Randi Kreiss

Eventually, Michael Cohen did the right thing

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Columnists have a choice of what to take up for discussion. We can focus on news, social issues, politics or our personal lives. No one tells us what to write or what to avoid (at least not at the Heralds).

During this long season of discontent with Donald Trump as candidate and then president and now target of multi-pronged state and federal investigations, I have done my bit to beat the drum of protest. I believe, from all I’ve read and what I know in my mind and heart, that Trump is a fatally flawed man who is systematically and recklessly dismantling our democracy.

His disregard for legal process, civility and civil rights, demonstrated day to day, has reinforced my determination to use my 750 words a week in support of our Constitution and time-honored American values. I want to be remembered as someone who did what she could to protest the rampant corruption, misogyny, racism and lawlessness that are the calling cards of this administration.

At the same time, I haven’t written much about Michael Cohen, who was on the front page of the nation’s newspapers last week, when he testified before Congress in both open and closed sessions. I haven’t written about him because he is local to our community, he has family nearby, and I chose not to pile on when the ground under their feet was caving in, when everything they cherish is being threatened. That’s the prerogative of a local newspaper, as I see it.

We report the news story objectively — as we do in this week’s paper — but we can temper our opinion pieces, because we don’t see just one man and his crime, but his life in the context of our community. We can condemn the misdeeds without vilifying the man.

Cohen said he needed to set the record straight, for himself and for his family and for the country, and I believe him. I’m writing now because his public testimony last week before Congress was credible, although late in coming. For seven hours he fielded questions, challenges, snide remarks and accusations.

To be clear, most of his wounds are self-inflicted. He drank the Kool-Aid in Trump Tower, and then some. It was all good while Trump was riding high, and no one in Trump World was being challenged or scrutinized by law enforcement. When the house of cards began to fall, Cohen initially made some bad choices on how to survive the legal threats and the pressure from the White House.

Eventually he did the right thing, albeit under pressure. His testimony counts.

Cohen, who was Trump’s personal lawyer for many years, was found guilty last November of lying to Congress in testimony about the Moscow Trump Tower project. He is due to begin a three-year prison term in a few months. He said his testimony last week was important for him and the country. He took responsibility for his mistakes, and admitted to bad behavior in support of his boss. He testified, in detail, about the president’s mendacity and racism, and about the allegation that Trump tacitly participated in payoffs to a porn star while he was in office.

Cohen said he was sorry. He looked sorry. Given the seriousness of his lapses and his behavior — which, as he said, cost him his livelihood, his law license and his standing in the community — he could not have done more for himself and his family than what he did before Congress.

Prison will be a bitter pill, but he can use the time to further his rehabilitation in the community and with the people he loves. When he’s released, he can rebuild his life.

People worry about felons coming out of jail and returning to bad habits. Having watched Cohen’s testimony, having listened to his personal statement of remorse and shame and his vow to do what he can to save the country from his former boss, I’m not concerned about recidivism.

I hope he holds on to the moral epiphany that compelled him to testify last week. I hope he does OK in prison. And I hope he comes home to launch his second chance at life.

Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.