Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, appeared before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday in a highly publicized hearing. Cohen, who once said that he would “take a bullet” for Trump, called the president a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat” in his opening statement, and presented several pieces of evidence of alleged lies and criminal conduct.
During the more than six hours of testimony, lawmakers questioned him on his past conversations and business dealings with Trump. Cohen said the president encouraged him to lie to Congress and the American people, including over the hush-money payments, and claimed that Trump was aware of plans to release Democratic email during the 2016 presidential election and that he was kept in the loop about the Trump Tower meeting. The president’s former personal attorney also drew links between Trump and ongoing probes, and clashed with lawmakers who argued why the committee should believe him when he is about to begin a three-year prison sentence for campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress.
Here are the highlights from Cohen’s testimony:
Cohen Called Trump a “Racist” and a “Conman” in Prepared Testimony
After being sworn in, Cohen spent nearly 30 minutes reading from his written prepared testimony, which had been leaked to the media on Tuesday night, The Huffington Post reports.
One of the most shocking remarks from the president’s former fixer was when Cohen called Trump a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat.”
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” Cohen read from his testimony. “I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”
Cohen claimed that Trump was aware of the WikiLeaks’ plan to publish Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election that would damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and was most likely knowledgeable about the Trump Tower meeting. Cohen also alleged that Trump repaid him with personal checks for hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.
Cohen Presented Documents That Illustrate Trump’s Illicit Behavior
Cohen said that several of the documents that he provided to the House Oversight Committee illustrated that Trump engaged in “conman”-like behavior.
Providing images of two checks allegedly from Trump’s personal bank account dated March 2017 and August 2017 for a total of $71,000, Cohen claimed the money was part of a repayment plan for the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. The checks bore the president’s signature.
TWO checks President Trump wrote to Michael Cohen in order to pay him back for hush money payments. These have been submitted to Congress as exhibits for Cohen's testimony. pic.twitter.com/NLmcnupaWc
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) February 27, 2019
Cohen also shared a copy of a bank statement showing the $130,000 he used to send money to Daniels’ attorney.
According to USA TODAY, federal prosecutors in New York alleged that Trump’s private business, the Trump Organizations, reimbursed Cohen $130,000 for his payment to Daniels, along with an additional $130,000 to cover his taxes and a $60,000 bonus on top of that. Prosecutors said the organization “falsely accounted for these payments as ‘legal expenses.’”
Cohen, who says he made the payment at Trump’s direction, has pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws over the payment, as well as another.
Trump Knew About the WikiLeaks Dump Ahead of Time
During the hearing, Cohen said the president was aware of Roger Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks regarding emails that U.S. intelligence officials have said were stolen by Russian operatives from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
In his statement, Cohen said he head Trump talking on the phone with Stone in July 2016 about a conversation Stone had with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Politico reports.
“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 said.
Although Trump has denied having any prior knowledge of the WikiLeaks emails dump, Cohen alleged that the president responded “Wouldn’t that be great?” to the potential release of emails by WikiLeaks.
Stone is currently facing charges of lying to Congress over his interactions with WikiLeaks.
Trump Had Cohen Threaten to Keep His Grades Secret
According to HuffPost, Cohen detailed threats he made to school and to the College Board on behalf of Trump, threatening them to not release information regarding his academic history.
“When I say conman, I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores,” Cohen told the committee.
“The irony wasn’t lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades,” Cohen said.
Fordham University has confirmed the authenticity of a copy of a letter Cohen sent to the committee in which he threatens to hold the university liable should it release any of Trump’s academic records.
Here's the letter Michael Cohen wrote to Fordham University warning them not to release President Trump's grades. pic.twitter.com/m7FHyUP9RF
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) February 27, 2019
When asked by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) how many times he had threatened individuals on Trump’s behalf, the wild back-and-forth between him and Speier resulted in Cohen estimating that he had threatened approximately 500 individuals in the 10 years that he had worked for Trump, Vox reports.
Cohen Believes Trump Wouldn’t Have Let Trump Jr. Set Up Trump Tower Meeting on His Own
Cohen described a conversation in June 2016 where Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., told his father that the “meeting is all set.” According to Cohen, who described the conversation during his opening statement, implied Trump Jr. was referring to the Trump Tower meeting where Trump campaign officials met with Russians who claimed to have information on Hillary Clinton that could impact her presidential campaign.
Cohen said he does not believe that Trump would allow his son to set up the meeting on his own, adding that Trump “frequently told me and other that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world.” He claimed that nothing went on in Trump’s world that he didn’t have knowledge of or had given approval on.
Cohen Claimed Trump Was a Racist
With accusations that former President Barack Obama was not an American citizen to his rhetoric on immigration, charges of racism against Trump is not new. But Cohen says the public only knows half of it.
“In private, he is even worse,” Cohen said in his opening statement.
Cohen says that once, when Obama was president, Trump asked him to try and name “a country run by a black person that wasn't a ‘sh*thole.’”
But the charges of racism quickly escalated after Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) attempted to prove Trump isn’t a racist by referencing to Department of Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton, who is black, adding that Patton would not work for a man who is racist, HuffPost reports.
“Neither should I, as the son of a Holocaust survivor,” Cohen said. “Ask Ms. Patton how many black people are executives at the Trump Organization. The answer is zero.”
The incident sparked outrage among other members on the committee, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who condemned Meadows’ “racist” use of Patton as a “prop.”
Watch: Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Republican Rep. Mark Meadows get into a heated exchanged after Tlaib said that bringing a black woman to the #CohenHearing to help prove President Trump isn't racist could be considered "racist." https://t.co/fnXAEZ9NZr pic.twitter.com/zm4LASXkcH
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) February 28, 2019
Meadows lashed out at Tlaib, saying he is not a racist and has “nieces and nephews” of color.
Tlaib said she was not specifically calling Meadows a racist, and apologized “if that’s what it sounded like.”
Cohen Said It’s Possible Trump Was Compromised by a Foreign Agent
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) asked Cohen whether he believed Trump would cooperate or collude with a foreign power to be able to win the presidency.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Is it possible the whole Trump family was compromised by Russia ahead of the 2016 election?
Cohen: “Yes.” pic.twitter.com/QNRH2gypR0
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) February 27, 2019
“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 asked.
“Yes,” Cohen responded, adding that he wasn’t sure if Trump actually had, but said he did feel that there was “something odd about the back-and-forth praise” between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Cohen Alleged Trump Encouraged Him to Lie
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about when negotiations for the construction of the Trump Tower in Moscow ended. While Cohen said Trump never explicitly told him to lie to Congress about the project, “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,” Cohen said, adding that Trump’s lawyers edited his statement to Congress that resulted in the felony, USA TODAY reports.
"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," Cohen said in his opening remarks.
Cohen also revealed that Trump directed him to lie to the public, and even First Lady Melania Trump about the Stormy Daniel payments.
“Not only did I lie to the American people ― I lied to the first lady,” Cohen said. “When the president called me, I was sitting in a car with a friend of mine and he had me speak to her and explain to the first lady.”
Republicans Tried to Discredit Cohen During the Hearing
Republicans attacked Cohen’s credibility during the hearing, noting that Cohen had been sentenced to three years in prison for a series of charges, including lying to Congress.
“Here’s what I see: I see a guy who’s worked for 10 years and is here trashing the guy he worked for for 10 years, didn’t get a job in the White House and now you’re behaving just like everybody else who got fired or didn’t get the job they wanted,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) told Cohen, who denied having ever wanted to work in the White House.
But Cohen accused the Republican committee members of “blindly” following Trump as he previously had and called the members’ behavior “really unbecoming of Congress.”
“It’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for,” Cohen said. “I’m responsible for your silliness because I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years.”