He explained that after spending a decade in the world of Trump, he knew the president better than anyone, seeking to provide context for the multitude of investigations and complaints of crimes and wrongdoing surrounding the president. .
He sketched a striking portrait of Trump 's organization and conduct, which turned into an extraordinary and unprecedented indictment of a day against the character of a sitting president.
It was either the betrayal of a proven liar who invented stories to save himself, or the brave act of an unlikely hero who rose above his dirty past to offer a national service, depending on the side from the committee room where the legislators sat.
According to Cohen, the Trump Empire was inundated with activities that required a repairman. Cohen told the House Watch Committee that he now regretted bitterly taking on this role blindly, which would deprive him of his freedom.
In Trump's world, the boss knew everything that was going on, according to Cohen. Henchmen like Cohen learned osmosis what the great man wanted. His currency was threats. And bad tabloid stories were bought – even if they were not true – to prevent them from sullying Trump's personal image.
There was a Trump jungle law that everyone had understood, including Cohen, in his years as the right arm of the Trump Tower Titan.
"Everyone at the Trump Organization is protecting Mr. Trump," he said.
Bad news for Trump
Wednesday's hearing, which took place in the midst of extremely partisan scenes, gave rise to revelations hinting at a future and deeper legal exposition for the president. In particular, Cohen issued a personal check for $ 35,000 signed by Trump during his tenure, showing that the President had reimbursed him for the discreet payments he had made to the women who had claimed contracts with the GOP candidate. the time.
Cohen has already admitted to paying women for a violation of the campaign finance law. If it is proven that Trump – who denied having relations with women – knew that he was breaking the law, the president could have serious problems even after his resignation from office.
Cohen, a former confidant turned accuser, also revealed that New York prosecutors were seeking the alleged illegality of Trump's organization in a hitherto unpublished case, highlighting the potential risk that the greater threat to the president does not come from the special advocate Robert Mueller, charge of US prosecutors in the southern district of New York.
"I think it's a disturbing news for the president," said former Southern District Attorney Elie Honig at CNN.
Cohen also claimed to have heard a call in which Trump's longtime political advisor, Roger Stone, told the GOP candidate in 2016 that WikiLeaks was to send back a new stack of emails that would cause harm to Hillary. Clinton.
Given that Trump had previously indicated to Mueller, in sworn affidavits, that none of these statements were true, he could be endangered in legal and political terms if Cohen or the prosecutors could corroborate the statements. Cohen's affirmations.
This is not all bad for the president
The appearance of Cohen paved the way for some parts of the investigation on Russia that the investigation on special advocates has not yet revealed. But the testimony also cast doubt on some reports suggesting a vulnerability of Trump.
For example, Cohen testified that he had never been to the Czech Republic, potentially giving up any of the charges in the Steele record, a raw intelligence document suggesting that Trump had been compromised by Russia.
He also stated that he did not believe that there was an alleged video tape of Trump hitting his wife, Melania, in an elevator. And he said that in any case, the president would never do such a thing.
Cohen may have tarnished his own credibility by insisting that he never wanted a job at the Trump White House. Several reports from CNN and other media suggest that he was not telling the truth.
"I see that a guy who worked for 10 years is here, he put in the trash the guy that he worked for 10 years, he did not have any job in the White House, and now you behave like everyone who has been fired or who has not had the job they wanted, "said Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio who is a key ally of Trump.
It was not immediately clear whether Cohen's day in the spotlight would reinforce the arguments of the Democrats who were already advocating dismissal, since he did not have irrefutable evidence of collusion between the aides. of Trump and Russia.
And this omission gave the Republicans a political opening.
"House Democrats and Michael Cohen set up a circus full of lies and unsubstantiated allegations," said Ronna McDaniel, president of the Republican National Committee.
But according to Cohen, rogue, corrupt and even immoral behavior was rampant in Trump's inner circle before and during his run for president in 2016.
"I'm ashamed because I know what Mr Trump is – he's a racist – he's a crook – he's a cheater," Cohen said in his opening statement. .
In an astonishing exchange with Democratic representative Jackie Speier of California, Cohen said he had been led by Trump to threaten people probably 500 times.
According to his testimony, lying was as easy as breathing.
"Every day, most of us in the room coming in … we were going to lie for him on something and it became the norm, and that is exactly what is happening currently in this country, "said Cohen.
Complaining that Trump now calls him a "rat", Cohen described an atmosphere of oppressive malice in which Trump's instructions were so obvious that they did not need to be explained clearly.
"He does not tell you what he wants," said Cohen, when asked if Trump had advised him to lie to Congress during a previous appearance, one of the offenses for which he will start a three-year prison term in May.
"I know what he means because I've been around him for so long," said Cohen, pointing out that Trump had created a "party line" that everyone around him had to reject any charge of collusion. with Russia. He also stated that the president's lawyers had reviewed and corrected the testimony in question – another serious accusation.
Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia became the last person in Washington to attempt a mafia comparison when describing events in Trump's restricted circle, defending Cohen from GOP attacks.
"This Congress has always used all kinds of dark personalities who have turned around," said Connolly. "One of the most famous led to the beheading of organized crime families in America: Joe Valachi."
"He was a witness and he committed much worse crimes than those you are convicted of," Connolly said, referring directly to Cohen referring to the congressional hearings of the 1960s that shed light on the activities mafia.
Preet Bharara, a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York and senior legal analyst at CNN, said that the accounts of the apparently veiled instructions from Trump to Cohen were "the kind of thing that we see in the cases of crowd".
"That's the kind of thing that we see in environments where people do bad things, but they do not want to be logged in as asking someone to do one." This is happening all the time, "said Bharara in an interview with CNN's" The Situation Room. "
Cohen also testified that everything came from the top of the Trump organization, when he claimed that the president had long inflated or deflated the assets of his business, for example to make extravagant claims on his estate, to obtain a bank loan or insurance claims.
"Everything has been done with the knowledge and under the direction of Mr. Trump," said Cohen. His comment could undermine Trump's denial of the fact that he knew nothing of the many meetings between his assistants and the Russians.
Since Cohen has probably said everything and everything he said that he said on Wednesday to Mueller and other prosecutors with whom he cooperates, Trump's visibility could be acute.
And Republicans' claims that Cohen can not be trusted have been partially undermined by the fact that if he is proven to have lied at Wednesday's hearing, he is likely to see his sentence increase.
After the hearing, Elijah Cummings, President of the Obsolete Observatory, delivered a verdict that could augur a decisive moment in American history when he was asked if Trump may have committed a crime in his office. .
"It seems like he's done it," said the Maryland Democrat.