Jumping the Shark with Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen testified in Congress Wednesday. And boy was it rough.

Cohen prostrated himself in front of the House Oversight Committee and begged for forgiveness from the Democrats and the media. He even put on that special look—the look that a teenage boy puts on when he gets caught doing something wrong—to go along with the “I-know-better-now-and-I-will-never-do-it-again” line. It was pathetic.

But Cohen was smart enough to know that his doleful tone, “sincerely-repenting” expression, and crestfallen demeanor did not, by themselves, carry the water. So, he brought along some meager evidentiary “gifts” in the form of salacious anecdotes and some “irrefutable” documents.

His “gifts” included three years of Trump’s financial statements and two media hit pieces suggesting Trump exaggerates his net worth, a magazine clipping about a Trump portrait being sold at an auction, a bunch of checks to Cohen and a bank statement, and a letter he wrote to various educational institutions to threaten legal action if they released Trump’s grades or test scores.

Democrats and the media surely will continue pushing the narrative that Cohen’s scant documents somehow prove something. They don’t.

He produced two $35,000 checks that he claims were reimbursements for the Stormy Daniels’ payment. He produced no evidence that these checks were in fact for that payment.

He produced a bank statement showing an advance from a home equity line of credit for $131,000 that he claims offers proof that Trump indicated that he would reimburse him. He produced no evidence that Trump actually gave any such indication.

He produced three financial statements from three separate years with differing estimates of Trump’s net worth that he claims show that Trump manipulated his financial statements. He produced no evidence that these statements were in fact doctored.

He produced a letter, which he wrote to Fordham University, advising the university that it was illegal to release a third party’s educational records without the third party’s consent, that he claims shows that…shows that…Trump is a hypocrite? Well…if hypocrisy were a crime, Congress would have far more troubles than the president.

And he produced several news articles and tweets that he claimed…well, it’s not entire clear what he was claiming those particular submissions were supposed to prove.

In other words, he produced no positive proof that Trump is a conman, a cheat, or that he knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.

At best, he provided some evidence that Trump has, at least once, been hypocritical. But even that would be a stretch.

Though Cohen’s “evidence” may be made to fit his narrative, it does not corroborate his narrative, and it certainly doesn’t add any compelling new information. The only thing that adds anything new is his testimony, in the form of his opening statement and answers to questions. And when we’re dealing with a witness who is about to go to prison, in part for lying to Congress, there are many reasons to take everything he says with a grain of salt.

But this hearing was never intended to change anyone’s mind anyway.

Few Trump supporters care about the Stormy Daniels payoff, Trump’s hardball business practices, or his supposed interactions with WikiLeaks. They will view this hearing as yet another show trial in the ongoing witch hunt, meant to distract from Trump’s continued economic successes and promising diplomatic work. And they will view Michael Cohen as a disloyal opportunist whose prior independent crimes made him a perfect target for Mueller to squeeze.

And most Trump opponents already believed Trump was a racist conman, long before Michael Cohen ever testified. They view each additional piece of evidence, no matter how weak, as yet another nail in the coffin of inevitable impeachment. They will view this hearing as yet another demonstration of the treachery of Trump and the disingenuousness of those who support him. And they will view Michael Cohen as a flawed man but one who finally took responsibility and did the right thing.

It’s dizzying to consider the widening gap between what the average Democrat and Republican believes today. It’s a gap so wide that it is nearly impossible to bridge it with any type of reasonable, objective conversation. And though Chairman Cummings and Ranking Member Jordan were able to keep a thin veneer of civility covering the proceedings, the obvious animosity and complete lack of understanding between the two sides was palpable.

Much like the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings, the focus and thrust of the questioning from each side was completely different.

Democrats went to great lengths to try to drag further salacious stories out of Cohen, at one point asking him if he knew of any occasion in which Trump paid for a medical procedure for a woman outside of his family (Cohen’s answer was no). Their entire goal was to continue to cast aspersions on Trump, his family, his companies, his campaign, and ultimately his presidency.

Republicans—confined to the minority and opposed to having the hearing in the first place—systematically made the case that Cohen was not a credible witness, had every incentive to paint Trump in a negative light, and was certainly not the bumbling but useful idiot he painted himself out to be. They kept painting Cohen into a smaller and smaller corner.

Don’t be surprised if we find real smoking gun evidence that Cohen perjured himself in response to a Republican’s question.

But did anyone expect anything different? Did anyone really expect that Michael Cohen would testify before Congress and suddenly the scales would be lifted from everyone’s eyes and they’d see Trump as an evil, dangerous, megalomaniac? Finally the “bombshell” hit its target?

Democrats, if nothing else, are unwavering optimists. They have had so many misfiring silver bullets, they could get an endorsement from the National Werewolf League.

Think of every time that the Democrats and the mainstream media have told us, “this is it, this is the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency. As soon as [fill in the name] testifies/is indicted/releases a book/is interviewed, it will be over for Trump.”

Well, if they really believed that Michael Cohen was going to be the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency, then it’s probably the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end. They’ve put up a valiant, if slimy, fight. But when you’re taking moral advice and testimony at face value from Michael Cohen, you know you’ve jumped the shark.

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About Karl Notturno

Karl Notturno is a Mount Vernon Fellow of the Center for American Greatness in addition to being an entrepreneur, musician, and writer. He recently graduated from Yale University with degrees in philosophy and history. He can be found on Twitter @karlnotturno.