Following media efforts to lionize former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in the wake of Wednesday’s public Capitol Hill hearing, on Thursday, Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie hoped House Democrats were able to “rehabilitate” the convicted felon and help him “overcome” his complete lack of credibility.
In a report just prior to Guthrie’s comments, correspondent Kristen Welker portrayed Republicans “attempting to do damage control” after Cohen’s “blockbuster seven and a half hour public hearing.” After noting that the disbarred lawyer was “headed to prison after pleading guilty to tax and financial crimes as well as lying to Congress,” Welker lamented “Republican lawmakers pouncing on his credibility.”
During the discussion that followed the taped segment, Guthrie teed up legal analyst Ari Melber to give his review of the hearing:
Obviously he [Cohen] came to this hearing with some baggage. He’s pled guilty in two different jurisdictions. Was he able to overcome that? Were Democrats able to rehabilitate him, so to speak? Does the corroborative evidence, in some ways, enhance his credibility?
Melber spun that Republican attacks on Cohen’s credibility actually helped his testimony: “I think the fact that he brought so much evidence and that Republicans mostly attacked him in broad strokes was helpful to him and revealing.”
The MSNBC host further argued: “He was once charged with lying to Congress. If he did that yesterday, then we would expect that sooner or later, he’ll be charged again. If he’s not charged, that tells you that the independent investigators who handle this, not some of the partisans we saw fighting on the committee, found yesterday’s testimony to be credible.”
So as long as Cohen isn’t charged with any additional perjury felonies, he can be trusted.
During a midday break in Wednesday’s hearing, NBC’s panel of anchors and analysts heaped praise on Cohen for having “comported himself pretty well,” provided “accuracy,” and been the “quintessential cooperating criminal.”
Here are excerpts of the February 28 coverage on the Today show:
7:08 AM ET
MICHAEL COHEN: I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist, he is a con-man, and he is a cheat.
KRISTEN WELKER: President Trump’s allies attempting to do damage control.
REP. JIM JORDAN [R-OH]: The first takeaway is Michael Cohen is delusional.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Michael Cohen admitted today that the President never directed him to lie.
WELKER: The President’s former attorney unleashing on him in a blockbuster seven and a half hour public hearing.
COHEN: I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s elicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.
7:09 AM ET
WELKER: Cohen is headed to prison after pleading guilty to tax and financial crimes as well as lying to Congress. Republican lawmakers pouncing on his credibility.
REP. PAUL GOSAR [R-AZ]: You’re a pathological liar. You know truth from falsehood?
COHEN: Sir, I’m sorry, are you referring to me or the President?
WELKER: And grilling Cohen over his motives.
REP. JORDAN: You wanted to work in the White House.
COHEN: No, sir.
JORDAN: You didn’t get brought to the dance.
WELKER: At times, tensions boiling over.
COHEN: Mr. Jordan, that’s not what I said and you know that that’s not what I said.
WELKER: Cohen also calling his former boss a racist.
COHEN: And he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.
WELKER: That prompting Republican Mark Meadows to bring up Lynne Patton, an African-American former member of the Trump Organization.
REP. MARK MEADOWS [R-NC]: You made some very demeaning comments about the President that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism. She says, that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.
WELKER: The moment drawing quick backlash online and criticism from fellow lawmakers.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB [D-MI]: The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee is alone racist in itself.
MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, I ask that her words be taken down.
WELKER: Cohen highlighting the day’s theatrics when asked about why he’s speaking out now.
COHEN: Watching the daily destruction of our civility to one other. I did the same thing that you’re doing now for ten years. I protected Mr. Trump for ten years. I can only warn people, the more people that follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.
7:12 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Obviously he came to this hearing with some baggage. He’s pled guilty in two different jurisdictions. Was he able to overcome that? Were Democrats able to rehabilitate him, so to speak? Does the corroborative evidence, in some ways, enhance his credibility?
ARI MELBER: I think the fact that he brought so much evidence and that Republicans mostly attacked him in broad strokes was helpful to him and revealing. This one is pretty simple, Savannah. He was once charged with lying to Congress. If he did that yesterday, then we would expect that sooner or later, he’ll be charged again. If he’s not charged, that tells you that the independent investigators who handle this, not some of the partisans we saw fighting on the committee, found yesterday’s testimony to be credible. And that’s why these hearings, for these people who sometimes get overwhelmed or even cynical, these hearings do matter. There is a process to fact check them and people who lie get charged. If he doesn’t get charged, that tells you investigators found him credible yesterday.