Michael Cohen Senate hearing an ‘opportunity to clear the air’
Michael Cohen was tight-lipped as he emerged Tuesday from a day of closed-door testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the first of a three-day sprint of appearances on Capitol Hill.
President Trump’s former lawyer said he “really appreciated the opportunity to clear the air” with senators, and said he’s looking forward to Wednesday, when he’s slated to make his only public appearance, before the House Oversight Committee.
Cohen told reporters he will let “the American people decide” whether he or Mr. Trump is telling the truth about the crimes Cohen has pleaded guilty to.
He is headed to prison in May for a three-year sentence for lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and other crimes.
Senate committee members generally declined to talk about what Mr. Cohen told them.
One who did talk, Vice Chairman Mark Warner, was cryptic.
“For two years, I’ve said the Russia investigation is the most important thing I will do in Congress and after today I still believe it,” the Virginia Democrat said.
As Cohen talked to lawmakers, authorities in New York disbarred him because of his conviction for lying under oath. That stemmed from a 2017 appearance before the same Senate committee he testified to on Tuesday.
In that previous appearance he lied about the status of a planned Trump Tower project in Moscow.
House Republicans said given that history, they’re not sure what value his public testimony Wednesday will have.
“Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same. It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”
But Democrats were quick to point out that Cohen’s lies, particularly about the Trump Tower project, occurred while he was employed by Mr. Trump.
“He lied to Congress because he was lying on behalf of Donald Trump,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in a CNN interview.
Cohen is expected Wednesday to describe what it was like spending a decade as the right-hand man for Mr. Trump.
He’s expected to drop several bombs on his ex-boss. He reportedly will tell the House Oversight Committee that Mr. Trump engaged in criminal conduct after being elected president, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Specifically, Cohen will tell lawmakers that Mr. Trump was the one who decided to pay two women hush money to keep quiet about alleged affairs, a possible violation of federal campaign laws, The New York Times reported.
In August, Cohen implicated Mr. Trump in federal crimes when he said it was his boss who ordered the hush payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
He told a federal judge he committed crimes “in coordination and at the direction of” Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump has insisted the payments were not illegal and if they did violate law, its only because Cohen bungled it.
But the hearing may avoid the thorny Russia issue. Cohen is barred from speaking about active investigations, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.