Is Michael Cohen's testimony really important?
For more than six hours, the President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer answered questions before the House Oversight Committee. Dodging attacks on his credibility, Michael Cohen painted an image of the president, closely resembling that of a criminal.
Is it really possible to believe an individual who has previously lied to Congress? Is this perhaps a desperate measure to reduce his sentence? Is Trump truly being investigated?
These questions, and thousands of others, are among those that arose during more than six hours of testimony by the president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen on Wednesday.
"Racist, con man and a cheat," were just some of the words Cohen used to describe the president, for whom he worked for more than a decade as a lawyer and "fixer.”
Cohen returned to testify after having pleaded guilty to lying before the same Congress in statements about the alleged Trump Tower project in Moscow, Russia.
In 2017, the lawyer falsely stated before the Senate Intelligence Committee the dates and details about the negotiation between the Trump Organization and Moscow. He has since claimed that he did so in an effort to "be consistent with the [president's] political message."
In his new testimony, Cohen opened his statement by indicating his intention to "correct my record," and acknowledged that, "some of you may doubt and attack me because of my credibility."
This is precisely what happened during his hearing - at least on one side of the aisle.
The Republican representatives in the Committee devoted their shifts to highlighting Cohen's credibility issues, condemning him for lying before Congress. They also attacked him, calling him greedy, and insinuating that he was helping Democrats with anti-Trump efforts.
For their part, the Democrats emphasized such issues as Cohen using hush money - allegedly at Trump's direction - to silence adult movie actresses, Trump's previous knowledge about the publication of Hillary Clinton's emails, and, again, the negotiation of a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Amid the tribalism of some, and the desperation of others, the cracks within current politics in the U.S. were put on prominent display.
It's as if Trump's dream of transforming politics into a television show had, finally, been made a reality.
The only truly important developments coming out of the six-hour-long affair were Cohen's accusations about the involvement of the president's children and other individuals in his immediate circle in dubious acts, as well as the push for Trump's tax returns to be made public.
"Would it help for the committee to obtain federal and state tax returns from the president and his company?" asked New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, after Cohen explained the president's misuse of finances for years.
"I believe so," the now-disbarred lawyer replied.
Cohen also accused the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and the Trump organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, of having been involved in the payment to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
He, in addition, said that both Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump were aware of the Trump Tower negotiations in Moscow, a statement that will likely lead to House investigations into the president's children.
According to Politico, Trump's campaign for reelection in 2020 issued a statement calling Cohen "a felon, a disbarred lawyer, and a convicted perjurer", echoing Republican efforts to discredit him. "Why did they even bother to swear him in this time?" asked Kayleigh McEnany, National Press Secretary for the Trump's 2020 campaign and spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
However, the president's business now faces more than eight separate investigations into his businesses and finances, violations of the constitution's Emoluments Clause, and misappropriation of funds from the Trump Foundation.
The most troubling aspect of this episode is that nothing Cohen said was surprising. None of his statements surpass our imagination of what the president is capable of doing. They only serve to show us the inability of the political system to deal with the criminality that has overtaken the Oval Office.