Problem with Trump’s ‘liar’ claims
Courts and Congress in the United States are revealing a menagerie of appalling characters as long-time associates of Donald Trump.
While the President chums up to a ruthless North Korean dictator at the Hanoi summit, his close relationships back home are being examined in detail.
Some of those cronies, such as Mr Trump's former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen, who overnight gave a congressional committee a picture of a racist, lying President, will not be believed when they tell their stories.
But Donald Trump will be tainted by their proximity to him and deep involvement in his personal dealings. His connections with Mr Cohen over many years is one link.
If his lawyer is untrustworthy, as the President now insists, why did he stick with him for so long?
One answer might be that Donald Trump needed someone shifty and deceitful because that was how he did business.
Leaders are known by the quality of their retainers.
Michael Cohen comes across as a professional liar who earned money by bending veracity on behalf of Mr Trump. He was on the payroll because Mr Trump wanted questionable deeds performed without his fingerprints on them.
And then there are the cheques. Mr Cohen carried them on various missions to buy off people with damaging stories about his boss. Those cheques might sometimes be signed by a Trump - father or one of his sons - and are a record of that connection and those lurid exercises.
One of them, Mr Cohen has testified before Congress, was a payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels who alleged she had an affair with Mr Trump. The money was reimbursed with a cheque signed by Donald Trump Jr, Mr Cohen testified. Mr Trump's capacity to associate with controversial characters isn't entirely ancient history.
One of his most vigorous supporters, Florida Rep Matt Gaetz, is now being investigated for allegedly threatening Mr Cohen before his testimony.
He tweeted: "Hey @MichaelCohen212 - Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot …"
The vast company of dubious colleagues includes Roger Stone, a long-term adviser to Mr Trump and active for him in the political demimonde.
Mr Stone is currently unable to comment after being slapped with a gag order imposed by a judge hearing accusations against him - made following Mr Stone's Instagram post depicting the judge with what appeared to be firearm crosshairs.
But he was present by name in the Cohen testimony. The congressional committee was told Mr Stone had told Mr Trump during the 2016 election campaign that WikiLeaks was about to dump a mass of documents from Democrat Hillary Clinton's emails.
Mr Cohen said he was in Mr Trump's office when Mr Stone called with the news and was put on speaker.
Just as damaging are claims Mr Trump was actively involved in a bid to build a hotel in Moscow. The President has said he wasn't dealing with the Russians.
Then there are the little fancies said to have been required by Mr Trump to serve his expansive vanity and his business interests.
"It was my experience that Mr Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes (magazine) and deflated his assets to reduce tax," Mr Cohen said.
In another instances, Mr Cohen related fake bids were made to push up the price of a Trump portrait.
The Cohen version of Mr Trump will be denied in wholesale fashion, by the President and his supporters but has caused undeniable harm.
His testimony could be merely a curtain raiser for the release of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, expected soon.
The question then will be on how the Trump presidency will survive.