Cohen testimony on Trump
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, will provide documents to the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday that he says prove Trump committed “illicit” acts, according to prepared congressional testimony obtained by POLITICO.
The documents include one of 11 checks that Trump purportedly wrote after he became president to reimburse Cohen for a hush-money payment to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump. Cohen says the money came from Trump’s personal bank account. He will also provide the committee with a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, that ensured she would remain silent about the alleged affair in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
In his highly anticipated congressional testimony, Cohen — who pleaded guilty to crimes that included lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws related to the hush-money payment — will express remorse over his service to Trump. Cohen will tell lawmakers he is no longer interested in protecting the president.
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” Cohen will say. “I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.” Cohen adds: “He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”
Cohen will testify that Trump directed “a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws” regarding the payment to Daniels. He will say he has never asked for a pardon from Trump and would not accept one.
Wednesday’s public hearing in front of the key House investigative panel will occur while Trump is in Vietnam, where he will meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. Trump’s allies on Tuesday said Cohen’s appearance before the committee, which was previously scheduled for earlier this month, would be a charade meant to distract from the president’s negotiations with Kim. Republicans on the Oversight panel are expected to grill Cohen about his past lies to Congress and portray him as an untrustworthy witness.
In his prepared remarks, Cohen will tell the committee that Trump knew that his longtime associate Roger Stone “was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.”
In particular, Cohen will recount a July 2016 phone conversation he witnessed between Trump, who was then a presidential candidate, and Stone. According to Cohen, “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.”
Cohen will testify that Trump responded, “Wouldn’t that be great.” But he will stress that he does not have direct evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.
The former Trump attorney will also recount an anecdote suggesting that Trump had knowledge of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top campaign officials and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
In early June, Cohen recounts, he was with Trump in his office when Donald Trump Jr. — one of the meeting’s participants — “came into the room and walked behind his father’s desk,” which Cohen says was “unusual.”
“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 will say in his prepared testimony.
The president has denied having prior knowledge of the meeting, which has been scrutinized by congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors.
Additionally, Cohen will address a recent BuzzFeed report stating that Trump had directed him to lie to Congress about the Trump Organization’s business dealings in Moscow. While he says Trump did not “directly tell me to lie,” Trump “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.”
Cohen will tell lawmakers that Trump asked him “how’s it going in Russia?” — which he says is a reference to the Trump Tower Moscow project — at least six times between January and June of 2016. He says Trump’s attorneys “reviewed and edited” his false statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow deal.
“Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen will say. “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.”
Cohen, who is slated to report to prison to serve a three-year sentence beginning May 6, recounts some of Trump’s alleged private comments about African-Americans and calls him a racist.
“While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way,” Cohen will say. “And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
Cohen will also tell the committee that he will provide “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.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Cohen shouldn’t be trusted given that he has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, adding in a statement: “It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”
By Andrew Desiderio -
POLITICO - Wednesday, February 27, 2019