What’s Right: The Michael Cohen Hearing

Connor Madalo, Maroon-News Staff 

Michael Cohen’s testimony has been long awaited by both Democrats and Republicans. Having served as President Trump’s former attorney and now going to prison for crimes that include violating campaign finance law, tax evasion and perjury in congressional testimony, many anticipated that Cohen would come clean with new information on Trump that would lay the ground for impeachment. However, Cohen’s testimony seemed to be a small victory for everyone, including Democrats, Republicans and even President Trump.

Before Cohen even released his opening statements, virtually everyone knew the political game that was going to be played. Democrats would try to build up Cohen’s credibility as a decent guy who was forced to do Trump’s bidding and is now coming forward about his experiences. Republicans would try to paint him as a dishonest man motivated to ruin Trump for his own benefit. What was unknown was the specific details and information that Cohen would present, which proved somewhat beneficial to both sides.

The testimony was a win for Democrats in terms of media coverage and making Trump look bad. After all, the most memorable part of Cohen’s testimony that plastered headlines regarded Trump’s character: “I am ashamed because I know what Trump is: He is a racist, he is a conman and he is a cheat.” He said it was exactly what Democrats wanted to hear and served as a great summation of the testimony for the media. Paired with Cohen’s personal accounts of Trump’s dubious character and actions, it was a definite hit on the President.

However, this win for Democrats falls short in two respects. First, the testimony will almost certainly not change anyone’s mind on Trump. After dozens of controversies, most Americans have already a formed an opinion regarding the President, and one account, regardless of whether you believe Cohen, is unlikely to sway very many people. Second, there are few real condemning legal implications from the testimony. Most of it made Trump look bad, but unless there is strong potential for legal action against him, most people will forget about it within a couple weeks.

The testimony was a win for Republicans and Trump in that the new information brought forward by Cohen was underwhelming. I argue it even helped in some ways Trump’s claim that he did not collude. Most evidence presented by Cohen, such as information on payments made to Stormy Daniels, was already known. Meanwhile, his statements on WikiLeaks and Russia counter some of the claims of collusion.

Recounting a meeting with Trump, Cohen stated that he heard Trump say “wouldn’t that be great” after hearing that WikiLeaks would be dropping damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Trump’s surprise to this news suggests that he did not have a hand in making the WikiLeaks drop happen. Several times during the testimony, Cohen stated, “Trump never expected to win the election,” creating a major problem in the Russia collusion narrative. If Trump throughout the campaign never expected to win the 2016 election, what was the quid pro quo for making a deal with Russia?

Finally, information from the Steele Dossier, which is a collection of documents related to suspected Trump-Russia collusion, was directly contradicted by Cohen’s testimony. The Dossier holds that Cohen went to Prague during the 2016 Election to meet with Russian officials, but when directly asked if he had, Cohen denied these accusations.

It is entirely possible that Cohen lied about these details. To that point, though, it is entirely possible that he lied about most of his testimony. Despite efforts to make Cohen appear to be a reformed man seeking redemption, one cannot help but have some skepticism towards his account. He is going to prison for perjury, after all. The only lasting impact regarding the event will regard legal action against Trump, which we will learn more about following the release of the Mueller report investigating Trump-Russia collusion. Until then, both sides will continue to cherish their own small victory following the testimony and Cohen himself will head off to prison, with his only possible win being a potential book deal about the whole controversy.

Contact Connor Madalo at [email protected].