Moments before Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen began, the broadcast networks reveled in their own excitement as anchors and correspondents predicted doom for President Trump. The hearing was framed as everything from an impeachment “test drive” for Democrats to “a bullet right to the heart of the investigation into the President.”
“Look, let’s call it what it is,” Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd declared at the start of NBC’s live special coverage, “If there is an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States, today is day one.” He added: “Today will be viewed, in hindsight, as the unofficial start of this.”
Offering the disclaimer that it was “not to say that is what we’re watching today,” Todd proclaimed: “...in many ways, what the Oversight Committee, what House Democrats are doing is essentially starting to test drive an impeachment procedure and Michael Cohen is the star attraction for day one.”
Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie agreed: “Absolutely. And in fact, it’s actually day two because day one was Michael Cohen yesterday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence...” Todd acknowledged: “Fair enough.”
During special coverage on CBS, This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell giddily compared the upcoming testimony to a political thriller: “And we did get, in the middle of the night, last night, I mean, just to add to the drama of everything that’s going on – it’s like a Tom Clancy novel – we got the testimony of Michael Cohen.”
Minutes later, she hyped the scene: “You can see there are many people in that hearing room and also many people outside that hearing room trying to get a glimpse of what truly is a historic moment.”
Referencing how “less than two years ago, Michael Cohen said that he would take a bullet for the President,” O’Donnell sensationalized: “Well today, Michael Cohen will deliver a bullet right to the heart of the investigation into the President if he is deemed credible, if they can corroborate many of the charges that he will make today.”
Just before the hearing was gaveled into session, the morning show anchor seemed delighted by the fact that the event was occurring while President Trump was overseas on a major diplomatic mission: “The timing of this, it has been postponed multiple times. The fact that this occurs the day that the President is meeting with the North Korean dictator, is that a coincidence?” Correspondent Paula Reid assured her: “It is not. This is part of an overall effort by Michael Cohen and his team to undermine the President, to hurt the President, all part of a plan.”
Leading off ABC’s special coverage, Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos repeated his earlier comparisons to Watergate: “The last time Congress heard testimony like this, more than four decades ago, when President Nixon’s lawyer, John Dean, implicated Nixon in the crimes of Watergate. Echos of that with Cohen today.”
Moments later, he turned to congressional correspondent Mary Bruce and expressed gratitude that Democrats winning control of the House in the 2018 midterms led to the hearing: “And, Mary, this hearing a direct result of Democrats taking control of Congress.” Bruce concurred: “And, George, this is just the beginning, this is the first blockbuster oversight hearing that will shine a light on a member of the President’s inner circle. It is safe to say that we would not be hearing this testimony here today if Republicans were still in charge.”
Like O’Donnell on CBS, Bruce celebrated the “history” of the occasion:
And just to set the scene here a little bit, the line here to get inside of this hearing room stretches as far as I can see down this hallway. Members of the public have been lining up here before dawn to witness history and what we now know will be a blistering takedown of the President by his former trusted adviser.
Later in the pre-hearing discussion, Stephanopoulos raised the possibility of impeachment: “Separate from whatever happens in the criminal courts in the southern district, what kind of impact will this have on congressional Democrats who are at least contemplating impeachment proceedings?”
Correspondent Terry Moran noted how liberal lawmakers were “getting pressured by their base” to impeach Trump and the “significant number of Democrats who want this president out, not through the election, but sooner, through impeachment, because they believe that he’s committed high crimes and misdemeanors.”
However, the reporter cautioned: “The problem is if you’re going to aim at the king, the old saying has it, you better aim straight and score a direct hit.”
The sheer excitement expressed by supposed objective journalists at the prospect of a “blistering takedown of the President” made it clear which side they were rooting for in the hearing to follow.