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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump's ex-lawyer-fixer looks as ready for his closeup as he gets

Michael Cohen exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan

Michael Cohen exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan in 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

All along, Michael Cohen had the look of a man who was in over his head.

No, we cannot claim to know a person through the glimpses of him we get on television.

Still, one broadcast in which he spoke artlessly for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign yielded a rich sample of the Cohen persona.

That August, polls showed Trump trailing. Cohen was to be asked about recent staff changes.

"You say it's not a shake-up," CNN's Brianna Keilar challenged Cohen via remote link. "But you guys are down, and it would make sense that you would …"

"Says who?" Cohen barks.

"Polls. Most of them. All of them …"

For no fewer than 5 seconds, Cohen stares blankly into the camera lens.

"Says who?"

"Polls. I just told you. I answered your question."

"OK. Which polls?"

"All of them."

"OK. And your question is …?"

Since Trump went on to win the race, it is tempting to believe Cohen got the last laugh from his awkward encounter. But did he?

Barely a year later, pressured by savvy prosecutors, Cohen devolved with due speed into a sad, if reluctant, snitch.

Having done a tough-guy act his whole adult life and boasted he'd "take a bullet" for his boss, Cohen got on board with the authorities who'd raided his home and office and grilled him.

Cohen would give up secret phone recordings of Trump. Pious courtroom confession would follow.

Now the public can expect to hear the angry resignation that goes with a 3-year prison sentence for financial crimes and lying to Congress.

This final public denouement of the Trump-Cohen connection begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday, when Cohen appears before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

And he is expected to unload ugly tales of Trump lying, cheating, lawbreaking and indulging in private racism.

The White House reaction on Tuesday was boilerplate defense-lawyer talk.

"Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements. Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same," said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

This is a typical vulnerability for a witness flipped by prosecutors. If Cohen lied then, why believe he is now telling the truth? The question is always worth asking.

Cohen will be pressed to back up what he says.

But given the president's own shaky credibility, all Cohen's allegations will be swiftly and widely believed — even if Trump's once-trusted toady comes off as an oaf, a deer in the headlights, or worse.

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