BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On The Media, I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And Bob Garfield. This week, two gigantic Trump stories were slated to occur simultaneously on opposite sides of the globe. Both fundamentally about our president–though in one case in absentia. And both so keenly anticipated that many media watchers predicted that cable news would have to present them on a split screen.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The event in Hanoi with the president incarnate was his second meeting with supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Last year, they captured the world's attention with Trump’s charm offensive in Singapore. This year, he sought to recapture some of that magic and to finish what he never actually started–taking a big step towards North Korea's denuclearization. It was a big fizzle, on both counts.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, It's over. And there was no deal to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
PRES. DONALD J. TRUMP: This time we decided not to do any of the options and we'll see where that goes. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Some say the deal failed because Trump was woefully, willfully unprepared. As for the magic, it was gone. Not that the audience doesn't enjoy some improv or a high wire act but there is much less appetite for reruns. And there was a hot ticket live show right here at home. Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, in an all day engagement before the House Oversight Committee.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The fact checkers and the news analysts have had their way with it. But the drama worked its way into the amygdala and hippocampus of every viewer who thrilled or quailed or mostly cringed at the spectacle–but found it hard to turn away. It was monotonous sometimes since some committee members were reading from the same page but it was gripping, and it was all so familiar. A popular genre, a procedural with a dash of movie mob melodrama thrown in.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The organized crime type of language has kind of been a theme throughout this presidency.
PRES. DONALD J. TRUMP: I know all about flipping for 30, 40 years. I've been watching flippers. Everything's wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they they flip on whoever the next highest one is. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And then there's Michael Cohen talking about threatening people on Wednesday.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER: How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?
MICHAEL COHEN: Quite a few times.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER: Fifty times?
MICHAEL COHEN: More.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER: A hundred times?
MICHAEL COHEN: More.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER: Two hundred times?
MICHAEL COHEN: More.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER: Five hundred times?
MICHAEL COHEN: Probably. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: A lot of people have made this observation. Nicholas Pileggi, who penned screenplays for 'Goodfellas' and 'Casino,' He told the New York Times that it rang such a bell with him that Trump was surrounded by these people being raised in that environment it was normalized to him.
MICHAEL COHEN: At the same time, I was actively negotiating in Russia for him. He would look me in the eye and tell me there's no Russian business. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: I do take your point about mob movies. When Cohen was testifying on Wednesday about how Trump would tell him how to testify without actually telling him how to testify.
MICHAEL COHEN: He doesn't give you questions. He doesn't give you orders. He speaks in a code and I understand the code because I've been around him for a decade. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: That sounded familiar.
[CLIP OF THE GODFATHER PART II]
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Do you ever get such an order directly from Michael Corleone?
WILLIE CICCI: No. I never talked to him. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: It was so Willie Cicci, the Corleone family soldier who in Godfather Part II was testifying before what looked very much like the Kefauver committee on organized crime.
[CLIP OF THE GODFATHER PART II]
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Uh, Mr. Cicci, could you amplify your answer a bit please?
WILLIE CICCI: To what?
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Was there always a buffer involved? Is someone in between you and your possible superiors, who gave the actual orders?
WILLIE CICCI: Right. Yeah, buffer. The family had a lot of buffers. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah. Interesting side note Bob, the Kefauver hearings were televised live back in 1951 and they were a blockbuster. I was reading about them. Women they said neglected their house work. Thirty million people tuned in.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: At New York's Federal Building, alleged overlord of gambling Frank Costello arrives to face the Senatorial gambling probe. Frank Erickson, convicted bookmaker, is also on hand. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And then later that year Americans chose the committee chairman C. Estes Kefauver, who is the first time Tennessee Democrat, as one of the 10 most admired men right up there with the Pope and Albert Einstein.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Crime investigating committee headed by Senator Estes Kefauver left swept into New York uncovering hidden criminal activities. This was a housecleaning that lifted the rug, indeed. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: So organized crime. Yes, the echoes were everywhere. But I also heard some other Hollywood echoes. There was even some Woody Allen when the Republican Jody Hice said--.
REP. JODY HICE: And it's a shameful mockery of what our purpose is. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: And Mark Green of Tennessee said.
REP. MARK GREEN: His presence here is a travesty. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: I'm like this is bananas, literally Brooke. The courtroom scene from the movie Bananas.
[CLIP OF THE MOVIE BANANAS ]
WOODY ALLEN AS FIELDING MELLISH: It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: But look, what really struck me on Wednesday had nothing to do with courtroom dramas or forces. What struck me was Dickins?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What?
BOB GARFIELD: Ok bear with me. Here was Cohen in his opening statement.
MICHAEL COHEN: I am ashamed of my weakness and my misplaced loyalty. Of the things I did for Mr Trump in an effort to protect and promote him. I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: That was nominally an apology. But as the day progressed. I think it took on a new cast. When Tennessee Republican Jim Cooper asked Cohen why, after so many years, he decided to turn on the president, Cohen restated that apology more as a warning to the president's see no evil supporters arrayed on the dais in front of him.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Were they on a dais?
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah, it was elevated.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: OK.
MICHAEL COHEN: I did the same thing that you're doing now. And I can only warn people, the more people that follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering. [END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: It was like, 'this is your future.' It was right out of A Christmas Carol. Cohen was, you know, the ghostly Jacob Marley and the Republicans were Scrooge.
[CLIP OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL]
JACOB MARLEY: I am here to warn you, to save you if that be possible.
EBENEZER SCROOGE: From what?
JACOB MARLEY: From such a fate as mine.
EBENEZER SCROOGE: But you were always a good man of business Jacob, business.
JACOB MARLEY: Mankind should be my business. Charity, forbearance, benevolence, all my business–as they should be in yours. [END CLIP].