Michael Cohen's pathetic 'Cry for Me, Argentina' performance

In the Tony-award winning musical “Evita,” the lead character Eva Peron famously sings the song “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” imploring her fellow citizens not to mourn her impending death.

It’s a powerful song of no regrets from a conflicted character seemingly at peace with sleeping her way to the top of Argentina’s power structure, then using her perch to try to make a better country.

Let the record reflect that, after Wednesday’s nationally televised congressional hearing, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen is no Eva Peron.

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Sure, by his own description, Cohen was conflicted and he clearly prostituted himself on his way to the top of the Trump Organization. He lied to Congress, tape-recorded his own client, threatened academics, rigged polls, disguised hush money and committed crimes, while reaping enormous personal financial reward.

But he did not make America, or the Trump Organization, a better place.

And the now-disbarred attorney — unlike Eva Peron — repeatedly sought to portray himself as a victim of a client he described as a mob boss. He overtly solicited Americans to cry for him and his mournful story of post-conviction regret.

“I am going to prison and have shattered the safety and security that I tried so hard to provide for my family,” he told the same Congress to which he previously lied in sworn testimony.

“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,” he added.

For the next few hours, he impugned every person he ever worked for, or with, as he tried to make the case that he somehow was under the irrepressible spell of Donald J. Trump.

His tawdry tales of life inside the Trump Organization felt like a collection of the British tabloids’ best hits on the royal family, filled with salacious anecdotes that had little to do with the plight of everyday Americans or issues worthy of the court of law.

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It should be noted that clients such as Trump hire lawyers to give them advice to avoid committing crimes, not facilitate them. And those lawyers who admit to taking the low road seldom ask for sorrow and pity afterwards.

But Michael Cohen did.

I cannot recall in my lifetime a Congress re-summoning a witness who admitted lying to lawmakers for a hearing that afforded the fanfare provided to Cohen on Wednesday.

But the House Democrats now in control of the 116th Congress did so. And Cohen gleefully thanked them for defending his honor and affording him a curtain call. “I wish to especially thank Speaker Pelosi for her statements in Exhibit 9 to protect this institution and me,” he testified at one point.

Yet, once you strip the dramatic anti-Evita performance from Cohen’s testimony, it is important to understand the key admissions of Cohen’s current story — if you are willing to believe an admitted liar.

Cohen told lawmakers he had no proof of Russia-Trump election collusion. “Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear,” Cohen testified.

Cohen also provided testimony anew that he never went to Prague to help rig the 2016 presidential election with Russians, thus undercutting one of the main accusations in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Democrats fret over Trump cash machine MORE-funded Steele dossier used by the FBI to justify a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on the Trump campaign in the final weeks of the election. “I’ve never been to Prague,” Cohen testified.

Cohen also publicly debunked a BuzzFeed News report in January that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and provided evidence to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s office. Mueller already has disputed the report, and Cohen did, too, for the first time Wednesday. “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” he testified.

Cohen said he did overhear a conversation in which Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJudge finds Stone violated gag order, blocks him from using social media Counterprotesters outnumber far-right extremists at DC rally Judge orders Roger Stone to file rebuttal to allegation he violated gag order MORE, himself now indicted by prosecutors, gave the future president a heads-up in summer 2016 that WikiLeaks was about to publish hacked emails from Democrats.

Fascinating for MSNBC viewers. But Cohen alleged no crime, and any journalist — and there are many — who used WikiLeaks information and published it over the past many years knows it is protected by the First Amendment.

Okay, so no Russian collusion. No trip to Prague. No direct instruction to lie. And no secret effort asking WikiLeaks to hack the Democratic National Committee.

Pretty good stuff … for the Trump defense team.

Now, Cohen did claim that he and the president engaged in a complicated series of transactions to hide hush-money payments to alleged mistresses from his campaign reports. That could be a crime, just like the effort by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to disguise its payments to Fusion GPS for the infamous anti-Trump dossier as legal payments to a law firm.

Yet, absent proof that Trump knowingly did so and believed the payments were benefitting his campaign — most hush-money payments are designed to protect family from embarrassment — it’s hard to imagine prosecutors bringing a case on Cohen’s word and evidence alone.

In the end, Cohen did little on Wednesday to add to the body of knowledge affecting the president’s legal jeopardy.

In fact, in some instances he may have helped the president by debunking claims in the Steele dossier and declaring, as a Trump insider, that he saw no evidence of collusion. 

The greatest damage that Wednesday’s event inflicted likely resides deeper in the American consciousness, where one obvious political question lingers: What sort of president hangs out with and hires a guy like Michael Cohen? 

But that is a question best resolved at the ballot box.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.