Credible Cohen testimony has Trump, GOP shook up

Michael Cohen's testimony was central to one of the most extraordinary hearings we have seen in a long time. 

The former longtime lawyer and fixer of President Donald TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE presented credible testimony and hard evidence to Congress about how Trump knowingly and deliberately directed Cohen to pay Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, $130,000 to stay quiet about their alleged affair.  

Cohen also described a hushed conversation between Don Jr. and his father in which Don Jr. assured Trump that “the meeting was all set.” Trump said “Ok, good. Let me know.” This puts Donald Trump smack in the middle of first-hand knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr., Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHow Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann's offer to an oligarch could boomerang on DOJ Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Key numbers to know for Mueller's testimony MORE and the Russians who had promised damning information about Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton5 things to know about Boris Johnson Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE

Up until now, Trump has denied all knowledge about such a meeting.

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Additional damning testimony included Cohen describing a phone call from Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneKey numbers to know for Mueller's testimony Judge finds Stone violated gag order, blocks him from using social media Counterprotesters outnumber far-right extremists at DC rally MORE, telling Trump about the imminent dissemination by WikiLeaks of DNC emails that would also hurt Hillary Clinton. 

All the while, in typical fashion, Republicans were dismissing everything Cohen had to say as out of hand. 

They knew they had to eviscerate Cohen by any means because if he was right, it would not only badly hurt Trump, but it would continue to take down the GOP and paint it as a party that aided and abetted immoral, criminal or unconstitutional behavior.

The GOP could not have been more desperate and hypocritical as it laid bare its lack of conviction, its loss of a moral compass and its complete surrender of any ethical values to the personal benefit of the person who has hijacked the party — Donald Trump. 

It was astonishing to hear one Republican congressman after another call Cohen a liar and that, as such, nothing he said could be believed. 

Yes, Michael Cohen is a liar. He admitted it and is going to jail for it. He has taken responsibility for his role in all of the shady undertakings he has participated in on behalf of the president of the United States. 

What possible motive would he have to continue lying? In fact, if he did continue lying, his prison sentence would only get longer. 

But Republicans, with their hair on fire because they realize just how damning Cohen’s testimony is to Trump, and therefore to their party, were desperate to paint Cohen as a liar solely out for himself who cannot be trusted to tell the truth. 

The irony is almost comical, and the level of hypocrisy is absurd. Republicans are insulting Cohen with the same adjectives that can be so easily placed before Donald Trump's name. 

Don’t they understand that?

If they don’t, they are either naïve or obtuse. Neither is a good look for a party that used to have clear convictions of patriotism, love for the Constitution and that would always put country over party. Those days are long gone.

Michael Cohen seemed like a man beaten down but done with doing the bidding of someone who was only out for himself. He seemed broken but clear-eyed and, at last, aware of what he had been doing for too long. 

One of the most compelling moments of the hearing was when Cohen berated the Republican members of Congress who were insulting him by saying that they were all now doing what he did for the last 10 years (covering for Trump) and that his punishment would be theirs, too, if they didn’t change paths. 

There is no denying that Cohen’s credibility is questionable, but what would he gain by lying to Congress — again? Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE knows too much, and the risk would be too great. Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Oversight schedules Thursday vote to hold Kellyanne Conway in contempt Trump tweets, rally chant dominate Sunday shows as president continues attacks Sunday shows - Fallout over Trump tweets MORE (D-Md.) warned Cohen that if he lied to them today, he would “nail him to the cross.”

Cohen had nothing to gain by lying. And Trump has everything to lose by Cohen telling the truth. That is why Trump and Republicans were so desperately trying to shut Cohen down, whether by tweeting disgusting personal threats to Cohen and his family or by trying to dissect him at every turn during his testimony. 

Cohen called Trump a con man, a liar and a cheat and backed that up by very descriptive events of what Trump asked or told Cohen to do and by describing conversations and telephone calls. 

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Cohen also described how Trump told him in his own way, to not disclose the truth of the ongoing planning of a Trump Tower in Moscow. As Trump’s closest confidante at the time, Cohen seemed to know exactly what Trump meant: Lie. 

Can all of what Cohen described be proven? Some of it already has. Collusion or the intent to collude has already been proven by Don Jr.’s enthusiastic response to taking a meeting with the Russians that promised damning information on Hillary Clinton. 

And we already know too well Trump’s penchant for lying every time he opens his mouth. 

It remains to be seen what will come of this hearing. But it marked a turning point, if not in the criminality of what Trump has done and what can be proven, than certainly in the political damage that will continue to be done to Trump and Republicans if they insist on ignoring their oversight responsibility and refuse to hold this president accountable. 

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.