Michael Cohen laid out a long list of accusations against his former client, President Donald Trump, on Wednesday morning during a televised congressional hearing.
Cohen drew the attention of federal and congressional investigators who have been looking into the president for various alleged crimes.
He’s worked with the special counsel team and admitted to many of the allegations since August 2018, when he turned himself in to authorities.
House Democrats called on him to testify to ask about those allegations.
“I ended up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade,” Cohen said in an opening statement. “Over time, I saw his true character revealed. Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated as am I. He is both good and bad like us 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.”
The House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), has been trying to get Cohen to testify but the hearing had to be postponed before he finally made it. Cohen claimed several allegations against the president are true, such as paying off a porn actress and enriching his own business interests.
“Mr. Trump is someone who ran for office to make his brand great,” Cohen said. “Not to make our country great. He had no intention to lead this nation. Only to market himself and build his wealth and power,” Cohen alleged. “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.”
Cohen described his decade-long role of working for Trump as having to always stay on message and defend him. It monopolized his life, he said. He mostly dealt with real estate development and other business transactions at first, he said; Trump then brought him into his personal life and private dealings before he joined the campaign.
“I knew early on that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests,” Cohen claimed. “And I am ashamed to say when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. [For] a president, I considered it significant and dangerous. But in the mix, lying for Mr. Trump was normalized and no one around him questioned it. In fairness, no one around him today questions it, either.”
The Democratic National Committee was hacked during the presidential election of 2016. WikiLeaks later released the documents showing emails from several high-ranking officials in July 2016. Cohen claims to have been in the room when Trump took a call from political consultant Roger Stone to tell him about the emails’ release days earlier.
“A lot of people have asked me whether Trump knew about the hacked documents, the National Democratic Committee emails, ahead of time,” Cohen said. “The answer is yes. As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.”
Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including two campaign finance violations related to the presidential election, in August 2018. He then pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress in November 2018.
He was later sentenced to three years in prison on December 12. He is scheduled to report for his sentence on May 6.
“As previously stated, I am giving to the committee three years of personal financial statements from 2011, 2012 and 2013,” Cohen said. “It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, like trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”
Trump himself tweeted about the Cohen hearings:
Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also. He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2019
Cohen has already previously admitted to lying to lawmakers in federal court about how much he discussed his proposed business project in Moscow with the president as part of a plea deal. He also admitted to paying off porn actress Stormy Daniels as part of a hush-money agreement. She claimed to have had an affair with the president, which the president has denied.
“He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair and to lie about it to his wife, which I did,” Cohen said. “Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets because she is a kind, good person, and I respect her greatly. She did not deserve that. I am giving to the committee today a copy of [a] $130,000 wire transfer from me.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) echoed others during the hearing who pointed to the fact Cohen is an admitted liar — yet is still testifying. Cummings admitted during the hearing that this is a legitimate concern, but that lawmakers should hear from him and weigh what he says in their overall pursuit of the truth.
“Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a home equity line of credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign,” Cohen said. “And I did that, too, without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether that was the right thing to do.”
Trump has been at the center of a federal investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team have been looking into possible crimes committed by the president or his associates, with a particular focus on whether or not they colluded with Russian interests during the 2016 election.
The special counsel team suggested Cohen receive a tough but fair sentence in a court filing on December 7. The filing suggested it should reflect his lies but also his efforts to remediate his misconduct.
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III sentenced him to three years in prison for tax evasion, lying to lawmakers and breaking campaign finance law on December 12.
Cohen isn’t the first former associate of the president to be taken down. A handful of others have as well since the special counsel investigation launched in May 2017. But it has yet to connect the president himself directly to any collusion allegations — and much of the charges already issued are because of unrelated criminal allegations.
Cohen is appearing before Congress for three days of hearings. The Senate Intelligence Committee had the opportunity to question him first during a closed-door hearing Tuesday.
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