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The testimony of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in front of the House Oversight Committee produced plenty of material. Lisa Desjardins, who attended the hearing, and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss the day’s key takeaways, including House Republican and White House attacks on Cohen as not trustworthy and Cohen's argument that Trump ran for president solely to enrich himself.
Our Lisa Desjardins was in the hearing room today. And Yamiche Alcindor has been tracking reaction from the White House.
Hello to both of you.
So, Lisa, you were there.
We were just hearing Michael Cohen, in essence, warn the Republicans on the committee not to do what he was doing, protect the president, follow the president. What was the dynamic there?
Well, it was another intense and historic feeling here. And the line to get in stretched for two city blocks inside this large office building on Capitol Hill.
I think both sides came into it very aware of the stakes here, that this is the first time we have seen someone come testify about what may be impeachable offenses, if they're proven. And both parties clearly came, as we saw in those clips, with their messages and their scripts.
But I think what happened, Judy, is actually the tone was set by two people this that room, one, the chairman, Elijah Cummings, the Democrat of Maryland, who ran a very tight ship and shut down both sides when they went too long and also when they seemed to get out of hand.
The other, Michael Cohen himself. I think Republicans came in — in fact, I talked to Republicans who came in thinking, here was a great chance for them to swing a big hit for the president. They thought this was a man whose credibility would be easy to take down.
Instead, they found someone who was able to joust with them in a calm and poised manner, and, at times, defended the president, even as he was making incredible accusations against him.
So Republicans came out during the break, Judy, and actually didn't want to talk to reporters as much as Democrats did, which was a sign of the hearing and kind of what they were feeling inside.
One other thing, Judy, was there anything new here today? There were a few new things. One that stuck out to me was Michael Cohen saying in public that there are other investigations pending in the Southern District of New York that do involve the president in some way.
And it's interesting what you're saying about Republicans, because, publicly, they are still questioning Michael Cohen's credibility.
And that brings me to you, Yamiche, because it is in the eye of the beholder, one side saying very believable, the other side saying he's not.
What were they saying at the White House today?
Well, Michael Cohen really set out to dismantle this idea of President Trump as a businessman who ran for president because he wanted to see America thrive.
Instead, Michael Cohen said he was a con artist and someone who ran because he wanted to enrich himself off the of the presidency and for the candidacy of being president. And the White House here is pushing back very strongly on that.
Now, there is, of course, this incredible split-screen that I have to talk about, which is the president is in Vietnam, meeting with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, but he's still very much focused on Washington and focused on this explosive day here on the Hill.
The president was out saying that Michael Cohen is a liar, and that's what the White House was saying. I also have been text-messaging with Rudy Giuliani, who is, of course, the president's personal lawyer, as well as representatives for Jay Sekulow, who is another lawyer for the president.
Both of them are very adamant that Michael Cohen is not someone that should be trusted. So, it's hard to see whether or not Michael Cohen will be as effective here politically, because, of course, Republicans and the people who are supporting the president are sticking with him.
I also want to talk about this incredible moment that happened in the hearing. Representative and Republican Mark Meadows, he brought out Lynne Patton. She is a HUD official who worked in New York New Jersey who is also a longtime friend of the president.
Now, he had Lynne Patton stand next to him and said, this is someone who is an African-American woman who said she would never have worked for someone who is a racist, and what say you, Michael Cohen, of her statement?
And Michael Cohen said, well, I understand she might say that, and I know her very well. But, in fact, as someone whose parents were Holocaust survivors, I also am in some ways ashamed that I went and worked for President Trump.
Now, Lynne Patton spoke to me shortly after the hearing. She tells me that she wanted to stand there because she knows Michael Cohen very well. And she wanted to make sure that he knew and that she knew that she felt like she was on the higher moral ground. She also wanted to pivot back to this idea that President Trump doesn't see color.
Instead, she told me that he only sees successes and failures and that more people should be like that.
So, we have the president's camp and the White House pivoting back to the original image of the president as someone from "The Apprentice" who is hiring and firing people and who is making deals.
It's interesting, because we heard another member of the commit later on, Representative Tlaib, in essence, say that one of her fellow committee members, a Republican, may have been racist. He denied that when she raised it later. But it just brought up a whole different dimension here.
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