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‘The worm has turned’: Michael Cohen has been picked apart bit by bit

Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill. Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images. - Credit: VCG via Getty Images

Bonnie Greer explains why the president’s former fixer is simply a mook.

The excellent Italian-American street word mook best sums up the demeanour, and largely the existence, of Donald Trump’s former lawyer, fixer and soon-to-be-convict Michael Cohen. Just as Sean Connery’s Bond and his immortal line – ‘The name is Bond, James Bond’ – exemplifies suave, for example, the word ‘mook’ can be defined by a phrase, too. And a look.

Cohen always has a look of belligerent downtroddenness. He used to say to the press: ‘I’m here to serve Mr. Trump’ as the explanation for his raison d’être. ‘If necessary, I’d take a bullet for Mr. Trump.’ His look. His phrase. The mook.

But the worm has turned, so to speak. Now it is Michael Cohen who is firing the bullets. Figuratively of course. And they are aimed at his former boss and idol, part of his testimony before the US House of Representatives Oversight Committee.

The government of the United States exists within three coequal branches: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. The House has several functions including legislation, the creation of bills and the appropriation of money. Its other responsibilities are oversight of the executive branch, along with the power of subpoena and impeachment if it deems this measure to be necessary – the system known as checks and balances.

Anyone would find it difficult to see the House, under the Republicans, exercising its duty of keeping an eye on the occupant of the White House, in order to avoid the creation of a king. Trump, a political novice, has never experienced the power of the House.

He is about to now.

The midterm election last November swept the majority Republican Party out of power in the kind of wave election that had not been seen in 40 years: ironically, since the era of Watergate. The mandate of the electorate seems, therefore, clear: to check and balance Donald Trump.

With the ‘passing of the gavel’, the switching of the committee head goes from Republican to Democrat. The man who used to head up the oversight committee, Jim Jordan, a Republican and Trump True Believer, became what is called the ‘ranking member’, or deputy, to Elijah Cummings, Democrat, a veteran of Congress and no shrinking violet.

The House, because it faces the electorate every two years, is fast and furious.

It has, by the Constitution, 435 members. In this new 116th Congress, elected last November, 235 are Democrats – the majority plus 40. This includes 106 women in the House. A record. Of these new women, 52% are Democrats.

The Republicans of the 116th are 90% white and male.

To those who rail against what is called ‘identity politics’, the fact is this: ethnicity and gender too often determine the fate of an individual in the self-styled Land of the Free. Women and minorities have to ‘overcome’.

So this new female presence in the lower House represents a triumph towards what America believes itself to be, and is striving to be. As does Michael Cohen’s appearance before the oversight committee.

Trump has said numerous times that he knew nothing of a payment – ‘hush money’ – to the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels. His statement matters, not because of the sleaziness of a man consorting with another woman while his wife tended to their newborn, but because of the accusation that Trump paid the woman to be quiet about it.

Such a payment would be considered, under the law, to be a campaign contribution. Something that aided his efforts to get elected. And by law, it must be reported.

Cohen brought the cheque to the House for his recent appearance before the committee. And while it did not say ‘Hush Money For Stormy Daniels’ on it, Trump must explain what it was for.

If he declines, the House could indict him for a high crime and misdemeanour, the definition of which is in its own hands. And impeachment does not have to rise to the high level that a crime in a court has to. It is largely a political process, one of perception and belief. The House could be metaphorically sending Trump a message soon: ‘Don Voyage.’

The end of Trump might happen if the House believes that his Tweets on the subject threaten Cohen and his family. Cohen himself certainly believes this. In December, the president wrote on his feed about Cohen becoming a ‘rat’. Describing someone in these terms just as they are about to enter the federal prison system generally does not engender a warm welcome from fellow inmates.

For example, late last year, the notorious Boston gangster and, as it turned out, FBI informant James Joseph ‘Whitey’ Bulger Jr – aged 89 and wheelchair bound – was transferred to a new prison. He had asked to be ‘in the population’ – with the other inmates. No one knows why. All that is known is shortly after he arrived, one morning before breakfast, he was found in his wheelchair, beaten to death by multiple inmates armed with a sock-wrapped padlock and a prison-made knife. His eyes had nearly been gouged out and his tongue almost cut off. Clearly Bulger had been considered a rat.

Add to this the opinion of a few former FBI agents and experts that the Mueller investigation, into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, looks more like a ‘Mob roll-up’ – the destruction of an organised crime family starting at the bottom and making its way to the top. It becomes clear that Cohen and those who work with and for him could be in considerable jeopardy.

Recently, a self-styled white supremacist who modelled himself on mass–murderer Anders Behring Breivik was arrested in the US, and an arsenal of weapons and a hit list of targets were recovered. All the names on the list were considered by him and others to be opponents of Donald Trump.

It cannot be denied that Trump does carry himself with the air of some capo di tutti capi – ‘boss of all bosses’ – even in his constant wearing of an overcoat, even in good weather.

Cohen told the committee that Trump speaks in code. If you know him, you know what he wants. And the dirty work is done by others. It is his pattern as president.

We are left with an unlikely paladin: Michael Cohen, convicted liar; disbarred and unable to practise law; sitting at a table mook-faced. Whether he is lying or not matters, of course. But what he is saying seems to be true.

It also seems to be true that Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, could have – at the historic Resolute desk in the Oval Office – authorised a cheque to keep his wife from discovering what he had been up to years ago while she coped with their newborn son.

There is a double betrayal by Trump here: a pattern of lies not only to his family, but to his country. This is what the new House is setting out to discover, expose, and, if necessary, effect the remedy given to it by the people. The remedy that will allow the Republic to find itself again.

Cohen was told by one of the new women members of Congress that his was a ‘redemption story’. That statement brought him close to tears.

Who knows? But one thing is clear: Donald Trump’s days of unaccountability are over. At the hands of a mook.

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