When I was blocked by President Donald J Trump on Twitter in 2017, I didn’t think much of it. In fact, it felt silly and surreal that a man in the highest office in the nation was so concerned about silencing a comedian on social media. It was only later, after I was contacted by the Knight Foundation about a lawsuit forcing him to unblock his critics, that I realised the true extent of what I had become a part of. President Trump’s entire life centres around protecting himself and surrounding himself with people to protect him.
Now, the majority of Republicans in Congress are using their own words and reputations to shield the president from harm.
There was no truer display of this than Michael Cohen’s testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee. Cohen, Trump’s fixer, a man who threatened people to safeguard his boss’s reputation, was asked by Rep. Jackie Speier how prevalent that fixing was.
“How many times did Mr Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?” she asked, as if it was an episode of The Price is Right. Fifty? More. A hundred? More. Two hundred? More. Five hundred?
“Probably, over the 10 years,” answered Cohen.
Michael Cohen isn’t a saint. He’s an enforcer whose only job was to use his voice to defend Trump against those willing to tell the truth about him. But if you want to investigate a criminal, the informants tend to be criminals.
Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano was a murderer, but his testimony brought down mob boss John Gotti. Joseph Massino, a mob boss himself, turned state’s evidence and helped take down Vincent Basciano. During his testimony, Massino said he was “hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” That, it seems, is exactly what Michael Cohen is trying to do as well.
The Republicans in the House Oversight Committee felt that Cohen’s words and the physical evidence in front of them didn’t matter because Cohen is imperfect. To them, if you lied before, everything else you say must also be a lie. Yet not one of those who have taken over the role as Trump’s protectors is a perfect human being.
Rep. Jim Jordan questioned Cohen’s credibility — the same Jim Jordan who, as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, has been accused by eight former wrestlers of ignoring allegations of sexual misconduct by the team’s physician. Rep. Clay Higgins talked about recognising criminals when he sees them — even though an aide he hired was recently arrested and charged with two counts of pandering. And then there’s Rep. Paul Gosar, the man whose entire family made a commercial for his opponent urging Arizona voters not to support their brother.
The most telling moment in the entire hearing was Cohen imploring Republicans not to make the same mistakes he did. “I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years,” he told the Republican committee members. “I protected Mr Trump for 10 years.”
Then he offered words of warning: “The more people that follow Mr Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”
Cohen is heading to prison for three years. These Republicans likely won’t see jail time for their complicity to the president, but their careers and reputations will be forever damaged.
It’s worth nothing that this entire hearing wouldn’t have even taken place if Democrats hadn’t gained control of the House after the 2018 election. Many of their Republican colleagues have already fallen for blindly following Donald Trump. They’ve been replaced by representatives who actually care about protecting the people and not the president.
Trump blocked his most vocal critics on Twitter. With the help of the Knight Foundation, seven of us sued the President and won. That ruling required his administration to unblock hundreds of other voices and, as small as it sounds, our victory was a statement of how important it is for those who oppose Trump to not remain silent.
In his closing statement, Rep. Elijah Cummings said it best: “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?” Republicans on the committee had the opportunity to keep democracy intact, but chose instead to entirely ignore the president’s crimes.
Their silence is deafening.
Nick Jack Pappas is a writer, comedian and former contributor to the NBC Late Night Writers Workshop
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