ELLIS: What did the Cohen hearing accomplish?


Lawmakers had lots of questions for Michael Cohen when he appeared before the House Oversight Committee.

Here are some questions for the lawmakers:

What did this hearing accomplish?

Did it change anyone’s mind about anything?

Likely not.

Those who hate President Trump will find plenty to reconfirm their already low opinion of him. There’s ample evidence that the president’s supporters never mistook him for Mother Theresa, and they won’t be swayed by an admitted liar who happens to be a lawyer, if that’s not redundant.

Did the hearing uncover anything that wasn’t or couldn’t have been found out any other way?

Again, the answer is no.

So what was the purpose of holding this public show trial?

Clearly, the majority party scratched the never ending itch that drives Democrats to distraction trying to humiliate a man they refuse to acknowledge is our president.

But at what cost to themselves and the institution of Congress?

Does it enhance public confidence in government for Congress to have a convicted criminal smear a sitting president?

Does it enhance the committee’s reputation to have a criminal making charges that (A) have nothing to do with the president’s official duties and (B) fall outside the jurisdiction of the committee, which is charged with reviewing legislation and government operations regarding “the application, administration, execution, and effectiveness of laws and programs”?

Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings and his colleagues took a huge gamble by holding this hearing. But they are so blinded by their hatred of President Trump that they did not see it, and did not ask themselves some obvious questions.

Will voters see this spectacle as a distraction from the job the people elected them to do?

Keep in mind that most people view politicians (particularly those of the Washington genus) not as selfless public servants but as self-serving creatures primarily interested in holding on to their own power and position.

So the question voters ask themselves, and committee members should answer, is:

What did this hearing do to help the person stuck in traffic; those struggling to make car, house and insurance payments; or those needing a raise and hoping for a better education and better future for their kids?

Sadly for Democrats, the short answer is: nothing.

The Oversight Committee would be well advised to stick to its knitting.

House Rule X, clauses 2, 3, and 4 — available for all to see on the committee’s website — say the committee has the responsibility to “review and study on a continuing basis—

(A) the application, administration, execution, and effectiveness of laws and programs;

(B) the organization and operation of Federal agencies and entities having responsibilities for the administration and execution of laws and programs;

(C) any conditions or circumstances that may indicate the necessity or desirability of enacting new or additional legislation.”

The Supreme Court has also made clear that Congress has the power to investigate when it is “related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of the Congress.”

While investigations related to topics on which Congress has legislated in the past, as well as topics on which it could legislate in the future, are legitimate, nothing Donald J. Trump did as a real estate developer, husband or father falls into that category.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cumming’s outing with Michael Cohen has all the earmarks of a fishing expedition in the mud.  It doesn’t help that the spectacle occurred at the very moment President Trump is conducting nuclear diplomacy with an adversary on the other side of the world.

Cummings and his fellow Democrats have stepped into the same trap Republicans did in 1998.

After taking control of the House, Republicans pursued endless investigations of President Clinton. Not content to look at White House operations or government business, they reached back to Clinton’s private business in Arkansas, the Whitewater real estate deal, which led to the impeachment hearings.

Republicans ended up being the biggest losers. Voters had already made up their minds about who Bill Clinton was before they elected him (see: Gennifer Flowers) and felt Congress was shirking its public duties to pursue a political vendetta. They saw the investigations and impeachment as a political circus and punished Republicans at the polls.

Time will tell if that’s what today’s hearing accomplished.

But those charged with oversight were so blinded by their own prejudice they couldn’t see it coming.

Curtis Ellis is senior policy adviser with America First Policies. He was a senior policy adviser with the Donald J. Trump campaign.

Copyright © 2019 Curtis Ellis, All rights reserved.