Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday lived up to its billing – and then some.
For most of the proceedings, Cohen was stone faced – seemingly resigned to his fate and content in the notion that the American public would find his account more credible than that of the man who currently occupies the Oval Office.
His assessment of Trump’s character was devastatingly blunt and, importantly, entirely consistent with the president’s self-professed penchant for putting “winning” above all other considerations.
Cohen delivered myriad allegations of bad faith in an at times unnervingly straightforward manner, on the way to painting Trump as an irredeemably corrupt autocrat whose history of criminal conduct continued unabated after the election.
Republicans’ efforts to cast aspersions were generally outweighed by the sheer magnitude of what it was Cohen was trying to communicate about the fragility of the republic.
During the testimony, we documented the moment when Cohen, careful to avoid making claims he couldn’t back up, answered in the affirmative when asked by Debbie Wasserman Schultz whether Trump, Don Jr. and Ivanka might have been compromised by Russia during the campaign. We also documented the extent to which Cohen’s demeanor did not suggest malice towards Trump or his family, nor did he seem to take pleasure in maligning his former boss.
In the hours that followed, there was no shortage of grandstanding from both sides of the aisle and, predictably, a melee ensued when Rashida Tlaib – one of the new “stars” on the Hill – called out Mark Meadows for a stunt involving Lynne Patton (an African American woman who works in the Department of Housing and Urban Development).
“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 — the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself”, she said.
Meadows promptly lost his mind. Thankfully, Elijah Cummings defused the situation – or at least he attempted to. Everyone delivered pseudo-apologies.
For her part, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quizzed Cohen on his allegations of financial fraud against the president and, predictably, Allen Weisselberg came up. To call the following clip foreboding would be to grossly understate the case.
Cohen also indicated there are other ongoing investigations into Trump, his associates and/or his businesses.
But it was Cohen’s rather chilling closing statement that stole the show. Before delivering a scathing critique of the state of American democracy, Cohen explicitly warned that the Trump he knows will not give up power, no matter what voters decided at the polls.
As you listen to Cohen’s closing remarks, we would ask you to try and conjure a scenario that sees Trump amicably cede power after a hypothetical election loss. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
Spoiler alert: there is no such scenario.
If Trump were to lose in 2020, he would doubtlessly cry voter fraud, sue and exhaust any and all measures at his disposal to avoid leaving the White House – and not because he enjoys being a public servant. But rather, because having tasted this kind of power and being the textbook narcissist that he most assuredly is, the prospect of losing an election and bowing out gracefully would be a complete non-starter.
Further, one has to wonder whether Trump would, during a theoretical second term, seek to abolish term limits for the president.
If you think any of that is far-fetched, we would note that Michael Cohen, a man who knows this president better than you ever will, thinks it is not only possible, but entirely likely:
One onlooker’s expression said it all: