Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen leaving Federal court (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The President is a liar. He’s a cheat. He’s a racist. Tell us something we don’t know, Michael Cohen. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, now facing prison on charges of campaign law violations dished the dirt on his former client/overlord before a Congressional House Oversight Committee that is now in the hands of the Democrats.

Republicans attempted to derail the hearings before they really got going, but were steamrollered by the new Democratic majority and looked very unhappy about it. They’ve run the committee dead since Trump was elected, and they know that it adds a whole second channel to the closed investigations being conducted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. It was a house committee that brought Nixon down, and the far more public mode will keep Trump’s troubles in the public eye for months on end.

That said, Cohen, as a character, put both sides in a difficult position. The Democrats had to treat the words of a man doing a very public renunciation act as gospel; Cohen’s realisation of decades of wrongdoing coincided with getting pinged for illegally paying off porn actress Stormy Daniels on Trump’s behalf. While the Republicans had to try and portray a man who worked for the President for decades as a shameless liar.

Cohen was able to produce signed cheques from Trump which coincided with the Stormy Daniels payoff. But, in other parts, the smoking gun failed to fire — not least in attempting to link Trump and Cohen with WikiLeaks via Roger Stone, and the portentous statement that Trump and Cohen were informed of WikiLeaks’ Podesta emails release two days before they occurred. Since WikiLeaks already announced they had them, that was dead info gussied up by Cohen into something he was offering the country.

There would need to be something more — the Trump campaign actively seeking or aiding Russian hacking of US government info — for Republicans to start to take notice. And for the Trump-voting public to turn their attention to it as well. The problem for the Democrats is that many people who voted for Trump know he’s a liar and a cheat. That’s precisely why they voted for him. They thought he’d lie and cheat on their behalf.

They may still feel that he’s doing that. It would be impossible to know, without being on the ground in Ohio or Michigan, whether the Trump brand is fading or not. DC, in that respect is as far away as Australia from the real feel.

The support for Trump in 2016 was a weird mix of defiance and reference — He’s a businessman; he knows what he’s doing — and that may persist absent of evidence. To most of us Trump looks like a blowhard, hopelessly out of his depth. To many in the heartland, his mix of sycophancy and refusal may play as smart — insofar as it plays at all.

Trump appears to be tanking in the polls at the moment; that is more likely due to what he has not done — brought back full-time industrial jobs — than what he has. But it’s early days of the new Democratic Congress, and there’s a lot more to come before the election in 2020. If, to reprise the old ’60s sentiment, there is an election in 2020.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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