Now that the Democrats won the House back, they’re in charge of the House Oversight Committee–which is why the president’s former lawyer finally came to testify in a congressional hearing on Wednesday. Of course, given the circumstances and all parties present, the hearing quickly devolved into a farcical circus that’s sure to trigger Kavanaugh flashbacks to many watching at home or work.
The GOP representatives have mounted a complex and robust offensive against Michael Cohen, an admitted liar and criminal, by pointing out many times over that Cohen is, in fact, a liar and a criminal. In their view, it matters not whether Cohen has evidence to support his claims; this man has soiled the sweet sanctity of Truth and therefore he dishonors the hallowed halls of Congress with his very presence.
It’s an obvious paradox that GOP representatives on the Oversight Committee are taking issue with Cohen over filling out forms incorrectly and being financially opaque as part of their effort to protect a president who emits provable falsehoods daily. They also characterized Cohen as a bully, which is apparently now a bad thing to be in their eyes. These people are operating as if this were merely a random person of low character assailing the unimpeachable dignity of a president, rather than one of the many criminals in this particular president’s close personal orbit impugning this particular president for crimes he did on the president’s behalf.
Essentially, they’re pretending that the last two years didn’t just happen.
It’s a gaslighting extravaganza that veers so fast between red-faced, Southern-accented screaming and the boring parsing of minute details that you might get whiplash. (If you choose to sue, though, I would strongly suggest you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen.)
Have a look below for the most surreal moments from the hearing so far, which we will update as it continues.
1) The “some of my best friends are black” defense
In the week during which Green Book won the Oscar for Best Picture, facile defenses against racism are apparently in vogue.
Meadows is basically arguing that because Lynne Patton—a black woman who works for Trump, who Cohen recommended for the job—does not think Trump is racist, Cohen must be lying about Trump's racist comments.
— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) February 27, 2019
2) “Liar Liar Pants on Fire”
In the two years since Trump has been the president, the sight of grown adult politicians behaving like members of the Little Rascals has not gotten any easier to accept as our shared reality.
Rep. Paul Gosar, currently calling Cohen a “liar liar pants on fire,” is the guy whose six siblings filmed a campaign advertisement endorsing his opponent and I completely understand why pic.twitter.com/OmNfVBhqDV
— ???????????????????? (@resisterhood) February 27, 2019
Some committee member unironically putting up a sign saying "Liar Liar Pants On Fire" during congressional testimony is like the 10th most ridiculous thing that has happened today. What a time to be alive. pic.twitter.com/G0YOdcLGit
— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) February 27, 2019
3) President Trump and Michael Cohen are apparently twin enigmas
“Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I,” Cohen said at one point in his low-key, but self-aggrandizing testimony. “He has both good and bad, as do we all. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he’s not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he’s not generous. He’s capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”
As unpredictable as Trump is made out to be sometimes, his habits are pretty easy to predict. We know he’s going to get mad at his critics on Twitter, we know he’s going to tweet out praise for books that kiss his ass, we know he’s going to claim credit for things he didn’t do and deflect blame for things he did. He’s less an enigma and more a steady metronome of spite and buffoonery.
“Mr. Trump is an enigma. He’s complicated, as am I" pic.twitter.com/3eh0hbveiO
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) February 27, 2019
4) Michael Cohen says “shithole” twice on live television
“He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a shithole,” Cohen says in his testimony. “This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.”
It’s less a mic drop moment than Cohen thinks because a) it’s unprovable and b) we’ve all already heard Trump wax racist about both Barack Obama and “shithole countries.” But still, hearing him say the words out loud twice on live TV so matter of factly is kind of wild.
What is the point of styling it “SH*THOLE” on your cable news chyron when you just ran Cohen saying “shithole” live and uncensored
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) February 27, 2019
5) Cohen reveals that Trump talks about his son exactly like you think he would
Michael Cohen says "Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world." Here's my profile of Don Jr., a son who so desperately wanted his father's love—and so keenly felt its absence.https://t.co/DlfPNMiTzY
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) February 27, 2019
6) “Women for Cohen” tweets on display to shame Cohen
Michael Cohen may have overseen the creation of a low-follower Twitter account designed to make it look as though he had a loyal following of women, many of whom were supposed to be attracted to him. It’s a silly, pathetic tactic and one worth having a good chortle about. But it’s relevance here is less than zero, beyond trying to make this cartoonishly law-breaking lawyer look more ridiculous than he already does.
This is pitiful: Republican members have put up posters of the Women for Cohen tweets. pic.twitter.com/ZmdEWA4Pww
— Marcus Baram (@mbaram) February 27, 2019
7) Cohen brings up the elephant in the room
"i find it interesting that not one question you and your collegues have asked me is about President Trump." Cohen calls out GOP for being loyal soldiers to their Godfather
— Philip Gourevitch (@PGourevitch) February 27, 2019
8) Rep. Higgins asks a literally unanswerable question
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) February 27, 2019
9) Matt Gaetz continues with the threatening
On Tuesday, Rep. Gaetz tweeted (and later deleted) an unambiguous threat against Michael Cohen. Then he showed up to the hearing to stare daggers at Cohen in person. About as unsubtle as it gets.
— Lauren Windsor (@lawindsor) February 27, 2019