Yesterday, a man who is going to jail for doing the dirty work for the president of the United States produced documents for and gave many new leads to a Congressional committee that’s trying to get to the bottom of the president’s many misdeeds.
Many in the “liberal media” missed the point, echoing what happened in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings — the focus is squarely on the most theatrical aspects of the story and ignores the many other aspects which are still true and essential even if the most theatrical aspects pass. In Kavanaugh’s case, the sexual assault allegations couldn’t stick — the allegations are credible, but there’s not enough to convict — but Kavanaugh flat-out lied about some things related to that and some things unrelated. He faced 83 reported ethics violations that were dropped — not because they were unsubstantiated, but because Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court made him untouchable.
None of that mattered to everyone who was squarely focused on whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford or anyone else. The word “ethics” did not appear in Susan Collins’ self-serving speech explaining her vote. The word “lied” appeared only once, and it was merely to mention that the Senate faced the question of whether Kavanaugh lied — specifically about whether he assaulted Ford. Not about anything else.
With that in mind, let’s state for the record what’s important from yesterday’s Michael Cohen adventure …
Three news organizations (probably more, but three that I checked) have a “five takeaways” piece. The comparison, with my comments in italics:
- Trump may have known more about the Russia connection. OK, fair enough.
- “Smoking gun” on Stormy Daniels payments. Yeah, that’s a big one.
- National Enquirer “catch and kill” practice was huge. Yeah, it’s about time the Enquirer’s head honchos were hauled before Congress, if not before a judge.
- The southern district of New York? Oh yeah, they have more. Huge.
- Trump threatens people. Yeah, we kind of knew that, but more evidence doesn’t hurt.
- “Smoke but no gun” – spread over several aspects of Cohen’s testimony. Huh?
- Southern district of New York. Again, huge.
- Two things Cohen said yesterday that took blame away from Trump on very minor issues and what the hell is Aaron Blake thinking by calling that a “key takeaway”?
- Two “questionable claims” — one about Cohen’s aspirations of working in the White House and one about whether he’d ever gone to Prague. Blake says he may have gone in 2001. Hard to see how the latter is relevant. The former could be used to undermine Cohen’s credibility, but we’ll get to that.
- Ocasio-Cortez shows up the veterans by asking follow-up questions that open new leads. Hell yeah — see video below.
- Legal peril in southern district of New York. Glad to see everyone on the same page here
- Possible Russian conspiracy still in play. It is, yes, but we’ll get to that.
- Cohen explains the role of a “fixer.” Interesting. Not sure I’d call it a key takeaway, but interesting. And again, subpoena the Enquirer now.
- Cohen savaged Trump’s character. Meh.
- A retreat to tribal corners among the partisans in the House. Um, NYT? You’re supposed to look beyond the theatre.
And the NYT did not look beyond the theatre in the lead story on the site (as of 7:30 a.m.) and the Daily Briefing I receive. That lead story:
- Graf 1-2: Basic info
- Graf 3: John Dean comparison. OK, that’s worth mentioning
- Grafs 4-5: Personal depiction of Trump, yada yada yada
- Grafs 6-9: Yay! We love partisan bickering!
- Grafs 10-13: Cohen’s emotions and more personal depiction of Trump
- Grafs 14-21: The GOP Strikes Back
- Graf 22: Lots of people watched this
- Grafs 23-35: Details of Cohen’s testimony, which are indeed essential to the story
- Graf 36 (might have lost count here): Trump and Assange deny
- Graf 37: Democrats might ask for more because …
Buried in the 38th-ish graf is an essential point. The New York prosecutors have serious shit on Trump.
Ocasio-Cortez? Not even mentioned.
Fortunately, The Guardian drew attention to Ocasio-Cortez from the home page:
Boom, there it is.
Cohen’s credibility is questionable. Yes. But in his responses to Ocasio-Cortez and in other parts of his testimony, he pointed the way to find more evidence to pile on to his statements and documents.
Make no mistake. The GOP’s strategy here is to find any misstatement of Cohen’s and pretend that one Cohen lie makes everything tumble like a house of cards. It does not. But The New York Times has bought into the GOP narrative, and they should be ashamed.
It’s not about Michael Cohen. It’s about the information he has helped to bring to light — information that can and should be investigated. Some parts may be dead ends. Some parts are definitely not, as we already know.
Think of it this way …
If a burglar tells you how he broke into his house, you wouldn’t stop and say, “Well, but you’re a liar.” You’d pay attention, liar or not.
That’s what Cohen — a liar and a criminal — did yesterday. He revealed how he did what he did. That’s the lead, NYT.
Addendum: Bonus points in the “missing the boat” sweepstakes to CNN, which emphasized this incoherent rant by Elijah Cummings as something we “need to listen to.” You don’t.
But a commentary they also emphasized gets it right. It’s not the testimony. It’s the corroboration.
And there’s a shit-ton of corroboration.