WASHINGTON – Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, made several damning allegations during his highly-anticipated public hearing Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
“I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty — of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him,” Cohen said in his opening remarks. “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.
The Democrats on the House panel made clear that they were determined to dig into Trump’s myriad activities, while Republicans sought to defend their party’s leader by trying to discredit Cohen.
“The days of this Committee protecting the President at all costs are over,” said committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore.
Among the most revelatory of Cohen’s allegations:
- Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks would release a mass of Democratic National Committee emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.
Cohen alleged that in July 2016, Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone called to inform him that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would be releasing the emails just before the Democratic National Convention.
“Wouldn’t that be great,” Cohen alleged Trump said.
Stone denied the call took place.
- Trump directed Cohen to transfer money to Stormy Daniels, the porn star alleging an affair with the then-presidential candidate, in order to secure her silence just days before the election.
Cohen provided the House with a copy of the personal check for $130,000 he sent to Daniels at Trump’s behest. He then provided several checks members of Trump’s team, or Trump personally, sent him as reimbursement over a period of time after Trump had become president.
- Cohen denied having direct knowledge of collusion with Russia by Trump or his campaign. He did, however, say that he believes Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., told his father about setting up the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in New York.
“Ok good…let me know,” Cohen alleges Trump to have responded to his son.
Cohen said he believes this was in reference to that meeting because “Trump had frequently told me and others that…Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world,” and thus “would never set up any meeting of any significance alone – and certainly not without checking with his father.”
- Trump inflated or deflated his assets in accordance with his needs. Cohen said Trump would do the former when trying to land on lists of “wealthiest people,” while doing the latter when trying to reduce his tax burden.
Cohen also raised questions about possible bank fraud by submitting into evidence three years of Trump’s financial statements, from 2011 to 2013, given to Deutsche Bank when exploring a possible loan to purchase the Buffalo Bills football team.
By calling Trump a “cheat” when introducing this evidence, Cohen suggested the financial numbers may not be accurate.
When asked by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, whether he had knowledge of Trump providing fraudulent assets to insurance companies, Cohen replied, “Yes.”
- Trump continued to negotiate with Russia on a potential deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the presidential election. This claim directly contradicts Trump’s public assertions that he has never had significant business dealings with Russia.
Video by Julia Kim
Cohen also appeared to raise eyebrows on the committee and among close observers of the Trump investigations when he revealed that he has been in “constant contact” with U.S. attorneys of the Southern District of New York, which is believed to be probing a number of the president’s business activities.
Cohen expressed, more than once, regret at lying to First Lady Melania Trump.
He said doing so “is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that.”
During questioning, the Republican committee members adopted a strategy of portraying Cohen as a liar and unreliable witness seeking retribution for not being offered a job in the Trump administration.
“When we legitimize dishonesty, we delegitimize this institution,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the committee’s ranking GOP member.
Jordan also accused Democrats of using the hearing as part of a larger plot to strip Trump of power, claiming they gave a “convicted felon a forum to tell stories and lie about the president of the United States so they can all start their impeachment process.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, lashed out at his colleagues across the aisle, telling Cohen they “are not upset because you lied to Congress for the president, they’re upset because you stopped lying to Congress for the president.”
Cohen also hit back, accusing the Republicans of going after him to protect Trump.
“I’m responsible for your silliness because I did the same thing that you’re doing now, for 10 years,” Cohen said. “The more people who follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”
The Trump campaign released a statement in response to Cohen’s testimony several hours into the hearing.
“Michael Cohen is a felon, a disbarred lawyer, and a convicted perjurer, who lied to both Congress and the Special Counsel,” the statement read. “Why did they even bother to swear him in this time?”
Cohen said he does not expect, nor would he accept, a pardon from Trump.
“Since taking office, [Trump] has become the worst version of himself,” Cohen said. “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.”