Regrets? Michael Cohen has a few

Cohen leaves the committee after testifying.

Cohen leaves the committee after testifying.Credit:AP

Oh, and India and Pakistan — both possessed of nuclear weapons — were engaged in escalating hostilities, including the downing of two Indian warplanes on Wednesday.

This is the world we live in.

On Capitol Hill, committee Republicans did not waste their time disputing Cohen’s characterisation of Trump as «a racist», «a con man» and «a cheat». At one point, Republican Mark Meadows asked Lynne Patton, an African-American woman who worked for the Trump family as a party planner and now serves in the administration, to stand behind him, citing her as proof that the president cannot possibly be racist. That’s about as substantive as the pushback got.

Instead, Republicans stuck to discrediting and vivisecting the witness. Member after member detailed Cohen’s financial fraud, his tax evasion, his professional disloyalty and, of course, his previous lies to Congress. The committee’s ranking Republican, Jim Jordan — in high dudgeon and dangerously over-caffeinated — seemed particularly troubled by the origins and authenticity of a Twitter account, Women for Cohen, that pushed out ridiculous flattery about Cohen’s manliness: #sexy! #handsome!

Message: Cohen is a liar, a «swindler,» a narcissist and a felon whom only a fool would listen to. Multiple Republicans, in fact, went on at length about what a disgrace it was that Democrats had provided a platform for such a scoundrel.

While quibbling with details here and there, Cohen did not disagree with the Republicans’ critique. Early and often, he acknowledged he had done some bad things for which he soon would be spending time in prison.

Aware of his credibility problems, Cohen showed up with hard proof of Trumpian misdeeds: a personal cheque from the president, allegedly used to reimburse Cohen for his payment to Stormy Daniels; evidence that Trump arranged to have a portrait of himself purchased at a charity auction by a straw buyer, who was then repaid through Trump’s charitable foundation; and letters that Trump had instructed Cohen to write, warning the president’s high school, colleges and the College Board not to release his grades or test scores without his permission.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to questioning of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to questioning of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer.Credit:J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

Cohen noted that threatening people on Trump’s behalf was an integral part of his job, estimating that, over a decade, he was called upon to do so around 500 times.

The whole dreary spectacle produced only a few fresh tidbits — such as Cohen’s claim that Trump, a year into his term, explicitly directed him to lie about the president’s involvement in the hush-money scheme — none of which seem likely to alter the competing narratives being pushed by the president’s critics and allies. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat’s star freshman, laid the groundwork for demanding the president’s tax returns and issuing future subpoenas to more Trump lackeys. Cohen suggested that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating as-yet-unrevealed Trumpian crimes. He also ominously fretted: «I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.»

Cohen said that working for Trump was «intoxicating.» But something has changed. Cohen’s performance is likely the first of many such soul-barings to play out in hearing rooms and courtrooms over coming months. «I regret the day I said ‘yes’ to Mr. Trump,» he said. «I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.»

New York Times

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