Update 3: Now that the Cohen hearing has reached its first break for lunch, we can recap some of the drama from the latter half of his morning testimony.
Republicans really tore into Cohen, getting him to admit that he consulted with Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings before preparing his testimony, and that he was being represented pro bono (though Cohen insisted he would pay him back one day) by Clinton superlawyer Lanny Davis.
There's also the issue of Cohen describing a phone call between Roger Stone and Donald Trump where Stone said he had "just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange of Wikileaks. Mueller's indictment suggested that there was no evidence showing direct contact between Stone and Assange.
When asked why Cohen finally decided to turn on Trump, the former attorney brought up "Helsinki, Charlottesville" and the "daily destruction of our civility"...of course, after ten years of serving Trump without a word of protest, we're supposed to believe that Cohen suddenly had a change of heart after being cornered by investigators? It's more plausible that Cohen's primary motive was, as the president suggested, to protect himself and his family.
But in one of the more memorable moments, aides posted a giant "Liar, Liar Pants on Fire" sign featuring Cohen's image as Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar asked some particularly aggressive questions which led to Cohen admitting that a sentence reduction from SDNY was "still a possibility."
Meanwhile, Jim Jordan, the ranking member of the committee, offered an observation: Never has an individual convicted of lying to Congress been invited back to testify before Congress so quickly as Cohen.
* * *
Update 2: Now that Cohen has finished reading his statement, what's expected to be a lengthy Q&A session has begun. Chairman Cummings started it off by warning Cohen that lying wouldn't be tolerated at this hearing, before launching into a review of the documents submitted by Cohen to try and illustrate that Trump did, in fact, know about the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
Republican ranking member Jim Jordan followed by pointing out the litany of crimes committed by Cohen, including tax evasion and bank fraud, which he didn't commit "to protect" the president and his family.
And let's not forget about the "Women for Cohen" twitter account, which Cohen said he didn't create himself, and was done by a firm working for the campaign. "We were having fun," Cohen said. Things got a little "wild and crazy" during the campaign.
Jordan then fixated on Cohen's inability to secure a job at the White House. "That's it, isn't it?" "No it's not," Cohen said. "You didn't get brung to the dance," Jordan said.
Then Cohen tried to argue that he actually didn't want to work in the White House, and that he only wanted to be personal attorney to the president, which he got. Jordan followed up by saying Cohen was acting like every White House official who had turned on the president after being fired.
And with that, it looks like Cohen may have already told his first fib under oath.
Cohen: “I didn’t want to go to the White House.” LIAR. He complained to me on numerous occasions about the fact that POTUS didn’t offer him a job at the WH. #CohenTestimony— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) February 27, 2019
Eric Trump tweeted something similar.
Michael was lobbying EVERYONE to be “Chief of Staff.” It was the biggest joke in the campaign and around the office. Did he just perjure himself again?— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) February 27, 2019
Apparently, Cohen may not be the only one trying to settle old grudges during the hearing. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was exposed by the DNC leaks for leading an internal effort to tilt the primary in Clinton's favor, asked several questions about the campaign's contacts with Russians. In response, Cohen insisted that Roger Stone lied about directly consulting the president about upcoming publication of hacked DNC emails by Wikileaks. DWS also asked whether Trump would have colluded with a foreign government to "win at all costs." Cohen said Trump's desire to win would "have him work with anyone."
With this, Cohen has apparently painted himself into a corner. He insisted that Trump never expected to win, but at the same time said he would do "anything" to win. Which is it?
Cohen just totally contradicted himself, telling Wasserman-Schultz that Trump would "do anything to win" including possibly colluding with a foreign power, but earlier Cohen had testified that Trump "never expected to win," as if he didn't really care. So which is it?— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) February 27, 2019
So much for Cummings' urgings that Dems not fixate on Russia.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz just inadvertently threw oil in Elijah Cummings’ water.— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) February 27, 2019
She got Cohen to admit that Roger Stone didn’t work for Trump and that Trump didn’t direct Stone to do anything.
* * *
Update: Before Chairman Elijah Cummings could even finish his introductory statement, Republican Mark Meadows interrupted him to try and push through a motion to delay the hearing, claiming that Cohen broke committee rules by intentionally holding back his testimony.
The Times said Republican committee members will likely try this several times during the hearing to "break up the flow of the hearing" and "voice their objections" to the fact that Cohen was even allowed to appear.
In other words, strap in. It's going to be a long day.
* * *
Update: Cohen's testimony will begin at 10 am ET.
Watch live below:
* * *
After Tuesday's closed door testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded without any explosive leaks, disgraced former Trump Attorney Michael Cohen is ready for his prime time moment when he testifies before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
By now, many have already read about some of the most outrageous claims from Cohen's testimony, which was largely previewed in a series of leaks to the press published earlier in the week. And true to those reports, Cohen accused the president of being a "racist, a conman and a cheat" and offered a series of anecdotes from his time with Trump - as well as a slew of exhibits and documents - to try and back up his claims.
I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.
He is a racist.
He is a conman.
He is a cheat.
Later on, Cohen alleged that, while Trump has the capacity to act kind, he is not a kind or generous person, and that, since taking office, Trump "has become the worst version of himself."
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. 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
Some of Cohen's allegations go beyond what has been publicly disclosed by the Mueller probe so far: These include Cohen's claim that Trump knew Roger Stone was working with Wikileaks' Julian Assange, and that Stone alerted him to the impending publication of hacked DNC emails.
He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.
A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes.
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”
As for the "bombshell" documents that Cohen is bringing to the hearing as "evidence" to corroborate his long-winded character assassination, they include:
I am providing the Committee today with several documents. These include:
- A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account – after he became president - to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign;
- Copies of financial statements for 2011 – 2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank;
- A copy of an article with Mr. Trump’s handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself – he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs; and
- Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.
While most of these are simply mildly embarrassing, the check reimbursing Cohen for the payoffs could pose legal risks for the president since it was cut from his personal bank account.
Focusing on Trump's MO in weaving this illicit web of deceit, Cohen said that while Trump didn't explicitly instruct him to lie. However, Trump's lawyers, according to Cohen, reviewed his Congressional testimony before Cohen delivered it (Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying during this testimony).
I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false – our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign. Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign, 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 business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie. There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me “How’s it going in Russia?” – referring to the Moscow Tower project.
You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.
Trump has already acknowledged that the Trump Tower Moscow talks continued even after his inauguration, but the president has largely shrugged off allegations of impropriety by pointing out that nothing ever came of the deal. In his testimony, Cohen tries to take these already public revelations and frame them as something new:
To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. And so I lied about it, too – because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.
During the section of his testimony where Cohen tries to win sympathy by portraying himself as a well-intentioned family man who fell in with a bad crowd and lost his way, the now-disbarred attorney revealed in a suspicious, apropos-of-nothing boast that his friends regarded him as so trustworthy, that the parents of his kids' friends allowed them to list Cohen as their emergency contact "because their parents knew that I would drop everything and care for them as if they were my own,"
As many people that know me best would say, I am the person they would call at 3AM if they needed help. I proudly remember being the emergency contact for many of my children’s friends when they were growing up because their parents knew that I would drop everything and care for them as if they were my own.
Also, in case it hadn't already been made abundantly clear by a fusillade of media leaks regarding Cohen's plea agreement with Mueller, Cohen states for the record that the "Individual 1" discussed in the agreement was, in fact, President Trump.
For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump.
In what appears to be another bid to shore up his credibility, Cohen took another widely-accepted observation about the Trump Campaign and tried to spin it as something new: The notion that Trump never expected to win the election, and only ran to "make his brand great." And to add another dollop of truthiness, Cohen inserted a line that Trump would allegedly repeat from time to time: That his campaign would be "the greatest infomercial in political history."
Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the "greatest infomercial in political history." He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign – for him – was always a marketing opportunity.
And while Trump's public remarks have often been criticized as racist by the mainstream press, Cohen claimed that, in private, his remarks were "even worse."
He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a “shithole.” This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.
While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.
And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid. And yet I continued to work for him.
As was previewed in leaks ahead of the testimony, Cohen used the financial statements submitted as evidence to support his claim that Trump repeatedly tried to inflate his personal wealth when trying to increase his rankings on the Forbes list of wealthiest people, and tried to minimize them when paying taxes.
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, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.
But in the second half of Cohen's testimony, the claims get truly outrageous. In one memorable anecdote, Cohen describes how Trump instructed him to set up a straw bidder to ensure that a portrait of him sold at a charity auction would fetch the highest price. That piece of art, according to Cohen (and, again, widely acknowledged media reports) was purchased with money from Trump's charitable foundation.
Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.
Offering what he described as evidence that Trump "doesn't love our nation", Cohen recounted how, after cutting the salaries of his employees - including Cohen's - in half, Trump allegedly showed Cohen a $10 million IRS tax-refund check and joked about how dumb the government was for giving "someone like him" his money back.
When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees’ salaries in half – including mine – he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving “someone like him” that much money back.
After tasking Cohen with handling press inquiries about his deferment from Vietnam, the president allegedly acknowledged that the "medical deferment" he received was, pardon the pun, spurious.
Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment. “You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”
I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.
When it comes to direct evidence that Trump colluded with Russia, Cohen professed that he did not have direct knowledge of Trump's involvement in any efforts to cooperate. But he did have his suspicions.
Cohen recounted an incident from June 2016 when he Don Jr. walked behind Trump's desk - something that people, even his children, just didn't do - and whispered something about a meeting into the president's ear. Cohen went on to imply that Trump almost certainly knew about the Trump Tower meeting because Trump believed Don Jr. "had the worst judgment of anyone in the world" and that his son would never arrange anything on his father's behalf without checking with him first.
Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, "Dirt on Hillary Clinton." Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father’s desk – which in itself was unusual. People didn’t just walk behind Mr. Trump’s desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: "The meeting is all set." I remember Mr. Trump saying, "Ok good…let me know." What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone – and certainly not without checking with his father.
Cohen concluded his testimony with a litany of thank-yous and apologies, affirming that he was grateful for the opportunity to clear his name. Of course, after he delivers his statement during Wednesday's hearing, which is slated to begin at 10 am ET, lawmakers will be allowed several hours to ask questions.
Read the full prepared remarks below: