John Heilemann: Cohen's Testimony Was A 'Blood, Sweat, And Tears' Moment

February 28th, 2019 10:55 AM

MSNBC's Morning Joe's week of strange Churchillian analogies continued on Thursday when the morning show panel discussed President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen's testimony to the House Oversight Committee.

Co-host Joe Scarborough began with saying that Cohen's testimony was "extraordinary" and blasted Republicans for engaging in "a cover-up operation" before turning to MSNBC national affairs analyst John Heilemann for his take.

Heilemann was in awe of the "extraordinary kind of human drama" in the hearing, claiming it was more personal and dramatic than abstract principles of "constitutional law" and "questions about criminal and civil procedure." He then declared that Cohen's testimony to be "potentially significant" and, "was a 'blood, seat, and tears' kind of thing."



Winston Churchill's "Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat" speech was delivered to the House of Commons on May 13, 1940, after becoming prime minister on May 10 after Neville Chamberlain resigned in the midst of the Allied failure in Norway and the German invasion of France and the Low Countries.

Heilemann then said that the reason "the public is obsessed with him, is because they all recognize a certain every-man quality in Cohen." He sympathetically portrayed Cohen as the "schleper who got seduced and then betrayed and is seeking either retribution or some kind of expiation for his sins," and that the whole episode was "Shakespearean."

As for Republican conduct, Heilemann agreed with Scarborough that, "There's no question the Republicans behaved contemptibly," accusing them of only attacking Cohen and not showing an interest in facts.

Here is a transcript for the February 28 show:


Morning Joe

6:11 AM

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So, John Heilemann, what was overall, for you what was the headline from yesterday and what’s the political impact where you had some extraordinary -- you had some extraordinary testimony out there but yet up had the Republican Party and this seemed to be everybody's takeaway that I heard even from Republicans, that you had the Republican Party just completely disinterested in digging for truth. It was just a cover-up operation.

JOHN HEILEMANN: Well, yeah, Joe and I actually would expand on that in a certain way. I'll say this -- there's no question that just the extraordinary kind of human drama involved here, this discussion about Donald Trump and his legal and political woes has been going on for the last two-plus years. Often it takes place at a level of abstraction, we've been given a lesson in Constitutional Law and questions about criminal and civil procedure, the country's learned a lot over the last two years, but there is an airless quality to some of this discussion. Yesterday was not like that. I think that's part of the reason why the political impact is potentially significant because it felt--this was a “blood, sweat, and tears” kind of a thing.

You looked at Michael Cohen. Part of the reason why the public is obsessed with him, is because they all recognize a certain every-man quality in Cohen in his strengths and his many, many weaknesses. The kind of schleper who got, who got seduced and got – then betrayed and is now seeking either retribution or some kind of expiation of his sins. All of it is kind of Shakespearean. And to see it play out the way it played out yesterday – you know – it was just gripping. And it’s the kind of thing normal people can really understand the ways in which Cohen talked about Trump are ways that people can relate to in a different way than a lot of the other conversations that revolve around these topics.

To your point about Republicans, there's no question the Republicans behaved contemptibly in many cases in terms of how they tried to make their case against Cohen, but the political thing that is most significant is the degree to which they made no effort not just to not find the truth, they made no efforts to do that, but they made no effort to try to discredit the facts that Michael Cohen put forward. They tried to discredit credit his character but on the facts, the ones that had potential, actual legal implications, they did nothing to try to discredit those facts.

So, I think by abdicating Trump in that way, they left him exposed to a much greater degree than most people would have anticipated and there may be, for all their sound and fury, for all their attacks on Cohen, there may have been an implicit understanding among a lot of Republicans is the reason they couldn't take Cohen on the facts and that they realize exactly how badly those facts are for Donald Trump.