In advance of his testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Michael Cohen’s opening statement was released. It reveals nothing, absolutely nothing, about Donald J. Trump that shouldn’t have been brutally obvious to anyone paying any attention at all.
He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign – for him – was always a marketing opportunity.
That anyone could have believed otherwise is astounding.
He is a racist.
He is a conman.
He is a cheat.
Of course he is. He was. He never tried to conceal any of this. He wasn’t even good at it, none of it. He made it as clear as possible throughout the campaign and throughout his presidency since. But then, he never expected to be president. Being elected president was his biggest miscalculation, as he would have pulled off the con without a hitch if only he could manage being a credible loser, close but no cigar. As long as he wasn’t humiliated, he was a winner.
Trump had no plan to accomplish anything. He didn’t have anything he actually wanted to accomplish for the nation. That he could get away telling people at rallies that he had magic, secret, “beautiful” plans was laughable. What idiot would believe such crap? He had nothing, and it was plain for all to see. Yet, people believed. They wanted to believe. The Barnum Effect was in full force, and ironically the perfect cognitive bias for a conman.
Cohen confirms the brutally obvious, that Trump had two goals in running this scam, self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment.
Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history.”
And he would have pulled it off, except for one flaw in the scheme. Hillary Clinton. Against this vulgar, amoral ignoramus, the Democrats should have won by an 80-20% majority. After all, he had nothing, knew nothing, and was exposed at every flank, of which his were large. Yet, they couldn’t manage to crush this goofball conman who didn’t really want to win anyway.
The nuts and bolts Cohen offers in his opening statement, with documents to support some of his claims, confirms what was always obvious about Trump. It will thrill the resistance, which is no more concerned with significance of wrongdoing than visceral hatred, and it will do nothing to his base of support, which still hasn’t figured out that Mexico was never going to pay for the inane wall and that “beautiful” is not a replacement for Obamacare.
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.
There is nothing complicated here, least of all Cohen. By trying to create mystery, complexity, Cohen offers some conceptual ledge which could explain a nation’s confusion, his confusion, for abetting Trump. To say a person isn’t entirely evil is banal. To say he’s more bad than good doesn’t make him an enigma, or Cohen less culpable.
Michael Cohen provides a backdrop for what we already knew, details to fill in blanks, but he tells us nothing that wasn’t clear already. Trump told us he was a conman, and he was elected anyway. Trump told us he was a liar and cheater, and we made him president. Trump didn’t try too hard to hide the fact that this was a big scam, the “greatest infomercial in political history,” and still he won. So now we’re double told?
Except we’re told by, perhaps, the least credible source possible. And Michael Cohen’s effort to salvage his reputation, a “dignity” he never had, is sad and pathetic.
It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times. It is even more painful to admit that many times I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have. Sitting here today, it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.
A routine statement at sentence by a defendant is nothing new. Was it painful to admit or painful to get caught? Every lawyer knows a Cohen, the third-rate bully backed up by someone with either enough power or money to make his thuggish threats credible.
Cohen would have been lucky to do the occasional real estate closing in Queens but for Trump bringing him into his ambit to do his dirty work. For someone as hungry and hopeless as Cohen, being near big money was the best life he could ever expect, and he would get on his knees and do anything his patron asked.
Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching. I see now that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with the bad decisions I made.
Get caught, souls get searched. Cohen’s transparent attempt at making himself slightly less despicable a petty thug than he is doesn’t mean that what he says isn’t true. Of course it is. And as prosecutors like to say, when scams get run in Heaven, they will have angels for witnesses. For now, we’re left with the likes of Michael Cohen, because that was the sort of person a conman like Trump would have to do his bidding.
There will be no shortage of vetting the nuts and bolts of Cohen’s testimony, the story about Trump using a straw buyer to bid for his portrait being one of the funniest and most obvious of the tales. Trump didn’t want to be humiliated by no one bidding for a painting of him, so he made sure someone would pay a lot for it, more than real buyers would pay for real paintings they really wanted so as not to merely avoid humiliation, but create the fake appearance of his portrait being the most desirable of the bunch.
That was his presidential campaign in a nutshell, an obvious sham that should have fooled no one. And he would have pulled it off, if only Hillary Clinton hadn’t managed to let this scoundrel win. But none of this is a revelation. Trump was no enigma. It was obvious all along.