Then Or Now, Mr. Cohen

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.

34 thoughts on “Then Or Now, Mr. Cohen

  1. Rendall

    “when scams get run in Heaven, they will have angels for witnesses”

    Surprisingly, given how much I hang out with prosecutors, I have never heard this. Does it mean that every witness is tainted?

  2. Brian Cowles

    It was obvious all along, but it’s still nice to get some kind of confirmation, even from an unreliable source.

    It also occurs to me that his obsession with building the wall could very easily be explained as a way for Trump to say, “I accomplished what I set out to do, and that’s why I’m not running for re-election.”

  3. Hunting Guy

    I said it when Trump was elected.

    People need to learn to deal with it.

    Like it or not, the American voters gave him the nuclear launch codes.

    Throwing a temper tantrum and pouting like a spoiled child accomplishes nothing.

  4. REvers

    Maybe Trump’s not so bad. After all, he finally went to Vietnam!

    Wouldn’t it have been funny if they’d checked him into John McCain’s old room at the Hanoi Hilton?

  5. RedditLaw

    I’ll hand it to Mr. Cohen. He doesn’t quit until he gets the job done. He has been credibly accused of lying to Congress, and, by golly, no matter which version of his events you believe at this point, after today he will have perfected his lies because something he has said under oath before that body will have not been true.

    By the way, the New York Supreme Court picked yesterday of all days to disbar Mr. Cohen. I am beginning to wonder if God provides a special Providence for fools, drunkards, and President Trump.

  6. RedditLaw

    A racist–Who has been the first President in a long time to enact substantive federal criminal justice reform.

    A conman–Who repealed the horrid “Dear Colleague” letter and enacted rules to provide some due process to students accused of sexual improprieties.

    A cheat–Who has (to date, always subject to change) presided over an economy that has not been this strong since the end of the Clinton Administration.

    For such a reprobate, President Trump has done many things that you, Mr. Greenfield, support. Is this causing you to rethink any of your visceral distaste for the man? Or are you concerned that any praise for the Bad Orange Man would deposit some of his nastiness on one of your better tailored suits?

    However, I am given to understand that the loss of your SALT deduction has probably caused your taxes to go up, being stuck out on Lawn Giland, so I think that you are still permitted to dislike Darth Cheeto solely based on the long-standing American tradition of hating anyone who raises your taxes.

    1. SHG Post author

      A common reddit logical fallacy is to assume that just because someone is a vulgar, amoral ignoramus means everything that happens on his watch must be bad or evil. He is what he is. What happens on his watch, even if he has little to do with it, may be good or bad, but doesn’t change what he is.

      1. RedditLaw

        Well, I think that you would agree that President Trump should get direct credit, after the Kanye-Kardashian Summit, for criminal justice reform. As for the Llamon letter repeal, I’ll just note that the Congressional Republicans were negotiating with the Obama Administration to codify the letter prior to President Trump’s election, so I think President Trump gets credit for that one as well. At the very least, his election moved things in a different direction. I’ll concede that the state of the economy is (as always) debatable, but I would attribute at least some of the economic acceleration to the repeal of some of the more ridiculous regulations imposed by the last administration and the lessening of the likelihood that further economic regulations would be forthcoming.

        Given that a vulgar, amoral ignoramus, specifically someone this bad, is capable of doing these things, should we have been supporting someone even worse all along, like Lyndon LaRouche?

  7. James Homes

    You’re a hypocrite. Refuse to represent criminal defendants who turn rat, but an attorney rat turning on his own client is different when they attack someone you dislike. I never trusted Cohen before or after his conviction, and this show-trial will sell lots of books for anyone seeking confirmation bias.

      1. Angrychiatty

        There is a reason why you find at least one reading comprehension section in the different standardized tests we take throughout our educational journey. Its not something that everyone is good at.

  8. L. Phillips

    Guess I have to be the one to say it.

    He is not Hillary.

    Anything logical or conservative in his actions or character falling above that subterranean base line is gravy.

  9. RedditLaw

    Apparently, Mr. Cohen denied this morning during his testimony that he had any interest in a job at the White House. I have to admire his ability to double down. He keeps bringing the lies before Congress. The man is a freight train of dishonesty.

      1. RedditLaw

        The usual criminal law experts on Twitter are ecstatic that this time they have hard evidence that Trump . . . did the same thing that a jury acquitted John Edwards of doing. Plus, Mr. Cohen has given sworn testimony of all sorts of other shenanigans.

        So, Michael Cohen is the government’s star witness. How afraid would you be that he would be an unbreakable witness for the government if you were cross-examining him on behalf of Darth Cheeto? I’m not smelling the fear over here.

        1. SHG Post author

          His testimony was better than I thought it would be, but I didn’t think it would be good, so low expectations. That said, under real cross, he would be crying like a baby.

        2. B. McLeod

          Some of my colleagues who are actual Trump fans (they do exist) posit that he purposely selected the most unprincipled weasel he could find for the bag man-level stuff he delegated to Cohen. Precisely because Cohen’s credibility has always been so innately Lilliputian nobody would ever believe him if he ever decided to go public with an account adverse to his client.

  10. Jake

    True, Hillary was/is a deeply flawed presidential candidate. But you forgot to mention all the best and brightest the GOP had to offer as competition to Trump’s scam candidacy who fell before he skated past Hillary with a ~3M popular vote deficit in the general.

    1. RedditLaw

      If only someone had told Hillary Clinton to visit Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania! But you are correct, the Bad Orange Man shed light on the condition of our entire political class, irrespective of party, and I am afraid that the condition has not improved since 2016.

    2. L. Phillips

      I did not “forget”. They weren’t on my general election ballot.

      I would have cheerfully voted for a one-eyed, three-legged, deaf dog named “Lucky” if such was the only available general election candidate vs. Ms. Clinton.

      1. B. McLeod

        Or even a ficus plant, if it were allowed to run. On a side note, and quite bizarrely, “Lucky” has uniformly proven an ironic misnomer for all of the pet animals I have ever heard referred to by this name.

Comments are closed.