UPDATED with closing remarks, Trump campaign response: “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” President Donald Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen said in closing remarks before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday evening.
Misplaced loyalty to Trump has “cost me everything — my family’s happiness, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation and, soon, my freedom,” said Cohen, who is going to prison for three years in May after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations and lying under oath to Congress, among other charges.
Cohen began to weep during committee chair Elijah Cummings’ closing remarks, when he told Cohen, “it’s painful going to prison” and “it’s got to be painful being called a ‘rat’.”
Trump called Cohen a “rat” in a December tweet after the FBI raided Cohen’s offices, saying Cohen only “became a ‘Rat'” after the FBI raid.
“We’re better than that,” Cummings insisted Wednesday.
On cue, Trump’s re-election campaign issued a statement about Cohen’s appearance before the committee:
“This is the same Michael Cohen who has admitted that he lied to Congress previously. Why did they even bother to swear him in this time?”
“Michael Cohen is a felon, a disbarred lawyer, and a convicted perjurer, who lied to both Congress and the Special Counsel in a “deliberate and premeditated’ fashion according to the Special Counsel’s Office. Now he offers what he says is evidence, but the only support for that is his own testimony, which has proven before to be worthless. As noted by the Southern District of New York, Cohen’s wide array of crimes were ‘marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life’ and his ‘instinct to blame others is strong.’”
To which, Cummings remarked outside the hearing room that two years ago, when he said the presidential campaign was not about Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump but a fight “for the soul of our democracy.”
“That statement is truer now than it was then,” Cummings said, adding, “We have strayed so far away from normal in our country and we’ve got to get back to center,” despite zero evidence the Wednesday hearing had taken in any step in that direction.
Republicans on the committee, Cummings acknowledged, did “not want to hear” Cohen talk about Donald Trump’s activities.
PREVIOUSLY: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee spent much of Wednesday’s testimony with their undies in a bunch at the thought President Donald Trump’s former fixer getting a movie or TV deal.
In one of the wilder moments of Wednesday’s wild House Intel Committee hearing, GOP Rep Virginia Foxx demanded Michael Cohen pledge not to accept any movie deal, any TV deal, or any book deal going forward.
“So you don’t commit to changing your ways, basically, because you want to continue to use your background as a liar, a cheater, a convicted liar, to make money. That’s what you want to do,” Foxx snarked, congressionally.
“And that’s going to get me a book deal and a movie deal and a spot on television? I don’t think so,” Cohen replied.
Three Republicans so far have used up a good-ish chunk of their previous five minutes of Q&A time to scratch their movie/TV/book deal itch.
“I ask you, good sir, have you discussed film and book deal with your stated current attorney Lanny Davis?” asked Louisiana’s Rep. Clay Higgins, who himself looked and sounded like something out of central casting.
“With Mr. Davis, no. But I have been approached by many people who are looking to do book deals, movie deals and so on,” Cohen offered, helpfully.
“That is your right as an American,” Higgins conceded reluctantly. “But it leads me back to my instinct that compared you to many of the men I’ve arrested during the course of my career,” he added, as Hollywood writers began mulling ways to work Higgins into their spec scripts. “This is an attempt to injure our President, to lay some sort cornerstone for future impeachment proceedings,” Higgins blasted.
Tennessee Rep. Mark Green had kicked off the movie deal line of grilling, nicknaming Cohen “Fake Witness” by way of planting his flag in that copyright. During Green’s line of questioning he grilled Cohen over a possible book deal.
“I have no book deal,” Cohen said, but acknowledged he had been contacted by people interesting in pursuing a movie or TV project based on Cohen’s story, adding “if you want to tell me who you would like to play you,” winning that round.
While the Hollywood angle has been thoroughly probed, two and a half hours in, Republicans had asked Cohen not one single question about Trump. Cohen made note of the fact during Rep. Jim Jordan’s at-bat. Jordan is one of two ardent Trump supporters who had tried to open the hearing by immediately shutting it down earlier in the day, claiming a rule had been violated.
“I find it interesting, sir, that between yourself and your colleagues that not one question so far since I’m here has been asked about President Trump,” Cohen scolded.
“That’s why I thought I was coming today. Not to confess the mistakes that I’ve made. I’ve already done that, and I’ll do it every time you ask me about taxes and mistakes,” he added.
“The American people don’t care about my taxes. They want to know what it is I know about Mr. Trump. And not one question so far has been asked about Mr. Trump,” he said of the GOP questioning.
In other highlights of the House Intel Committee Dems vs GOP Cage Match, during which Cohen came off as the mature one, he got asked why he decided to plead guilty to multiple charges brought against him, assuring he would go to jail, for three years.
“Trump’s behavior in Helsinki with Russian ruler Vladimir Putin, Trump’s remarks following the fatal white supremacist march in Charlottesville, and watching the daily destruction of civility in the country,” Cohen said.
Pointing to a placard Republicans had put up in the room saying “Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire” with Cohen’s photo, he added, “putting up silly things like this,” calling the placards “unbecoming of Congress.”
“I’m responsible for your silliness, because I did the same things you’re doing now. For 10 years,” he scolded.
“I can only warn people…that follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly,” who, he said, “are going to suffer the same consequences that I am suffering. Look at what happened to me. I’m a picture perfect example of what not to do.”
Asked why he had previously canceled his scheduled appearance before the committee after Trump threatened his family via Twitter, Cohen noted Trump has more than 60 million Twitter followers and had boasted early in his campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single one of those supporters.
“I want to be very clear; he’s not joking, he’s telling you the truth,” Cohen said.
So, when Trump more recently took to twitter with a threat that involved his wife and father in law, “he’s sending out the same message…hopefully something bad will happen to me or my children or my wife, so I will not be here and testify. “That’s his hope,” Cohen explained.
PREVIOUSLY: President Donald Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen came to Washington on Wednesday to call Trump is a racist, a conman and a cheat who knew Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a Wikileaks drop of DNC emails, and reimbursed him while in the White House for hush money paid to a porn star.
“Over the past two years I have been smeared as a ‘rat’ by the President of the United States,” Cohen said in testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday morning. While Trump was wooing North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Cohen nailed him.
For starters, “Individual #1” on all those court documents made public, back when Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and other charges in the Southern District of New York, “is President Donald J. Trump,” Cohen said for the record.
Trump ran for office only “to make his brand great,” Cohen asserted, as viewers watched on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC Fox News Channel, and C-Span, among many platforms covering.
“He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power,” he added.
“Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in politician history…The campaign, for him, was always a marketing opportunity.”
Cohen’s testimony got delayed when two of Trump’s most ardent supporters, Rep. Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan, immediately jumped in to try to block him from speaking by scrubbing the event altogether. They claimed Cohen’s camp had not gotten the committee information enough hours in advance, violating hearing rules. They pointed out, like they meant it to sting, that CNN got the information before they did.
CNN’s Jake Tapper, in studio, noted most news outlets got it at same time as CNN. But Trump likes to single out CNN for his Enemy of the People rhetoric when addressing his base and, while he’s in North Korea, Meadows and Jordan acted as his surrogates.
“You made it clear you did not want American people to hear what Mr. Cohen has to say,” Oversight Committee chair Rep. Elijah Cummings scoffed. “But American people have a right to hear him so we’re going to proceed.”
“The days of this committee protecting the President at all costs are over.”
Cohen brought show-and-tell material for the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and millions of TV viewers. They included documents he said showed Trump’s involvement in criminal activity to which Cohen pleaded guilty and is on his way to the slammer for three years.
Among them, a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became POTUS, to reimburse Cohen for the hush money payments he made to cover up his affair with Stormy Daniels and prevent damage to his campaign. The $35,000 check was one of 11 Cohen said he was paid throughout a year while Trump was POTUS.
Cohen also came armed with financial statements for 2011-2013 that Trump gave to Deutsche Bank, “to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills.”
Less legally significant, though maybe more juicy for TV viewers, Cohen brought material about Trump’s Vietnam deferment, and about Trump’s actual net worth.
Then there is the copy of an article with Trump’s handwriting on it, “reporting” on the auction of a portrait of Trump in which Trump had arranged for the bidder ahead of time and reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation. That portrait now hangs in one of his country clubs.
Copies of letters Cohen says he wrote at Trump’s direction that threatened the high schools and colleges he attended not to release his grades or SAT scores.
Cohen said his appearance before three committees this week, his guilty plea ad his work with law enforcement agencies “are steps along a path of redemption that will restore faith in me and help this country understand our president better.”
He acknowledged he had previously lied to Congress under oath about when Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. Back then he said negotiations ended in January of 2016. “That was false – our negotiations continues for months later during the campaign.”
Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited his statements to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before he gave those false statements to Congress, Cohen claimed.
“Trump knew of, and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen said. “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.”
“At least a half- dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June….he would ask me ‘How’s it going in Russia?’ – referring to the Moscow Tower project,” Cohen testified.
Trump did not “directly” tell him to lie to Congress. “That’s not how he operates,” Cohen told Congress.
“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 this way, he was telling me to lie.”
In one of the more poignant moments in his opening statement, Cohen reiterated what Trump already has said publicly that he did not consider the late Sen. John McCain to be a “hero” because he likes people who were not captured. Cohen told the committee Trump told him about his own medical deferment from the Vietnam draft, “You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”
“I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now,” Cohen snarked.