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Liar liar pants on fire: Republicans take aim at Michael Cohen’s credibility

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday repeatedly took aim at Michael Cohen’s credibility, arguing his high-profile hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform was part of a partisan effort to undermine President Trump.

GOP members of the panel highlighted Cohen’s past transgressions, referenced his record of defending the president and pointed to his guilty plea for lying to Congress in an effort to paint him as an untrustworthy witness and portray Democrats as out to get the president.

After a failed attempt by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to delay the hearing on technical grounds, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the panel’s ranking member, tied Cohen’s appearance to Democrats’ disdain for the president.

“They just want to use you, Mr. Cohen,” Jordan said in his opening statement. “You’re their patsy today. They’ve got to find somebody, somewhere to say something so they can try to remove the president from office.”

Jordan went on to describe Cohen as a “fraudster, cheat, convicted felon and, in two months, a federal inmate.”

Cohen, who served for years as Trump's fixer and personal attorney, was sentenced late last year to three years in prison on a bevy of charges. He delivered a blistering opening statement that described his former boss as a “racist” and a “conman” who regularly directed him to lie.

In his first round of questioning, Jordan recounted each of the crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to last year and suggested the president’s longtime ally had a change of heart because he failed to secure a White House job.

Cohen refuted that claim, responding that he had turned down job offers from the White House.

The two locked horns again when Jordan suggested Cohen was already turning his back on claims that he regretted his actions as Trump’s lawyer.

“Shame on you, Mr. Jordan,” Cohen interjected. “That is not what I said.”

Republicans largely followed Jordan’s example, repeatedly referring to Cohen as a “convicted felon,” attempting to catch him in contradictory statements and expressing doubts about his motivations to come clean.

“If it was not already obvious, there are members here with the singular goal in Congress to impeach President Trump,” Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.) said.

“We are supposed to take what you say, Mr. Cohen, at this time about President Trump as the truth,” she added. “But you’re about to go to prison for lying. How can we believe anything you say? The answer is we can’t.”

A handful of GOP lawmakers yielded some of their time to Jordan and Meadows, two of the president’s staunchest allies, giving them each additional opportunities to grill Cohen.

Meadows brought Trump administration employee Lynne Patton, who is black, with him to the hearing. He cited Patton’s relationship with Trump to push back against Cohen’s allegations that Trump is a racist.

The House Freedom Caucus chairman later snapped at Cohen when pressing him on whether he or his attorneys deliberately waited to submit his prepared testimony.

Cohen said he was working on his testimony late Tuesday night and making final changes ahead of his public appearance.

“So you were writing it last night?” Meadows said, thrusting down his papers in a sign of frustration. “Don’t give me that bull.”

The Republican strategy to seize on Cohen's criminal past and credibility issues to the hearing was apparent before the event began.

Lawmakers propped up placards around the hearing room that featured quotes critical of Cohen from the federal judge who sentenced him last year.

“Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass,” one read.

“Cohen pled guilty to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct,” another stated.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who engaged in one of the more tense exchanges of the morning, set up a poster behind his seat that featured a picture of Cohen and the phrase “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire.”

“No one should ever listen to you and give you credibility,” he said.

The Republican strategy contrasted sharply with their Democratic counterparts, who at times expressed sympathy for Cohen and his family and spent most of their time digging into his claims that Trump had engaged in potentially criminal activity.

Cohen at one point acknowledged the difference in approach between the two parties, and separately lamented during the hearing that he bore some responsibility for the stark partisan divide that has come to define Congress.

“It’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for,” Cohen said, pointing to one of the GOP posters. “I’m responsible for your silliness because I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 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,” he said.

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