Lots and lots of good takes out there.  A few I really liked.

Crooked newsletter:

What Cohen testified to Wednesday is stunning.

He appeared at the hearing knowing that all hope for a pardon is gone, and that if he gets caught lying under oath again, he might face more time in prison. And yet, Republicans spent the entire hearing ginning up conspiracy theories, and pretending to believe Cohen couldn’t be taken seriously because he’s a convicted liar—without noting that he was convicted of lying to help Trump cover up his own lies about the Trump Tower Moscow project. We should never get so desensitized that we stop being shocked to see Republicans, almost to a member, going all-in on this mobster president. Not a single Republican has run out of patience with Trump. To the contrary, they’re escalating their efforts to cover up for him.

Paul Waldman:

Every Republican member used their five minutes to look for a new angle to go at Cohen, so long as it didn’t touch on what he was testifying to with regard to the president. Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.), the head of the House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of President Trump, used his time to question Cohen on the almost comically sleazy efforts he undertook after Trump took office to sell himself to large corporations as an influence-peddler.

It’s a colorful story, and one that does indeed shed light not only on what kind of guy Cohen is but also the general atmosphere of cashing in that attended Trump’s ascendance to the White House. The problem is that like all of the other Republican criticisms, it doesn’t tell us anything about what Trump knew in 2016 about the Russian campaign to get him elected president. And yes, Cohen is a sketchy character. But it’s awfully hard to find any honest people around Trump who can speak to what the president did and didn’t do.

The argument Republicans make about Cohen comes down to this: This gentleman, whom Trump employed for a decade, is such a dishonest criminal that we shouldn’t believe anything he says about anything.

Cohen himself realized this a few hours in. “Not one question so far” from the Republicans, he said, “has been asked about Mr. Trump.”

Even the Republicans on the Oversight Committee who aren’t in regular contact with the president are well aware of what his strategy is to deal with the Russia investigation and his other scandals: Ignore the specifics, insist that any piece of information that reflects poorly on him must by definition be fake, and say the whole thing is a “witch hunt.”

And NeverTrumper Peter Wehner:

Yet Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in their frantic effort to discredit Mr. Cohen, went after him while steadfastly ignoring the actual evidence he produced. They tried to impugn his character, but were unable to impugn the documents he provided. Nor did a single Republican offer a character defense of Mr. Trump. It turns out that was too much, even for them.

In that sense, what Republicans didn’t say reveals the truth about what happened at the hearing on Wednesday as much as what they did say. Republicans showed no interest, for example, in pursuing fresh allegations made by Mr. Cohen that Mr. Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016.

In a sane world, the fact that the president’s former lawyer produced evidence that the president knowingly and deceptively committed a federal crime — hush money payments that violated campaign finance laws — is something that even members of the president’s own party would find disquieting. But not today’s Republican Party.

Instead, in the most transparent and ham-handed way, they saw no evil and heard no evil, unless it involved Mr. Cohen. Republicans on the committee tried to destroy the credibility of his testimony, not because they believe that his testimony is false, but because they fear it is true.

By now Republicans must know, deep in their hearts, that Mr. Cohen’s portrayal of Mr. Trump as a “racist,” “a con man” and “a cheat” is spot on. So it is the truth they fear, and it is the truth — the fundamental reality of the world as it actually is — that they feel compelled to destroy. This is the central organizing principle of the Republican Party now. More than tax cuts. More than trade wars. More even than building a wall on our southern border. Republicans are dedicated to annihilating truth in order to defend Mr. Trump and they will go after anyone, from Mr. Cohen to Robert Mueller, who is a threat to him. [emphasis mine]

I have no confidence in the future judgment of history.  But, if it is remotely accurate people will look back in dismay and disgust not just at Trump, but at today’s Republican Party.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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