Through The Looking Glass With Cohen And Russia
Michael Cohen’s three days of testimony on Capitol Hill this week are bound to create headlines and, at least according to Cohen’s lawyers, will allege that Donald Trump committed a crime or crimes while President, and apparently provide details to back those claims up. Cohen may also implicate Trump’s children as well. But little of what Cohen says this week will add to our understanding of the conspiracy underlying the collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia beyond his involvement in chasing the dream of Trump Tower Moscow.
Remarkably, we have entered a looking-glass world when it comes to Russia and Cohen’s testimony this week. There is no apparent reason that Cohen should not be able to speak freely and publicly concerning what he knows about any Trump campaign collusion with Russia. He has already been sentenced by the Southern District of New York and, as far as we know, Robert Mueller has not indicated to Congress that his testimony should be restricted.
Yet Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI), is once again continuing his practice of ensuring that anyone remotely associated with the Trump campaign always testifies in a closed-door hearing and never testifies publicly. It has been a standard part of Burr’s complicity in protecting Trump and the White House throughout this entire investigation, contrary to the image he has managed to portray.
While Burr’s actions are to be expected, the fact that the House Oversight Committee and House Intelligence Committee, both now chaired by Democrats, are also requiring any Cohen testimony about Russia beyond the Trump Tower Moscow deal to take place behind closed doors is far less understandable. In fact, Cohen’s entire testimony to the House Intelligence Committee will be in a closed session. Finally given the chance to educate the American people about the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, Democrats are passing up the opportunity.
Needless to say, despite Burr’s actions, Republicans are leaping on this apparent lack of transparency as indicating the lack of evidence of collusion. Byron York is demanding that all of Cohen’s testimony be public and states that “the hearings appear designed to prevent the public from learning anything new about the Russia matter”. Mark Meadows, one of Trump’s staunchest defenders, goes further, with the counterintuitive theory that “[t]he Cohen hearings are designed to keep the Russia collusion narrative alive by keeping key witness testimony hidden”.
As I say, we are through the looking glass with Republicans demanding public hearings concerning Russian collusion and Democrats keeping the testimony under wraps. Republicans are certainly playing politics in this case, looking for any avenue to protect Trump, perhaps with the knowledge that Cohen does not have that much to contribute to the core of the Russian conspiracy. Democrats may have good reasons for keeping Cohen’s Russia testimony hidden for now but there will be a cost for ignoring the increasing demands for public hearings about Russia for too long.