So Far, Michael Cohen’s Testimony Was Much Worse for America Than it Was for Trump


Whether you believe some, all, or none of what Michael Cohen said publicly under oath this week, unless you are part of Trump’s Cult 45, you had to feel at least some sense of profound sadness for our country.

The overall conclusion that a rational person must come to is that the president of the United States is effectively a low-grade mob boss. Donald Trump is basically HBO character Tony Soprano, and Michael Cohen is essentially his pal Paulie Walnuts, if Tony’s henchman had ever turned into a “rat” for the government.

The greatest country that man has ever created is currently being run by a man so devoid of any sense of basic morality, or common decency, that he apparently called a Republican congressman to thank him for publicly threatening, possibly, illegally, his own former personal lawyer and a top GOP fundraising chairman, just before his testimony. A man so drenched in scandal that there were literally too many possible crimes emanating from Cohen’s testimony for the news media to properly keep up with all of them.

I don’t know whether everything Cohen said was accurate, but there was nothing he said about Trump that didn’t ring at least mostly true (which is why the pathetic Republicans on the committee desperately scrambling to protect Trump barely even dealt with the actual substance of the testimony). If he did lie about Trump, you would think that the president’s own DOJ would be salivating at the prospect of prosecuting that perjury and putting Cohen behind bars for a lot longer than currently scheduled (spoiler alert: there is no way that will happen because then there would a trial about the details of all this, which Trump definitely does not want).

Regardless of Cohen’s truthfulness, the entire spectacle, seen live around the world, was a total embarrassment to our country. Our president’s former right-hand man making him seem like the very worst humanity has to offer, Republicans humiliating themselves to change the subject, Trump’s “Cult 45” being completely undeterred because Cohen, apparently unlike Trump, is a “liar” (except when they like what he has to say!), and Democrats using all of this to score political points off of the word of a man who is soon going to prison, partly for having lied to Congress.

But maybe the worst part of all of this was that, as the proceedings unfolded, two outwardly contradictory realities seemed to become quite clear. President Trump has effectively committed multiple crimes while in office, but he was smart and lucky enough that proving any of them and holding him accountable, especially in a highly partisan political environment, will be nearly impossible.

Ironically, one of the elements of Cohen’s testimony which, to rational people, should give him significant credibility is that he did not provide definitive testimony in areas where, if he was willing to lie, he easily could have, and where it would have greatly bolstered the case for impeachment (for the record, there is no doubt that the case for full-on “Russian collusion” took a significant hit thanks to Cohen’s testimony). The most interesting example of this came in the form of Cohen’s story of how he came to lie to Congress about the critical timing of the termination of the 2016 attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

I can’t think of a more perfect example of a situation where there is a larger gap between what very likely actually happened, and what can be credibly proven in a way that really matters, than this one.

In the real world, Cohen was, for all intents and purposes, directed to lie, both by Trump’s own implications, and his lawyer’s editing of Cohen’s testimony (a charge one of them strongly denies). And the much-maligned Buzzfeed story breaking that news, which I defended at the time, has been largely vindicated. However, in the realm of legalities, thanks partly to Cohen’s testimony being extremely careful, Trump may have been smart enough to allow just enough plausible deniability, especially within a topic too complex for most of the public to grasp, for the issue to ever gain any traction much beyond Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Similarly, there are several other situations where it is clear that Trump’s intent was to break the law, but that the mob-like tactics he used leave just enough ambiguity to where proving the actual crime will take more evidence than what Cohen has so far delivered. It appears that Trump, while he may be even more corrupt than some of his critics have previously believed him to be, may also not be as dumb as they have presumed (personally, I have always thought of Trump as, just like Tony Soprano, a moron with regard to “book smarts,” and savant when it comes to “street smarts”).

The chairman of the committee that hosted Cohen’s testimony, Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings, did his very best to try put some lipstick on this whole pig by ending the hearing with a declaration that “We’re better than that!” Sadly, I fear he was very wrong.

For if we were really better than what happened on Wednesday, Donald Trump would never have become our president, and our president never would have had a personal lawyer like Michael Cohen.

John Ziegler is a senior columnist for Mediaite. He hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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