Speed Reads

Cohen in Congress

Republican questioning of Cohen might backfire. And the Democrats are 'overreaching.'

The early reviews are in and it's so far, not so good for the Republican line of questioning in Michael Cohen's testimony on Wednesday. It hasn't been much better for Democrats by most accounts, either.

CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin did not mince words in his critique of the hearing, saying he was struck by "the breathtaking incompetence of the questioning" that did not lead to any valuable information from Cohen.

A report from The Washington Post, meanwhile, asked whether Republicans' questioning could eventually backfire, as many of the attacks directed at Cohen are similar to criticisms leveled at Trump throughout his presidency — lying about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, hiring high-profile lawyers pro bono, and calling back witnesses who previously lied to Congress.

In a running online commentary, reporters and editors from The New York Times noted that several of the Republicans' tactics have not panned out, including attempts to "show that Cohen is doing this for financial gain" (several questions revolved around whether the former lawyer is pursuing a book or movie deal). The Times' White House correspondent also noted some hypocrisy surrounding that topic, as Trump "often promotes such books when they flatter him."

At the same time, Times reporter Nicholas Fandos asserted that the Republicans "actually have a clearer sense" of what they are hoping to achieve — "muddy the waters around Cohen" — than the Democrats, who "continue to overreach a bit" and "seem to be having a much harder time choosing which targets are worth their time."

For example, editor Jonathan Weisman said that Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) — who asked Cohen if Trump arranged for "health care procedures" outside of the family — "seemed to have gone fishing and his hook came up the bait still on it."