Michael Cohen IN Washington, February 26, 2019 (Erin Schaff/New York Times)
The testimony in Congress of Donald Trump’s long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen will compete for attention with Trump’s North Korea summit on Wednesday.
Cohen will tell the House Oversight Committee in open session of Trump as a “con man”, a “cheat”, and a “racist” — and, more importantly, point to Trump’s possible criminal activity and links with Russia.
The lawyer, who served Trump for more than a decade, spoke behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight hours on Tuesday. He will give closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
In his prepared testimony for Wednesday, released to the media, Cohen speaks of Trump’s direction of a payoff in October 2016 to Stormy Daniels, silencing her over a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.
While Cohen is constrained in public testimony about the Trump-Russia investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller — with which he is cooperating — he says Trump consulted with advisor Roger Stone about WikiLeaks’ release of e-mails, obtained by Russian military intelligence, concerning Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.
Cohen says Trump indirectly instructed him to lie to Congress about negotiations with the Russians for a Trump Tower Moscow. And he says Trump knew about a June 2016 meeting between his top advisors and three Kremlin-linked envoys.
With Trump en route to Vietnam for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the White House tried to pre-empt the testimony by attacking Cohen’s character. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Cohen is a “disgraced felon”: “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.”
Cohen pleaded guilty last year to financial charges — including the payoff to Daniels — and lying to Congress. He begins serving a three-year prison sentence in May.
Cohen opens his testimony:
I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat.
Tweeting from Vietnam, Trump aimed at Cohen:
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
Trump did not repeat his veiled threat against Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, who pleaded guilty to federal income tax fraud in 1993 over his taxicab business in New York.
But Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz risked tampering with a witness, a federal crime, to tweet on Tuesday: “Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”
Gaetz defended the tweet as “witness-testing” rather than witness-tampering, but later deleted the message.