President Trump’s former personal attorney, “fixer,” and Deputy Finance Chair for the National Republican Committee (RNC), Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee on February 27th. Cohen, who is about to go to prison for tax fraud, unlawful corporate contributions, and lying to Congress sat before the committee with receipts in hand for the claims he was about level on Trump’s conduct over the ten years Cohen worked for him. Instead of refuting the substance of Cohen’s claims, GOP members spent their time attacking the messenger. North Dakota’s Rep. Kelly Armstrong followed that narrative.
Armstrong’s five minutes was a mix of an attorney-client ethics lesson combined with rehashing charges and documents of which we already know the answers. Outside of the ethics lecture which possibly had merit, the documents and charges Armstrong pressed Cohen on have already been litigated and charged. As Cohen said multiple times, he is going to prison. To re-litigate what the Courts already concluded was a waste of time.
While taking a firm stand against orchestrated tax fraud, financial manipulation, and lying, Armstrong may have inadvertently set a standard he must now hold consistent. Armstrong is right to be upset about the crimes Cohen committed. The ultimate question, if it is proven that Donald Trump orchestrated tax fraud, manipulated finances, took part in numerous other crimes, and consistently lied about all of it will Armstrong be just as outraged and demand accountability?
Armstrong’s questioning led to partisan praise locally. They’re fawning over theatrics instead of being frustrated with the lack of substance. The GOP committee members hardly asked questions or refuted Cohen’s claims on Trump. Stay on message and attack the messenger as not being able to tell the truth. The thing is, Cohen knocked down some of the unsubstantiated claims and rumors regarding Trump when responding to Democratic questions. Money laundering, alimony payments, funding medical procedures for women, tapes of abuse in an elevator, all refuted by Cohen. Are those deemed credible to Republican lawmakers or were they more lies?
The selective outrage about truth and honesty was something to behold. Cohen made claims and brought in documentation. Instead of refuting any of it substantively, they simply attacked the messenger. Are the documented claims legitimate? Were members on the committee too afraid to find out? Did they not offer a defense because the claimed behavior is indefensible? If it is proven that the President committed some of the same acts, will accountability and outrage be consistent?