Editor’s Note: Michael D’Antonio is the author of the book, “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success,” and co-author with Peter Eisner of “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Analysts will pore over Michael Cohen’s public testimony Wednesday before Congress to determine the peril Donald Trump may face in the event of legal or impeachment proceedings. The American people will also be judging Trump’s character. Based on an opening statement leaked Tuesday night, Cohen will confirm evidence that has been accumulating for decades that his former boss – our current President – is a con man, a racist and a cheat.
Those are just the choicest words in the withering statement Cohen prepared for the hearing. In light of Trump’s entire public and private life, they are entirely accurate.
Trump’s racism was always plain to see, from his birther attacks on Barack Obama’s citizenship to his derision of black athletes and African and Caribbean countries. He has spoken of his many corporate bankruptcies with pride, suggesting they were shrewd business tactics. And his disgusting treatment of women, including those he married, stands as proof that he is as indecent a man as Cohen says.
Few people besides Cohen seem better positioned to testify to the content of the President’s character. His children have, of course, known him longer. His wives – and other women – know him more intimately. But only Cohen worked across all aspects of the Trump business while also handling sordid issues, such as payoffs to silence women alleging they had sex with a married Trump (Trump denies this). Only Cohen would be entrusted in this way. Only he would be expected to keep it all secret.
As an employee and confidant, Cohen exhibited the main trait Trump always said he valued: loyalty in the extreme. It was Cohen, not Donald Trump Jr., who said he would “take a bullet” for the boss.
The worst mistake of Trump’s presidency may have been his decision to treat his self-described “fixer” poorly. Cohen wanted respect and in the end didn’t get it. Even he had to recognize this. It’s one thing to demand 100% commitment. It’s another to do so and then turn your back on some who gave it, as Cohen did, year after year.
In his prepared testimony, Cohen offers references and other evidence and suggests cooperating witnesses who might be summoned to future public hearings. One of them could well be Trump’s personal assistant, Rhona Graff, who worked for the Trump Organization even longer than Cohen and handled critical communications. If Cohen knows the details of many of his former boss’ deceptions, then Graff likely knows how they were conducted and with whom.
If she eventually testifies, Graff could pose even greater danger to Trump because unlike Cohen, she has not been charged, let alone convicted, of any crimes, and thus her testimony would have more credibility, at least on the surface. Cohen will soon start serving time for the felonies he committed mostly, it seems, out of loyalty to his former boss. This makes him vulnerable to skeptics and critics. But the story he outlined in his opening statement has the ring of truth, and in telling it, he may mark the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.