One of the things Michael Cohen made clear during his testimony on Wednesday was his description of what it meant to work for Donald Trump. First and foremost, everyone in Trump’s employ is expected to protect and defend him at all costs—including lying on his behalf, threatening people who could damage him, or keeping quiet about his abuses (i.e., NDA’s his employees are required to sign). As has become clear during his presidency, Donald Trump demands complete loyalty.
What we are witnessing right now is that congressional Republicans are giving the president exactly what he has always demanded from his employees. Now matter how much Trump is exposed as a liar, racist, and cheat, the vast majority of them are remaining loyal to him.
It’s not as if they don’t know who Trump is or what he’s done. While many of the president’s supporters live inside the bubble created by right-wing news, congressional Republicans have to do things like sit through the kind of testimony Michael Cohen provided on Wednesday. As an example of what they know, here is a quote Rachael Bade got from one of them after that hearing.
“Truthfully, it is tough to ignore some of the gross immoral behavior by the president,” said one senior House Republican who requested anonymity to speak frankly. “The reason there was no defense is because there is no defense.”
That is why, even amidst all of the legal issues raised by Cohen, this might be the most poignant moment of the day.
Cohen was trying to warn congressional Republicans of the price one pays for being a Trump loyalist. As he says, he should know. For ten years Cohen protected the president at all costs. Now, in addition to having his crimes exposed, he is going to jail for three years.
But Cohen isn’t the only one going to prison. So are the president’s former national security advisor, his campaign manager, and several other associates. The sealed indictments awaiting action at the federal court in Washington, D.C. are likely to see more Trump loyalists locked up.
Of course, we also know what happens to people who sign on with Trump but fail to demonstrate adequate loyalty. Jeff Sessions was one of the first politicians to join Trump’s presidential campaign. He was a loyal foot soldier until he recused himself from the Russia investigation. Because of that, he was trashed repeatedly by the president and eventually fired. The ultimate lesson is that, once you sign on with Trump, you’ve entered a no-win situation: you either go down defending him or he takes you down for being disloyal.
It was fascinating to watch Cohen plead with congressional Republicans to not make the same mistake he did. The president’s former lawyer assumes that their eventual fate will be the same as his.