Michael Cohen’s testimony is as unprecedented as it is stunning: A direct witness to the actions of the president of the United States presented specific evidence of the president’s decades-old pattern of lying, financial fraud, intimidation and betrayal of his country for personal gain.
We’ll get to that in a moment. First, Cohen is also indicting the Republican Party, whose House Oversight Committee members, even in the face of mountains of evidence of Trump’s mendacity, attack his critics, try to disguise the truth and convey their belief that their voters are too stupid to notice they’ve become henchmen for Trump. The telling moment came when Cohen chastised Republicans: “I did the same thing you’re doing now. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years.” If nothing else came through Wednesday, voters should come away convinced that Republicans have abandoned any pretense of serving the country. They’re in essence little Michael Cohens waiting for the hammer to drop.
As for the substance of Cohen’s testimony, we got plenty of juicy nuggets: Cohen briefed Trump and his children 10 times about the Moscow deal during the campaign (yes, his children were complicit in the hoax that Trump had “no business” with Russia); Cohen understood Trump’s tweets in advance of his testimony to be threats; Trump had other “catch and kill” stories in addition to ones we know about extending back before 2007 when Cohen went to work for him; the hush-money payments were discussed in the context of the campaign and included Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who together with Cohen worked out the details after speaking with Trump; Trump knew about the WikiLeaks documents in advance and Cohen believes prosecutors have corroborating evidence of Trump’s discussions with Roger Stone.
What does all this mean? Let me offer several observations.
As Democrats allege, when the House Oversight Committee was in Republican hands, there was essentially no effort to investigate possible illegality. To the contrary, they decided to go after the FBI and Justice Department. This is the most shameful chapter in the party’s history, and reminds us that the most consequential action in the Trump presidency was the voters’ decision to turn the House over to Democrats. We still would have no idea about any of these matters had that not happened.
Let’s not get hung up on impeachment or prosecution for the moment. What fair-minded person would say Trump deserves the endorsement of his party and another four years? That they cannot bring themselves to contemplate an equally Trumpian candidate who hasn’t engaged in the pattern of deceit to the extent we know Trump did, tells us how cowardly and weak Republican elected officials are and how thoroughly corrupt (intellectually) are the right-wing media who spin for him every day.
We should also recognize how completely inept and clueless Republicans are. They believe that if they simply smear Cohen they’ll have accomplished their mission. But what about all the other witnesses, all the other evidence including financial documents? They cannot seem to grasp the extent of incriminating information out there and, if they allow themselves to consider it for just a moment, they seem utterly unconcerned they will be looked upon as stooges for a corrupt president. You ask what world they live in? The Fox News bubble where facts are unimportant. Their other standard is: Can we get the dim voters to buy this?
Cohen has given all of the information and more to prosecutors. Trump and the GOP are living on borrowed time. If not by legal or congressional action, Trump’s organization has been revealed for what it is: A sort of mob-like entity ruled by a pathological liar for whom laws and truth are irrelevant.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. Follow her @JRubinBlogger.