In today’s dramatic House Oversight Committee hearing featuring former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Republicans have not bothered with any complex strategy to undermine his testimony, much less to pursue the truth. Led by ranking minority member and pro-Trump conservative firebrand Jim Jordan, so far committee Republicans have painted Cohen as someone who’s already (admittedly) lied to Congress, and thus can’t be trusted on any matter. For the most part, they have not even made an effort to rebut Cohen’s specific claims against Trump, though they have made bold allegations of their own, suggesting that he and congressional Democrats are conspiring against their beloved leader.
In fact, even before Jordan started throwing serial fits over Cohen’s mendacity, his House Freedom Caucus colleague Mark Meadows objected to the entire hearing, arguing that Cohen’s prepared testimony was submitted too late to be reviewed. You have to wonder what in the GOP’s one-note attack on Cohen would have changed given more advance notice of what he planned to say. But after the committee predictably brushed aside this effort to shut down the hearing, Jordan heatedly sent the signal for all-out war not only on Cohen but on the evil, godless liberal “Democrat” agents persecuting the noble president, as Galen Druke observed in the FiveThirtyEight live blog of the event:
Jordan has opened this hearing by essentially describing a Democratic conspiracy to discredit the president or even remove him from office, relying on a witness who already lied to Congress.
That accurate description, however, doesn’t do justice to the tone and demeanor of Jordan and his troops. Gaze in awe:
A lowlight was this passage, the only time Jordan appeared to treat Cohen as anything other than a low-life who should be in prison already:
[The Democrats] just want to use you, Mr. Cohen. You’re their patsy today. They’ve gotta find someone, somewhere, to say something, so that they can try to remove the president from office — because Tom Steyer told them to.
Steyer, in case you’ve missed it, is the billionaire agitating for formal impeachment proceedings against Trump, whom a solid majority of congressional Democrats (and all of their leadership) have been resolutely ignoring or rebuking.
Later on, Representative Paul Gosar nicely encapsulated the case against Cohen himself:
GOP Rep. Paul Gosar used his time to repeatedly blast Cohen as a liar. He called Cohen “a pathological liar” who knows nothing but lying. He even said “liar, liar, pants on fire” at one point.
Cohen did manage a riposte:
“Are you talking about me or the president?” Cohen shot back.
Louisiana Republican Clay Higgins expressed sympathy for Cohen’s family in a courtly Southern manner and addressed him as “good sir.” But then he suggested, implausibly, that the Long Island attorney reminded him of “thousands” of bad actors he had arrested as a law enforcement officer back in the bayous.
The GOP strategy of loud and furious objection to Cohen’s very existence is part of a broader strategy of dismissing every allegation against the president as part of a “witch hunt” that Democrats have cooked up out of thin air to overturn the 2016 election results. It’s an interesting question whether there is any revelation that Cohen (or, for that matter, Robert Mueller) could produce that would convince them to abandon this advanced line of defense for their hero. The answer, at this point, would appear to be no.
Perhaps the most searing critique of today’s behavior by House Republicans came from Cohen himself:
I did the same thing that you’re doing now for ten years. I protected Mr. Trump for ten years.
Look what’s happened to me.
I wonder if any of his tormenters think about that before they go to sleep tonight.