- Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime former lawyer and fixer, appeared before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday for a blockbuster hearing about his relationship with the president.
- During his hearing, Cohen called Trump a “racist,” a “cheat,” and a “con-man” who engaged in criminal conduct while in office.
- Follow along live as we bring you all the updates from Cohen’s testimony.
President Donald Trump’s longtime former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, appeared before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday for a highly anticipated hearing about his relationship with Trump.
The hearing, which was public, focused on Cohen’s history of working with Trump, Trump’s role in several hush-money payments made to women during the 2016 election, Trump’s character, and some topics related to the ongoing Russia investigation.
Scroll down for updates from the hearing:
In closing remarks, Cohen says his blind loyalty to Trump cost him ‘everything’
In his closing remarks, Cohen once again acknowledged his past misconduct.
“I’ve acknowledged that I have made my own mistakes and I have owned up to them publicly and under oath,” he said.
“But silence and complicity in the face of the daily destruction of our basic norms and civility to one another will not be one of them,” he continued. “I did things and I acted improperly, at times at Mr. Trump’s behest.”
Cohen added that he “blindly” followed Trump’s demands and that “my loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me everthing: my family’s happiness, friendships, my law licence, my company, my livelihood, my honour, my reputation, and soon my freedom.”
“But I will not sit back, say nothing, and allow him to do the same to the country,” Cohen said.
Cohen suggests Trump lied when he said his tax returns were under audit
Democratic Rep. Gomez asked Cohen about Trump’s dubious claim that he cannot release his tax returns because they are under audit.
Cohen said that while he didn’t know whether that was true or not, he “asked for a copy of the audit” in 2016 so he could use it when making statements to the press but was “never able to obtain one.”
“Can you give us any insight into what the real reason is that the president has refused to release his tax returns?” Gomez asked.
Cohen replied, “Statements that he has said to me: that what he didn’t want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties, and so on.”
“So could you presume from that statement that he wasn’t under audit?” Gomez pressed.
“I presumed that he’s not under audit,” Cohen said.
Cohen testifies that Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organisation CFO Allen Weisselberg committed ‘garden variety financial fraud’
After returning from a break, several Democratic lawmaker grilled Cohen about the hush-money payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels, as well as Trump’s dubious claim that he cannot release his tax returns because they are under audit.
Rep. Ro Khanna focused on the $US35,000 check Cohen had presented to the committee that came from Trump’s personal trust in March 2017. The check was signed by Donald Trump Jr. and the longtime Trump Organisation CFO Allen Weisselberg.
In their charging document against Cohen, New York federal prosecutors said he sent monthly false invoices to Weisselberg, who forwarded them to Trump Jr. In reality, prosecutors said, the invoices were meant to disguise the reason Cohen was being paid $US35,000 in monthly installments – he was being reimbursed for facilitating the $US130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels.
The conduct by Trump Jr., Weisselberg, and Cohen represented “garden variety financial fraud,” Khanna said, and asked Cohen whether Trump was aware of the scheme.
Cohen replied that he was.
“Are you telling us, Mr. Cohen, that the president directed transactions in conspiracy with Allen Weisselberg and his son, Donald Trump Jr., as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud?” Khanna pressed. “Is that your testimony today?”
“Yes,” Cohen said.
Cohen says he doesn’t walk anywhere with his wife or kids because he fears for their safety
Cohen was asked to address efforts by Trump and those around him that some legal experts said may amount to attempted witness intimidation, including public attacks from the president and his allies.
“I don’t walk with my wife if we go to a restaurant or go somewhere,” Cohen said. “I don’t walk with my children. I make them go before me because I have fear, and it’s the same fear that I had before when he initially decided to drop that tweet in my cell phone.”
It’s unclear what Cohen was referring to. But last month, Trump invited scrutiny when he sent out a tweet suggesting prosecutors look into Cohen’s family in retaliation for his decision to testify against Trump before the House Oversight Committee.
“I receive some tweets … all sorts of social media attacks upon me … that I’ve had to turn over to the Secret Service because they are the most vile, disgusting statements that anyone can ever receive,” Chen said. “And when it starts to affect your children, that’s when it really affects you.”
Cohen says Moscow Trump Tower negotiations stopped because ‘he won the presidency’
While being probed by Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of California, Cohen said negotations about building a tower in Moscow, Russia, stopped only because Trump won the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Clinton.
“Because he won the presidency,” Cohen said in response to a question about why the negotiations ceased.
“Here I would say to Mr. Trump, in response to his question ‘What’s going on with Russia?’ is ‘I’m still waiting for documents.’ And then that night at a rally he would turn around and do his battle cry of ‘no Russia, no collusion, no involvement, witch hunt.’
Cohen drops another bomb, says the Southern District of New York is currently investigating ‘wrongdoing or illegal acts’ involving Trump that have not yet come to light
Cohen made another stunning revelation in response to questioning from Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi.
Krishnamoorthi began questioning Cohen about the last time he communicated with Trump or anyone acting on his behalf.
Cohen said he didn’t recall the exact timeframe but estimated it occurred “within two months post the [FBI] raid” of his property, which took place last April.
“OK, so, early fall of last year, generally?” Krishnamoorthi asked, which Cohen confirmed.
“And what did [Trump] or his agent communicate to you?” Krishnamoorthi said.
“Unfortunately, this topic is actually something that’s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss it, not to talk about these issues,” Cohen said.
“Fair enough,” Krishnamoorthi replied. “Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven’t yet discussed today?”
“Yes,” Cohen said. “And again, those are part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.”
???? @CongressmanRaja "Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act regarding Donald Trump we haven't discussed today?"
COHEN: "Yes… and those are part of the investigation being looked at by the Southern District of New York."???? pic.twitter.com/Ckck27CSQH
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 27, 2019
Cohen: ‘You don’t have to take my word for it … I want you to look at the documents. I want you to make your own decision’
Cohen took some time while being questioned by Lynch to address Republican accusations that he was a proven liar and that his comments at the hearing could not be trusted for that reason.
“The lies that I told to Congress, in fairness, benefited Mr. Trump,” Cohen said. “It was in furtherance of my protection of Mr. Trump, which I stated in my testimony. And I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore.”
Cohen added: “To attack me every single time about taxes, [and to say] I have no credibility, it’s for exactly that reason that I spent the last week searching boxes in order to find the information that I did. So that you don’t have to take my word for it. I don’t want you to. I want you to look at the documents. I want you to make your own decision.”
Cohen says he briefed the Trump family ‘approximately ten times’ on the status of the Trump Tower Moscow project
Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch used his time to question Cohen about Trump’s history of business dealings in Russia, culminating in his efforts, during the campaign, to put up a Trump Tower in Moscow.
“In your filing with the special counsel Mueller’s office, prosecutors wrote, and I quote, ‘Mr. Cohen discussed the status and progress of the Moscow project with Individual-1 on more than the three occasions Mr. Cohen claimed to the committee, and he briefed family members of Individual-1 with the company about the project.'”
Cohen confirmed that “Individual-1” was Trump and that the company referred to in the document was the Trump Organisation. He also said he briefed Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump on the progress of the deal as part of “the regular course of business.”
Asked to clarify how often he briefed the Trump family on the project, Cohen said he did so “approximately ten times.”
GOP Rep. Mark Meadows tears into Cohen
GOP lawmakers on the committee left no stone unturned as they ripped into Cohen and his character.
North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the chair of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, began shouting at Cohen. Meadows asked about ties to various companies that paid Cohen after Trump took office.
“Did you collect $US1.2 million or so from Novartis?” Meadows asked, referencing a payment the company made to Cohen.
“I did,” Cohen said.
“For access to the Trump administration,” Meadows interjected.
“Because they came to me looking for information … and they believed that I had a value and that the value was the insight I was capable of offering them,” Cohen said. “They were willing to pay -“
“How many times did you meet with them?” Meadows interjected. “For $US1.2 million, how many times did you meet with them?”
Cohen said he provided the company’s executives with “in-person as well as telephone access whenever they needed it.”
“How many times – yes or – that’s a question, Mr. Cohen,” Meadows said as his voice grew louder and he threw his hands up in frustration.
“I don’t recall, sir,” Cohen replied, but later said he spoke to them six times.
“Six times,” Meadows said. “Wow. $US200,000 a call.”
When Cohen tried to elaborate on his statements, Meadows cut him off and said, “This is my five minutes to control, Mr. Cohen, not yours.”
Rep. Mark Meadows presses Michael Cohen for "proof" of any racist remarks privately expressed by Pres. Trump.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2019
Cohen says there was something ‘odd’ about Trump’s ‘back-and-forth praise with President Putin’ during the campaign
When asked whether Trump lied about colluding or coordinating with the Russians during the campaign, Cohen replied that he wouldn’t characterise it that way.
“Was there something odd about the back-and-forth praise with President Putin?” Cohen said. “Yes. But I’m not really sure that I can answer that question in terms of collusion.”
After a tense back-and-forth, Cohen concedes that Trump could have the ‘potential’ to cooperate with a foreign power to win the election
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked Cohen whether, given what he knew about the president and his “winning-at-all-costs mentality,” he believed Trump “would cooperate of collude with a foreign power to win the presidency.”
“Is he capable of that?” Wasserman Schultz asked.
“That calls on so much speculation, ma’am, it would be unfair for me to -” Cohen began, before being cut off.
“I understand, but you have a tremendous amount of experience given what you have testified today,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“Mr. Trump is all about winning,” Cohen said. “He will do what is necessary in order to win.”
“And in your opinion and experience, would he have the potential to cooperate or collude with a foreign power to win the presidency at all costs?” Wasserman Schultz pressed.
“Yes,” Cohen said.
Cohen says Stone ‘frequently reached out to’ Trump and that Trump ‘was very happy to take his calls. It was free service.’
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz also focused on Trump’s relationship with Republican strategist Roger Stone, asking Cohen whether he believed Trump “explicitly or implicitly authorised Mr. Stone to make contact with Wikileaks and to indicate the campaign’s interest in the strategic release of these illegally hacked materials?”
“I’m not aware of that,” Cohen said, adding that Stone was acting as a “free agent” and not a representative of the campaign at the time.
“A free agent that was reporting back to the president what he had done?” Wasserman Schultz said.
“Correct,” Cohen replied. “He frequently reached out to Mr. Trump and Mr. Trump was very happy to take his calls. It was free service.”
Cohen also told Wasserman Schultz that he was not aware of whether Trump had advance knowledge of – or directed the release of – WikiLeaks’ document dump in October 2016, which took place just minutes after the release of a damaging Access Hollywood tape featuring Trump making lewd remarks about women.
Cohen: It’s possible the entire Trump family was ‘conflicted’ or ‘compromised’ by a foreign adversary during the election
In a noteworthy exchange with Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was the chair of the DNC at the time it was hacked, Cohen said Trump “had advance notice that there was going to be a dump of emails” from WikiLeaks before the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Cohen added that he was “not aware” if Trump had shared that information, which he learned from Roger Stone, with his children of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
At the time, Cohen testified, the Trump Organisation was still actively involved in trying to push the Trump Tower Moscow deal through, “which meant that the family was involved in the deal.”
“If Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka and son Donald Jr. are involved in the Russian [Trump Tower] deal, is it possible that the whole family was conflicted or compromised with a foreign adversary in the months before the election?” Wasserman Schultz asked.
“Yes,” Cohen replied.
Cohen: ‘There is no doubt in my mind’ that Trump knew what he was paying for when he reimbursed me
Chairman John Cummings zeroed in on Cohen’s statements about being reimbursed for the Stormy Daniels payments.
“Donald Trump wrote you a check out of his personal check while he was serving as President of the United States to reimburse you for hush money payments to Miss Clifford,” Cummings said. “Is that what you’re telling the American people today?”
“Yes, Mr. Chairman,” Cohen replied.
“Based on your conversations with him, is there any doubt in your mind that President Trump knew exactly what he was paying for?” Cummings said.
“There is no doubt in my mind and, and Certainly believe there is no doubt in the minds of the people of the United States of America,” Cohen replied.
Cohen drops several bombshells about Trump, his family members, and associates
For the first time, Cohen publicly stated that Trump had advance knowledge of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top campaign officials and several Kremlin-connected individuals offering dirt on the Clinton campaign.
- After The New York Times broke the story about the meeting in the summer of 2017, Cohen said he recalled “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,” Cohen recalled. “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.’
- Cohen told the committee that Trump had told him “that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone – and certainly not without checking with his father.”
- “I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump’s knowledge and approval,” Cohen said.
Cohen also provided a copy of a check for $US35,000 that Trump personally signed that was dated August 1, 2017, from when he was serving as president.
- The check, Cohen said, was “pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me – the word used by Mr. Trump’s TV lawyer – for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf [to Stormy Daniels]. This $US35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year – while he was president.”
- Cohen added that Trump gave him the check “as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.”
Cohen skewers Trump’s character, calling him crooked and ‘fundamentally disloyal’
“Sitting here today, it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerised by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong,” Cohen told the committee. “I wound up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade. That was my job. Always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life.”
Cohen continued, calling the president an “enigma.”
He said that while Trump had certain redeeming qualities, “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,” Cohen said. “He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”
Michael Cohen takes the stage
In his opening remarks, Cohen called Trump a “racist,” a “cheat,” and a “con-man” who engaged in criminal conduct while in office.
He also told lawmakers that Trump had advance knowledge that the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks was planning on dumping thousands of stolen Democratic emails – that had been hacked by the Russian government – during the election.
Cohen claimed Trump did not explicitly order him to lie to Congress, as was previously reported by BuzzFeed News in January, but that his directive was implied.
“Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress,” Cohen said. “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,” Cohen added. “In his way, he was telling me to lie.”
Cohen also said that Trump’s legal team “reviewed” his false testimony before he submitted it to Congress in 2017.
Ranking member Jim Jordan highlights Cohen’s criminal past and calls him the Democrats’ ‘patsy’
Ranking member Jim Jordan delivered an impassioned rebuke to both Democrats and Cohen after Cummings’ opening statement.
In particular, Jordan highlighted Cohen’s past, pointing out that he “committed four distinct federal crimes over a period of several years.”
Cohen also “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s statements foreshadow the likely Republican line of attack against Cohen: that because he lied in the past and admitted to misleading Congress, his statements and allegations against Trump cannot be trusted.
“You’re their patsy today,” Jordan told Cohen, referring to the Democrats on the committee. “They have got to find somebody, somewhere, to say something so they can try to remove the president from office.”
Chairman Elijah Cummings: ‘The days of protecting the president at all costs are over. They’re over.’
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the committee, kicked off the hearing by saying that there are “legitimate questions” about Cohen’s credibility, given his previous guilty plea for lying to Congress.
Cummings also warned that if Cohen lied to the committee on Wednesday, lawmakers would refer the case to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
That said, Cummings added, “The days of protecting the president at all costs are over. They’re over.”
The Maryland congressman pointed to Cohen’s prepared remarks, in which Cohen accused Trump of engaging in criminal conduct while in office.
The alleged conduct was related to the hush-money payment Cohen facilitated to the porn star Stormy Daniels during the election. Cohen previously admitted to making the payment “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump, who was a Republican candidate at the time.
Cohen also submitted a copy of a check he received from Trump, while he was in office, to reimburse Cohen for the Daniels payment.
“This new evidence raises a host of troubling legal and ethical concerns about the president’s actions in the White House and before,” Cummings said.
Republicans on the committee gave us a taste of what to expect before the hearing even began, mounting a sign that said, “Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass.”
Read more about Cohen’s testimony:
- Michael Cohen will testify that Trump knew Roger Stone was in touch with WikiLeaks during the election
- ‘I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is’: Michael Cohen’s bombshell opening statement before the House Oversight Committee drops hours before he is scheduled to testify
- Here are the 4 documents Michael Cohen says he gave to the House Oversight Committee that could be problematic for Trump
- Michael Cohen details hush-money payments in bombshell opening statement: ‘Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets’
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.