal conspiracy. Another California Democrat Jimmy Gomez asks about whether Cohen knows anything about whether or not Trump was being under audit for his taxes. He said he assumes that Trump was never under tax audit.
They are finishing up with questions about Trump financial transactions coming from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, for example “To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” Cohen, who responded immediately, said “yes.” Slate suggests she may be laying the groundwork for a subpoena for Trump’s tax returns.
Then there was the sure to make the news comment by Rep. Rashida Talib who lambasted Rep. Mark Meadows for bringing in a black woman to act as a prop. She said “Just to make a note, Mr. Chairman, just because someone has a person of color, a black person, working for them, does not mean they aren’t racist and it is insensitive that some would even say it’s — the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself.”
Meadows demanded her comments be stricken from the record. Fireworks ensured. Meadows said he took the accusation especially personally because “my nieces and nephews are people of color. Elijah Cummings, who noted he was the son of former sharecroppers and that he had slaves as ancestors tried to respond to Meadows. Talib eventually apologized for saying something that might have sounded like it could be construed to mean she was accusing Meadows of being a racist. He eventually withdrew his request.
The Republican Jody Hice from Georgia and other Republicans then entered media articles which are highly critical of Cohen into the record.
Michael Cohen was asked for closing remarks. Looking tired and somewhat bedraggled with the start of a five o’clock shadow he read from his notes. He finished with comments made directly to the president calling him churlish. I expect these will soon be published in short order.
Jordan offered nothing new while claiming he had new matter to bring up. He read woodenly from his notes without looking up. He said he wanted to bring Rod Rosenstein in for questioning about (old news already) talking about wearing a wire to record the president.
Elijah Cummings spoke extemporaneously looking directly at Cohen. From what I could tell Cohen gazed back at him with a sad look on his face. They were classic, beautiful, and inspiring. He finished with:
“I want to say thank you. I know that this can be hard. I know that you are facing a lot. I know that you are worried about your family but this is part of destiny and, hopefully, this portion of your destiny will lead to a better Micheal Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America and a better world.”
“I mean that from the depths of my heart. When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: ‘In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy in tact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?”
“We can do more than one thing,” he said. “And we have got to get back to normal.”
UPDATE Thursday Feb. 28, 2019 Jenifer Rubin goes with the mob comparison:
Rubin lists examples from the hearing and writes:
…you might be a fan of mob movies. In Cohen’s telling, Trump sits atop a kind of crime factory mowing down red lines daily, operating above and beyond the law to enrich its top boss and depending on the ultimate loyalty of underlings. Reporters have often commented that Trump publicly speaks in language a crime boss would use (e.g., deploring “flipping”). That may not be a coincidence. Trump’s self-image and organization are very much styled after a Hollywood movie portrayal of a gangster and his crime family.
As in the movies, the organization breaks down when someone becomes a “rat,” a cooperating witness. You have to find someone deep in the organization to provide insight into the day-to-day operation, to break the code, as Cohen said. These people are criminals, which is why they have access to even bigger criminals. Saying Cohen is a convicted perjurer is like saying Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was a felon. Well, duh. How else were the feds going to catch up to John Gotti and dozens of other mobsters?
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