- - Wednesday, February 27, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Wednesday’s House Government and Oversight Committee hearing may have gained wall-to-wall cable news coverage, but it provided very little useful information.

The hearing had no public policy value whatsoever. It did not help the committee conduct meaningful oversight of the executive branch and the federal agencies, which is its charge.

Once former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen admitted that he saw no evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia, the topic of Russia effectively disappeared. Instead, for more than six hours, the disgraced, disbarred felon who is headed to prison in two months turned on his former client, abandoning the attorney-client privilege so he could throw as much mud at President Trump as he could.

Never in the history of Congress has a witness who was convicted of lying to Congress been immediately invited to return to testify to Congress again.

At one point, Cohen admitted he had lied previously, but that his lies did not make him a liar.

The purpose of the hearing was clear. Democrats need new lines of attack against the president.

With special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation nearly wrapped up, and the expectation that he will not be proving a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, Democrats desperately need new theories.

The entire Mueller inquiry was created to investigate whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and whether Russia coordinated with anyone on the Trump campaign.

Not one American has been indicted within those parameters.

Instead, process crimes have been pursued, as the special counsel justifies his existence and the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars over two years.

Wednesday’s hearing was particularly disgraceful.

Cohen was given 30 minutes to make an opening statement, during which he made almost every accusation that he could muster against a man he served for 10 years.

Cohen offered almost no independent corroboration for his charges. A copy of one reimbursement check proves nothing.

Democrats are treating every morsel from the hearing as a bombshell, but I expect his testimony to amount to very little in the final analysis.

However, Democrats swung and missed on several occasions.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Minnesota Democrat, was warned when she made a baseless racism charge against Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, which she was forced to clarify by committee Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman who was removed during the party’s convention in 2016, asked mindless questions that called for speculation, which Cohen admitted he could not answer.

Rep. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, rightly pointed out that the hearing was a circus and a waste of time, when the committee could be investigating escalating debt, human trafficking and drugs pouring over the southern border, and so many more important issues.

Now Democrats will pursue new lines of inquiry. You can bet they will next call Trump family members and other Trump Organization officials to hearings to see what else they can find.

This hearing did not reflect well on the Democratic Party. It did not make one American citizen’s life better. It did not offer real oversight of the executive branch.

It was an opportunity for Cohen to throw as many haymakers at Mr. Trump as he could, with Democratic operatives sitting behind him providing “voluntary” legal assistance.

The Mueller report will not be the end of this. Democrats will investigate Mr. Trump until his presidency ends, no matter how or when that comes. They want him in impeached and in prison and will accept nothing less.

The House Oversight Committee embarrassed itself with this hearing. I have no doubt voters will see it the same way.

• Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.

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