By Maribel Hastings and David Torres
It’s possible the testimony of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, before a congressional panel will not change many people’s positions. Those who already think, as Cohen put it, that Trump is a “racist, a conman, and a cheat” will continue thinking so; and those who blindly defend him, like the Republicans on the panel or the 37% of the country that continues to support him, will not change either.
It’s a sign of national character that has invited everyone not to propose or defend something that would move the country forward, but instead has caused the principles of democracy to deteriorate in service of one single man, who has established superiority in the country that he governs, assisted by those who believe that supporting him will bring them an avalanche of benefits, whether political or economic, like in those fraudulent pyramid schemes where, at the end, most of the participants wind up losing and only those at the very top win.
It is likely that not even the report of the special counsel Robert Mueller, regarding the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, will move many people, since it has basically become a never-ending story.
But if something became clear in this hearing, it is how far the Republican Party has fallen, represented by congressional committee members who did everything possible to try to derail Cohen’s testimony, with truly contemptible behavior. Their agenda was so obvious that, upon avoiding showing any signs of indignation regarding the conduct of this president, it became clear that they are serving their boss and not acting as representatives of this country.
Even those who aren’t on the committee, like the Republican Congressman from Florida, Matt Gaetz, have loaned themselves out to do the White House’s dirty work. Gaetz, via Twitter, asked Cohen whether his wife knew about his “infidelities” and said that now that Cohen was going to prison, perhaps his wife would no longer remain faithful.
It’s not at all surprising since Trump leads by example. He talks and acts like a mafioso, calling Cohen a “rat” for speaking against him.
The Republican Party has been in agony ever since Trump emerged as “its leader” and assumed the presidency. The GOP became addicts to power and maintaining it at all costs, even if that means trampling on the very principles they were preaching, lying and covering up for someone like Trump. At Cohen’s public hearing, the Republican Party finally expired: the shamelessness, the cynicism, and the lack of integrity of congressional Republicans was the final straw.
Simply put, to remain in power politically the Republicans gave away their integrity, their decency, their history, and their principles, choosing instead their ideological antithesis (Trump), without realizing that he would become, in the end, their own political executioner.
Like all who followed the hearing, Cohen realized that the Republican participants on the panel were only dedicated to trying to discredit his testimony, and they never actually looked into the revelations Cohen made about Trump.
But Cohen had some wise words for his attackers: “I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years. I can only warn people, the more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”
These words sealed off this historic hearing, in which everyone has been clearly identified by their position, and at any moment these words will come to light again when another defender of “Trumpism” finds himself sitting on the bench of the accused.
Last year Trump’s former lawyer pleaded guilty, among other things, to having lied to Congress, tax fraud, and violating campaign finance laws–this for having bought the silence of the porn star Stormy Daniels, who supposedly had an extramarital affair with Trump, so that she would not reveal this in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign. That is why Cohen is facing three years in prison.
Cohen said that Trump, as president, orchestrated reimbursement to Cohen for payments made to Daniels, and showed a check signed by Trump. He added that then-candidate Trump knew firsthand, via Roger Stone, that Wikileaks was going to reveal emails hacked from Democrats in order to hurt the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. And that when he was a candidate, Trump lead the negotiations with Russia to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and lied about it to the American people.
The Republican legislators argued that Cohen lacks “credibility,” but what’s ironic is that the list of things he is accused of doing, with Trump’s knowledge, were done in order to protect Trump.
And if the lies and the gruesomeness of the president are contemptible, so too are the Republicans who are justifying it and covering it up. They are not “hostages” of Trump, as some analysts say. They are and always have been accomplices in the massacre of the truth and of the party that supposedly valued law and order.
Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, put it best when he said: “We have got to get back to normal.”
Exactly: a nation and its history, in cases like these, has to settle scores by following the law.