Michael Cohen appears before Congress this week. It’ll be hard to look away: Keith Boag

  • thepeels
  • February 25, 2019
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One way to avoid disappointment in life is to lower expectations, and so probably the best approach to the week ahead is to assume that it will not answer any of the big who-knew-what-and-why-did-they-lie-about-it questions concerning Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

But we are still expecting plenty of action around the case, so there is great potential for news and entertainment dead ahead.

The best value for your news and entertainment dollar is likely to be found at the public hearing where Michael Cohen is scheduled to testify this week.

For a decade or so Cohen was Donald Trump’s self-described “dirty deeds” lieutenant who was involved in everything from funnelling hush money to women with whom Trump had affairs, to wheeling and dealing with Russian property developers on Trump’s behalf, to threatening bodily harm to anyone who might do something the boss wouldn’t like.  

Now, Trump’s former personal attorney is on his way to prison, having fully matured into a convicted felon and, in the words of the president of the United States, a “Rat.” Cohen will scamper from one congressional committee room to another Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, presumably saying the sorts of things the president hates rats for saying.

Cohen’s  appointments with both the House and Senate intelligence committees are behind closed doors, though interesting things might still find their way out of those rooms and onto the cable news shows.

But on Wednesday he’ll be on live TV, at the House oversight committee, and that’s the show to watch.

‘True stories of Trump’

Cohen is co-operating with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in, and possible Trump campaign collusion during and after, the 2016 election. Because that investigation is ongoing, Cohen will be constrained from spilling any beans he might have on the subject.

But there are other subjects, and he has other beans.

Trump and Cohen in better times, during an election campaign stop at the New Spirit Revival Center church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in September 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A decade in the employ of Trump has supplied Cohen with plenty of material to dish on the president — and he will, according to his lawyer, Lanny Davis.

Davis has been teasing his client’s testimony in the media. He told Rolling Stone magazine that Cohen “will pull the curtain back and we will hear true stories of Trump’s complicity in crimes, and his immoral, bigoted and morally vacant character in specific detailed and personal anecdotes.”

Well, who among us doesn’t love a few true stories about powerful people, crime and morally vacant character, along with all the rest? The problem, obviously, is that Cohen is both a convicted felon and an admitted liar — facts that will undoubtedly be hurled in his face.

Still, Davis believes in redemption. He told the ABC News podcast The Investigation that Cohen “is a man transformed. He is a different Michael Cohen than you remember.” Later in the episode, ABC news man John Santucci remembered the Michael Cohen who once threatened to throw him head first out of the 26th floor of Trump Tower. So the transformation Davis speaks of would have to be fairly big league.

Attorneys for the Southern District of New York, who prosecuted Cohen, weren’t buying any of it when they wrote in his sentencing document: “Any suggestion by Cohen that his meetings with law enforcement reflect a selfless and unprompted about-face are overstated.” Ouch.

Mueller report expected soon

Nevertheless, it will be hard to look away from whatever happens with Cohen on Wednesday if there are no bigger fireworks in the sky.

We don’t know when special counsel Mueller will be wrapping up his work and turning it over to his new boss, Attorney General William Barr. Reports Friday said it won’t be this week, but Washington has been awash in speculation that it will be soon.

Even if that speculation is correct and Mueller is about to wrap up and hand in his work — if not this week, maybe next — the chances we’ll soon see what he’s got still aren’t good.

WATCH: Keith Boag takes an in-depth look at the Mueller investigation evidence and what we know so far 

Washington reporter Keith Boag takes an in-depth look at the Mueller investigation evidence and what we know so far. Correction: An on-screen graphic in this video indicates James Comey was fired on May 9, 2016. He was, in fact, fired on that date in 2017. 12:35

The reason should be obvious: It’s impossible to overstate the significance and sensitivity of a counterintelligence investigation into a sitting president. The purpose of such an investigation goes beyond looking into possible collusion with Russia in the election and seeks to discover whether the president was working on behalf of Russia in any way.

As far as we know, the Department of Justice and the FBI have never done anything like this. But in his new book The Threat — which reads like an unsentimental true-crime procedural with a stylistic touch reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy — the former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe confirms that a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was working for Russia is indeed part of what Mueller inherited.

So when it does come, there will be many eyes scrutinizing Mueller’s report privately before the public ever gets a look at it — if we ever get a look at it.

The most informed speculation is that Congress will see the Mueller report confidentially and use it as a roadmap for its own investigations, and in that manner the world will eventually receive Mueller’s full narrative of the case.

There remains the possibility that Mueller will deliver new indictments next week and that they might, as they have in the past, tell more of the story than expected. That could be a scene stealer.

But for now it still looks like the main attraction will be Michael Cohen, the bullying felon who’s been likened to a Mafia consigliere and whom the  president calls a rat for co-operating with the Department of Justice that the president is entrusted to uphold.