Michael Cohen, The Fool on the Hill

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, left, watches as Michael Cohen, center, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, leaves federal court in New York, Thursday, April 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Following a series of questions about President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s failure to disclose $20 million of liabilities on a bank loan application, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) asked him, “Mr. Cohen, you called Donald Trump ‘a cheat’ in your opening testimony. What would you call yourself?”

“A fool,” Cohen said.

Throughout nine hours of public testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, “the fool” managed to embarrass Trump – a lot – and he certainly distracted the public’s attention from the President’s historic summit taking place half-way around the world. However, Cohen never managed to provide House Democrats with what they wanted most of all, which was evidence that President Trump had committed an impeachable offense.

As the spectacle unfolded on Capital Hill – and what a spectacle it was – Cohen admitted he had no direct evidence that Trump had colluded with the Russians. But he “had his suspicions.”

Cohen testified that after news of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was released by the press, he recalled an “unusual” incident which had occurred around that time. He said that one day, he was sitting in Trump’s office and Donald Trump, Jr. walked in and whispered in his father’s ear that “the meeting is all set.” Trump said, “Ok, good. Let me know.”

How enlightening Mr. Cohen. That’s a real smoking gun.

Cohen told lawmakers that his former boss was “a racist, a con man and a cheat.”

So what.

Cohen declined to answer questions from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) about a conversation he had had with Trump two months after the FBI raid on his home, office and hotel room in April 2018. He said “he was unable to answer because it’s a topic under investigation by the Southern District of New York. “I’ve been asked by them not to discuss and talk about these issues.”

Cohen presented a copy of a $35,000 check he had received from Trump in August 2017 which he claims was repayment for the hush money he had paid to Stormy Daniels. But, bearing in mind that Cohen was employed as Trump’s attorney at the time, it’s only natural he would be receiving payments for his services. We would have to learn more about that to draw any conclusions.

Even if it were a partial reimbursement to Cohen, it’s a flimsy reed on which to base an impeachment proceeding.

Cohen told stories that were unflattering, even humiliating about Trump, but he never quite managed to land a fatal blow. And given the length of the hearing and Cohen’s hatred and resentment toward the President, that’s really quite remarkable.

House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) ended the hearing with comments that were actually quite lovely in which he lamented how destructive the state of political discourse has become. But considering how much Cummings’ own poisonous rhetoric and actions have contributed to the level of toxicity in Washington, his hypocritical words rang hollow. Cummings said:

I know it’s painful going to prison. I know it’s gotta be painful being called rat. A lot of people don’t know the significance of that, but I live in the inner city of Baltimore, and when you call somebody a rat that’s one of the worst things you can call them because when they go to prison, that means a snitch. I’m just saying. The president called you a rat. We’re better than that!

I’ve sat here and listened to all of this and it’s very painful. You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen, and you’ve admitted that. You know that one of the saddest part of this whole thing is that some innocent people are hurting, too, and that’s your family…I don’t know where you go from here…We are better than this. As a country, we are so much better than this…It sounds like you’re crying out for a new normal, to get back to normal. It sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays intact. I’m hoping that the things you said today will help us to get back there.

I mean, come on, now. When you’ve got in the Washington Post, our president has made 8,713 false or misleading statement…It sounds like you got caught up in it and some kind of way…President called you a “rat.” We’re better than that…You know what hurt me? That picture of you leaving the courthouse and, I guess it was your daughter, had braces on. Man, that hurt me…

When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and do nothing? Did we play games…

What did you and your fellow Democrats do to keep our democracy intact?

You and your co-conspirators tried to destroy Donald Trump’s candidacy. When that failed, and Trump won the presidency, you took a piece of unverified opposition research paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to frame an innocent man for a crime he did not commit and spent the first two years of his presidency investigating him for that crime. Following separate investigations by the House, the Senate, the FBI and a Special Counsel, no evidence of wrongdoing was found.

Unable to accept those results, you invited a broken, pathetic man, Michael Cohen, to testify before Congress so you could find something – anything – you could use to continue the ruse for another two years.

And you did so while the President was overseas attending a summit where he was trying to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a problem that if unaddressed, poses an existential threat to the entire world.

That’s what you and your colleagues can say you did to keep our democracy intact when you’re dancing with the angels Mr. Cummings.