Michael Cohen is not a good guy. He is not a victim of Donald Trump, but a conveniently contrite bully-for-hire heading to jail.
He claimed in his testimony before a US Congressional committee, that Trump’s race-baiting and Putin-pandering led him to turn against his former boss.
But it’s reasonable to assume he’d still be thugging for Trump if he hadn’t been busted last summer by law enforcement officials and pleaded guilty last fall.
So it’s fair to wonder why Cohen, who branded Trump a “racist, con man and cheat,” stuck by his odious boss for so long.
“Over time I saw his true character revealed,” he revealed.
How much time could he possibly need? Trump is, if anything, almost comically transparent.
That it took 10 years to figure out what he was really like suggests Cohen didn’t feel like looking too hard, or that he was perfectly comfortable with what he saw every day.
Cohen’s road to Damascus moment was centre stage at Wednesday’s electrifying hearing. Democrats seemed eager to accept his epiphany without question.
Republicans, meanwhile, ignored all of the substance of Cohen’s testimony, preferring to savage his motivation, his history of lying and his career of general dishonesty.
But try as they might, GOP committee members couldn’t obscure Cohen’s broad portrait of Trump as a lying, corrupt sleazebag – and his particular charges of criminal activity in the White House.
Specifically, Cohen presented a $35,000 cheque from Trump, written in 2017, that Cohen said was partial repayment for the $130,000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her story about an affair with Trump.
Later, under questioning, Cohen said Trump had called him last winter to discuss how Cohen should insist to the press and public that Trump knew nothing about the payments.
If true, both claims would suggest crimes.
Tantalisingly, Cohen also said he was working with federal investigators in New York – the same team that busted him – over assorted, potentially criminal activities of the Trump Organisation.
Considering the tableau of bank fraud, tax fraud, charity ripoffs and other skullduggery Cohen laid out, Trump and his family are in for a world of hurt in the coming months.
The American public has becoming numb to the tales of Trump’s mendacity and narcissism. Still, Cohen managed to shock and horrify:
- He said Trump ran for president not out of love of country, but to burnish his personal brand. Trump viewed his campaign, Cohen said, as “the greatest infomercial in political history”
- Trump, he said, asked him more than 500 times over 10 years to threaten and bully anyone from reporters to business vendors, and that he “revelled” in learning that Cohen had stiffed some poor business contractor
- Trump, Cohen said, maintained that African-Americans were “too stupid” to vote for him, and he questioned whether any black person could lead a government
- On Trump’s behalf, Cohen threatened Trump’s former high school, college and the US College Board into not releasing Trump’s grades and university entrance exam scores.
Perhaps most pathetically, Trump pilfered money from his charitable foundation to ensure that an oil portrait of himself went for the highest price at a Hamptons art auction.
So what happens now?
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will no doubt subpoena Trump Organisation officials in search of more dirty deeds. Republicans will continue to stonewall. Cohen himself heads to prison in two months.
Trump will maintain his smearing and distracting, while the public waits for what should be the imminent release of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
And history will weigh whether Wednesday was indeed one of the darkest and most dispiriting days in the life of the republic, and whether we find a road back before it’s too late.
“We’re better than this,” committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings declared.
We shall see if he’s right.