Christie seems to think this is due to a breakdown of organization, which is always possible when Trump’s involved. The obvious thing to do before Cohen’s testimony would have been for the president to huddle with Republicans on the Oversight Committee and give them any evidence he had about Trump Tower Moscow, the Stormy Daniels saga, and other matters in which Cohen was likely to accuse Trump of wrongdoing. Arm them with the facts and the let them disprove some of Cohen’s claims in real time, on live TV. It’s one thing to repeat ad nauseam that the witness is a convicted liar — and Cohen is — but that only gets you so far, as he can always claim that he has nothing to lose at this point by telling the truth. Better to show the audience that he’s still lying. You couldn’t trust him before and you still can’t trust him.
As of 12:30 ET, that hadn’t happened. Most of the Republican questioning has involved huffing about Cohen’s prior mendacity or pressing him on whether he had any Democratic help in preparing today. Why aren’t they confronting Cohen with evidence that vindicates Trump? Christie chalks that up to the White House and House Republicans failing to prepare a “unified strategy,” which is fair enough.
But maybe the explanation’s simpler. Maybe Trump did privately offer them some assurances about what he’d told Cohen about certain matters in the past and … Republicans just don’t trust him enough to go all-in on those claims on national television. He told the world in full view of the cameras last year, after all, that he had nothing to do with the Stormy Daniels payoff and referred reporters to, uh, Michael Cohen for further information. If you were Jim Jordan or Mark Meadows, how eager would you be to stake your credibility before an audience of millions on something the president had said to you n the interest of exculpating himself, not knowing what sort of hard evidence — like audio recordings — Cohen might have to support his own story? They’re under no illusions about Trump’s character. I mean, really:
Cohen says he cannot testify about his last conversation with Trump or Trump's agent because it is being investigated by the Southern District of NY. (!)
— Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) February 27, 2019
Cohen himself noticed how incurious Republicans on the panel seem to be about whether Trump is actually guilty of the things he’s alleging. That’s the second clip below. The irony that Jordan and Meadows are essentially playing the role today that Cohen played in the private sector, trying to discredit or intimidate those who might make trouble for Trump, wasn’t lost on him either. Exit question via Chris Hayes: Why aren’t Republicans at least asking Cohen about the trip to Prague he was accused of making in the Steele dossier? (I assume they’ll get around to it but it wasn’t mentioned this morning.) If nothing else, getting Cohen to admit under oath that he’s never been there would help further discredit the dossier.
Chris Christie on Michael Cohen testimony: "There hasn't been one Republican yet who's tried to defend the president on the substance. I think that's something that should be concerning to the White House." https://t.co/ij0AmYP27T pic.twitter.com/0Zgubp7t5d
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 27, 2019
Cohen says it's "interesting" that Republicans haven't asked any questions about Trump pic.twitter.com/giWnZLYtr5
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) February 27, 2019