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Rep. Jim Jordan's questioning makes Cohen the issue, not President Trump

By Jessica Wehrman and Jack Torry • Updated Feb 28, 2019 at 3:42 PM

WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen was the witness, but in many respects Wednesday's House hearing was U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan's show.

Jordan, the newly minted ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee tasked with providing oversight to the Trump administration, teamed up with fellow conservative Mark Meadows of North Carolina to dominate Republican questioning of Cohen, formerly Trump's personal lawyer and fixer who has pleaded guilty to financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

"This might be the first time someone convicted of lying to Congress has appeared again so quickly in front of the Congress," Jordan said during a contentious, hours-long hearing. "Surely, it's the first time a convicted perjurer was brought back to be a star witness in a hearing."

Republican after Republican ceded the time they'd been given to question Cohen to Jordan, a seven-term congressman from Urbana whose constituency includes Norwalk.

Jordan, in turn, grilled Cohen at length, lambasted Democrats and called Cohen the Democrats' "patsy," saying "they've got to find somebody somewhere to say something so they can try to remove the president from office."

Republicans put signs up in the hearing room, including one saying "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

Meanwhile, Virgin Islands Democratic Rep. Stacey Plaskett mouthed "be quiet" as Jordan again questioned the rationale for the hearing, reporters covering the event said. She also sparked a social media buzz with what was interpreted as an eye roll as Jordan continued talking.

At times, his attacks devolved into the deeply personal. At one point, he called Cohen "a fraudster, a cheat, a convicted felon and in two months, a federal inmate."

By mid-afternoon, Jordan had basically gone viral, with his name third behind "Michael Cohen" and "Republicans" on Twitter. Much of the traffic reflected how the public views Jordan: They either love him or hate him, but he rarely draws ambivalence.

"Jim Jordan is trying to be who Michael Cohen used to be," left-leaning MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell tweeted. "Trump's fixer."

"Thank goodness for people like Rep Jim Jordan who made a brilliant speech," tweeted one Jordan supporter.

At one point, Jordan and Cohen had a heated exchange about whether Cohen had ever expressed remorse about the crimes to which he pleaded guilty.

When Jordan claimed Cohen's "remorse is non-existent," Cohen snapped, "Shame on you, Mr. Jordan. That's not what I said and you know that that's not what I said. I pled guilty and I take responsibility for my actions. Shame on you, Mr. Jordan."

Jordan also accused Cohen of "trashing" Trump because he was not offered a White House job.

"Here's what I see," he said. "I see a guy who worked for 10 years in here trashing the guy he worked for ... didn't get a job in the White House and now you're behaving just like everyone else who has got fired or didn't get the job they wanted ... same kind of selfish motivation after you don't get the things you want."

Cohen denied it, saying all he "wanted was what I got — to be personal attorney to the president."

The efforts by Jordan and other committee Republicans to attack Cohen's credibility prompted Cohen to tell the Ohio congressman, "I just find it interesting, sir, that between yourself and your colleagues that not one question so far since I'm here has been asked about President Trump. That's actually why I thought I was coming today. Not to confess the mistakes that I've made. I've already done that."

Instead, Cohen said, Americans want to "know what it is I know about Mr. Trump."


©2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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