Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer to Donald Trump, is publicly testifying before the House Oversight Committee — delivering remarks under oath in which he calls the President a “racist,” “conman” and “cheat.”
The public testimony kicked off contentiously Wednesday with a motion from Republican Rep. Mark Meadows asking to delay the hearing, arguing that evidence was not submitted early enough. The panel voted against the motion. A copy of Cohen’s prepared opening statement was made public the night before the hearing.
While Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, initially said the hearing would not extend to matters related to alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election, he said at the start of the hearing that the committee would not restrict questions about Russia.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, ranking member of the Oversight Committee, spoke after Cummings and made the argument that Cohen is a “fraudster, cheat, felon and in two months a federal inmate” who cannot be trusted and is a “patsy” for the Democrats who want to remove President Trump from office.
The live testimony before Congress takes place as Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam. When asked if he had any response to Cohen’s testimony, Trump didn’t answer and just shook his head. In a tweet early Wednesday, Trump said Cohen “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.” Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May following his guilty plea.
Among those expected to question Cohen on the House Oversight Committee are Democrats Cummings, Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Meadows, Justin Amash, Paul Gosar and Virginia Foxx are some of several Republicans who will question Cohen.
Follow along for updates as Cohen testifies before Congress and watch the hearing live above.
Cohen calls Trump a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat” in prepared statement
Cohen, who was disbarred in New York after pleading guilty to lying to Congress about his pursuit of a potential Trump Tower development in Moscow and committing campaign finance violations, called Trump a “cheat” in his testimony.
Cohen suggested in his testimony that Trump implicitly instructed him to lie about the real estate project in Moscow and says Trump knew he was lying to Congress. Cohen said that Trump knew about and directed negotiations for the Moscow development project during the presidential campaign and lied about it.
He also told the House committee that Trump knew in advance about WikiLeaks’ release of emails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Cohen claimed that Roger Stone told Trump about the email dump from WikiLeaks in June 2016; the first emails were released in July of that year.
Cohen additionally detailed racist statements from Trump, including saying that “black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
Cohen says Trump, while in office, paid him off to reimburse costs related to silence Stormy Daniels
Cohen provided a check to the committee that Trump personally signed, while he was in office, to reimburse him for a $130,000 payment made to keep Stormy Daniels, a porn star, quiet about her affair with Trump.
Trump has previously claimed to know nothing about these payments. During the hearing, Cummings asked Cohen: “Is there any doubt in your mind that President Trump knew exactly what he was paying for?”
“There is no doubt in my mind,” he said.
Cohen says Trump is “all about winning”
Committee member Debbie Wasserman-Schultz asked Cohen if he believed Trump had asked for the WikiLeaks email dump. Cohen said he was not aware and added, “Mr. Trump is all about winning.”
Asked by Wasserman-Schultz if Trump would have the “potential to cooperate or collude with a foreign power to win the presidency at all costs,” Cohen answered, “Yes.”
“Mr. Trump’s desire to win would have him work with anyone,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch spars with Republicans
Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat, refuted the Republicans’ line of questioning toward Cohen after GOP committee members repeatedly brought up his crimes in anger throughout the course of the hearing. Lynch noted that a number of other people associated with Trump, including Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, have emerged as criminals. “Your side ran away from the truth, and we’re trying to bring it to the American people,” Lynch said.
Lynch then questioned Cohen about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Cohen said he briefed Trump’s children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, about ten times on the deal.
Cohen says he spoke with Novartis multiple times
In another heated exchange between Meadows and Cohen, the Congressman asked how times many Cohen had spoken with representatives from the pharmaceutical giant, which previously paid him $1.2 million for access to his “knowledge of the enigma of Donald Trump,” he said.
Cohen said he’d talked to Novartis about six times.
Cohen and Rep. Jim Jordan have tense exchanges
Cohen and the Republican Congressman have sparred on and off throughout the hearing. Jordan at one point accused Cohen of wanting a job at the White House, and said he’s now “behaving just like everyone else who got fired or didn’t get the job they wanted.”
Cohen pushed back at the accusation, saying he “did not want to go to the White House. I was offered jobs.”
Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who have been tweeting throughout the hearing, disputed Cohen’s account.
Later, Jordan asked why Cohen didn’t deny a BuzzFeed report that said Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress.
“It wasn’t our responsibility to be the fact-checker,” Cohen said.
Cohen says his attorney, Lanny Davis, is representing him for free
Asked by Republican Jody Hice who was paying his attorney, Lanny Davis, Cohen said the lawyer was working for free.
“So he’s doing all this work for nothing?” Hice asked.
“Yes sir, and I hope so,” Cohen responded.
Hice said, “I kind of doubt it.”
Davis, who previously served as special counsel to Bill Clinton, has been accused by Republicans of orchestrating the testimony.
Jordan, in his opening remarks, said, “They’ve got to find somebody somewhere to say something to remove the president from office. They didn’t find him. Lanny Davis found him. So now Clinton loyalist, Clinton operative Lanny Davis, has persuaded the chairman of the oversight committee to give a convicted felon a forum to tell stories and lie about the president of the United States.
Cohen says Trump told him to lie about illegal payments to Stormy Daniels
Cohen said Trump instructed him to lie about the hush payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump told Cohen to say the President had no knowledge of the payments made to Daniels to buy her silence for an alleged affair with Trump.
Cohen implies Trump is being investigated for further illegal activity
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi asked Cohen about recent interactions between Cohen and Trump or other people representing the President.
Cohen replied, “Unfortunately, this topic is actually something that’s being investigated now by the Southern District of New York, and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss and not to talk about these issues.”
Krishnamoorthi then asked if Cohen was aware of any further wrongdoing or illegal acts by Trump.
“Yes,” Cohen said. “And again, those are part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.”
With reporting from Alana Abramson.