“He fell apart with at least 2 or 3 new perjurious statements,” Giuliani said in a text message, referring to Cohen. “Maybe more.” When asked for examples, he pointed to a statement released Wednesday by Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow: “Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the President edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false.”
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The former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo says the telephone lines between longtime Trump associates “lit up” when Cohen claimed early on in the hearing that it had been his idea that Trump run for president back in 2012. “Everybody who had a role in Trump’s past was choking on their coffee,” Caputo says. “The idea for Trump to run for president in 2012 came from Trump alone, and it was Roger Stone who put that team together.”
Caputo also dismisses claims that Cohen definitively proved that the president had broken the law with the payments to Daniels: “None of that was new.”
The response to Cohen’s testimony could offer a preview of the Mueller report’s aftermath if the findings are anything less than earthshaking, with Democrats displaying caution and Republicans waving it all away. Already, more than 30 people have been indicted as part of Mueller’s probe. Yet with each day over the past two years has come a greater expectation, among Democrats especially, that something more damning is still out there—something that ties Trump’s campaign directly to Russia and puts the president on a sure path to impeachment. Democrats on the Oversight Committee followed this instinct on Wednesday, spending much of their time attempting to goad Cohen into speculating about collusion, and spending less time engaging with the material substance of Cohen’s testimony. Yet by setting the goalposts at collusion, Democrats helped ensure that anything revealed during Cohen’s hearing that was short of proof of a conspiracy, no matter how damning, landed with less of a bang.
That’s in large part because of how the hearing was sold: The president’s former fixer, who’s going to prison and has nothing left to lose, would come blow the lid off the whole thing. And the hearing was dream viewing for liberals. The dozens of people who packed into an overflow room outside the committee chamber cheered every time Cohen insulted the president or sassed one of the Republican lawmakers questioning him.
Even though professional Republicans and Democrats don’t believe much has changed, several attendees at Wednesday’s hearing were optimistic about what’s to come in the Russia investigation, still clinging to the hope that something new, somewhere along the line, will be enough to force the president to resign—or force Congress to impeach him.
Cohen’s testimony provides “enough momentum to keep things moving forward, to hopefully push him out,” said a young woman passing out Impeach Trump stickers to other hearing-watchers, who gave her name only as Adrian because she feared consequences at work. “Of course, there’s other testimony that we haven’t heard from the intelligence committees.”