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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Here’s the problem with being a known liar: When you lie, and when you get caught lying — when it’s been proved, in a court of law, that you did, in fact, lie — it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to ever be seen again as truthful and honest.

Let’s say, though, that you decide to turn over a new leaf, to live an honest life. Still, problems. How can anyone know, really be sure, that while you lied before, you’re now definitely telling the truth?


The answer is simple: They can’t.

Once you’re a proven liar, there is no way to win back your credibility. It’s lost forever, gone with the wind. A liar is a liar is a liar.

So when Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, appeared Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help him God, any viewer tuned in to C-SPAN had to wonder: Is he lying right now?

“For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand,” Cohen said in his opening statement, in which he said President Trump is a “racist” and a “con man.” Directly addressing the elephant in the room, he said: “I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man.”

But that’s not what a court of law ruled. In August, Cohen was found guilty — pleaded guilty, in fact — to five counts of tax fraud and one count of making false statements to a bank. In November, Cohen was charged with lying to Congress. He pleaded guilty to that charge, too.

So there’s not much question that Cohen is a liar. On May 6, he’s going to prison for three years, in large part for being a liar.

But he had faced 70 years behind bars on the charges, which also included campaign finance violations. Instead, he’s met with special counsel Robert Mueller seven times and when asked in Wednesday’s hearing about what he hoped to achieve by turning on his former boss, he said (for once being quite honest) that maybe, just maybe, his prison sentence would be reduced.

Republicans on the committee were brutal — but, at least, honest.

“How can we believe anything you say?” Rep. Carol Miller of West Virginia said to Cohen. “The answer is we can’t.”

“He’s going to prison for lying to Congress,” said Rep Mark Green of Tennessee. “Let that sink in. He’s going to prison for lying to Congress, and he’s the star witness … for the majority party.”

“Nothing he says has any credibility,” Mr. Green said. “No one can see this guy as credible. He will say whatever he wants to accomplish his own personal goals. He’s a fake witness, and his presence here is a travesty.”

“I don’t believe Michael Cohen is capable of telling the truth,” said Rep. James Comer of Kentucky.

Said Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona: “He doesn’t know fact from fiction.” He cited “the old adage our moms taught us: Liar, liar pants on fire.”

And Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia put Cohen through the shredder. “Mr. Cohen, you claimed that you lied but you’re not a liar. Just to set the record straight, if you lied, you are a liar, by definition.” Mr. Hice also offered “congratulations” to Cohen “for being the first person convicted for lying to Congress” to testify before Congress.

Even after taking the oath, Cohen couldn’t help himself. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio asked Cohen, “You started the campaign for president of the United States for Donald Trump?” Cohen replied: “I certainly did, sir. Shouldtrumprun.com. 2011. It was my idea. I saw a document in the newspaper that said, ‘Who would you vote for in 2012?’ Six percent of the people turned around and said they’d vote for Donald Trump. So I brought it into his office and I said, ‘Mr. Trump, take a look at this. Wouldn’t that be great?’ And that is where it all started.”

In his testimony, Cohen delivered a few bombshells, saying Mr. Trump paid him back for money he spent to pay off women who claimed they had past sexual affairs with the billionaire businessman.

He also said Mr. Trump knew that an adviser, Roger Stone, was working with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks on the release of emails from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. And he said he lied to Congress in his last appearance about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, negotiations for which he claimed went on as Mr. Trump ran for president.

In two weird asides, Cohen also alleged that Mr. Trump once ordered him to send threatening letters to the president’s old schools to make sure they didn’t release his grades or SAT scores, and that he had a bidder buy a portrait of Mr. Trump so it “would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon.”

But on the most important question of the hearing — whether Mr. Trump colluded with Russia to swing the 2016 election his way — Cohen said: “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. But I have my suspicions.”

Well, that’s good enough from a convicted liar, isn’t it?

It is for Democrats, anyway.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.


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