This morning I read Trump’s former personal attorney, and convicted felon Michael D Cohen’s testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. You can read it here. This morning I’m listening to it.
I’m struck by a few comments he made, and which have come up in questioning too.
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.
He made the reverse comments about himself:
For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand. I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your “fixer,” Mr. Trump.
One of the GOP representatives pointed out in his response to Cohen that “you have lied, and that makes you a liar”.
The idea that one aspect of our behavior is the ultimate and final definition of who we are is false and unhelpful.
We all lie, but let’s be clear that President Trump and Michael Cohen’s lies are egregious and worthy of investigation, criminal cases, and perhaps, impeachment for President Trump. They are not liars. They are people who have lied.
I have also lied. I would offer the weight listed on my driver’s license. Ahem.
I am not only a liar. I also tell the truth. I am a human being. And there is a long record across history, and in scripture that humans are people who make mistakes, who say false things, and who do not live up to their ideas.
Often, I think we lie because of shame, which insidiously tries to convince us we are not enough, that we should hide who we are.
The idea that President Trump is capable of being kind but is not a kind man, and somehow Mr Cohen has lied but is not a liar is a false dichotomy.
They are both men, men who have done good things and men who have done bad things. They are both men, men who have lied and men who have (conceivably) told the truth.
The GOP response to Cohen is that he’s already lied and so we should never listen to him again. Are they right? I don’t know.
If they are, it’s clear that the President has also lied (because his own statements often contradict themselves) and yet they still listen to him.
Mr Cohen has offered documentary evidence to support his statements today. He appears to be contrite and coming for a reckoning. I hope he is sincere. I still expect him to go to prison for his decade long career of lying on behalf of Trump and for his own benefit. His behavior has been egregious and shameful.
I often hear people say President Trump is evil. I resist that characterization, even if I clearly am not a fan of this President. President Trump says and does evil things, perhaps. But he is just a man. He is not categorically evil. He is a man who has done evil things.
The difference between those things for me is a religious distinction. I believe we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. I also believe we are all capable of redemption. If we were to categorize any human being as being only the best or the worst of themselves, we remove either the need for redemption or the ability to receive it.
President Trump once said “I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad.” I’ve written previously about that. I’m confident the president was sincere when he said those words. I still believe he is wrong. Because we all need forgiveness. We all make mistakes. There are no perfect people.