There was a moment during Michael Cohen’s testimony Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, about two hours into the hearing, that landed like a thud.
After a relentless battering from Republican lawmakers over his established dishonesty, including lying to Congress, Cohen called them out for carrying President Trump’s water. He pointed to a poster board that a Republican lawmaker had put up with the words “LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!” next to a supersize photo of Cohen.
“It’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for. I’m responsible for your silliness because I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years,” he told the Republican committee members. “I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years.”
Then he warned, more ominously, “The more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”
Cohen is heading to prison for three years for several crimes, some of which he says he committed to protect Trump. He’s not suggesting Republicans will end up behind bars for their loyalty to Trump, but he does seem to be cautioning that their reputations could be forever damaged if they continue to defend the president indiscriminately.
Since Trump’s election in 2016, few Republicans have challenged the president, offering mild rebukes of Trump’s most offensive comments but largely toeing the line.
Throughout the hearing, Republicans on the panel admonished Cohen for his lies and tried to paint him as an opportunist, asking again and again whether he would take a book or movie deal. But Republicans have never seemed particularly concerned with Trump’s 8,000-plus well-documented false or misleading statements since becoming president.
Cohen noted during one of several heated exchanges with Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the Oversight Committee’s ranking Republican, that the GOP lawmakers didn’t seem interested in learning anything about Trump or his conduct. They were just trying to discredit Cohen.
“I just find it interesting, sir, that between yourself and your colleagues, that not one question so far … has been asked about President Trump,” Cohen said. “That’s actually why I thought I was coming today.”
Several hours later, save for one or two exceptions, that remained mostly true.