President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7, Chairman Elijah E. Cummings announced in a press release Thursday.
For months, Cohen and House Democrats have expressed a shared interest in the former Trump fixer appearing before Congress to go public about his work for the president during his 2016 campaign and before Trump launched his political career.
“In furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers, I have accepted the invitation by Chairman Elijah Cummings to appear publicly on February 7,” Cohen said in a statement. “I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”
Cummings and other leading Democratic chairmen with sweeping investigatory authority, however, have said they want to take precautions not to step on the toes of the ongoing special counsel investigation headed by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily,” the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. “I want to make clear that we have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office.”
The committee will have more information in the coming weeks.
A source familiar with the panel said members may want to ask Cohen how he went from one of Trump’s staunchest defenders to one of his biggest critics, as well as Cohen’s concerns about his former client’s actions as president.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty to lying to Congress, illegally paying hush money to a pornographic actress and Playboy model, and committing other crimes.
“Blind loyalty” to Trump led him down “a path of darkness over light,” Cohen said at his sentencing.
The Justice Department submitted a letter before the sentencing calling for only partial leniency for Cohen because he did not sign a formal cooperation agreement with the government.
Cohen promised, however, that he would appear before Congress to tell what he knows of Trump’s inner circle. With his upcoming appearance before the Oversight panel, he appears poised to follow through on that promise.
Cohen has directly implicated Trump in a series of campaign finance violations in 2016, saying that the then-Republican nominee for president, known in court documents as “Individual 1,” told him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, to keep quiet about affairs he had with them in the 2000s.
Since those payments were intended to help the president’s chances of winning the 2016 election, they should have been reported on his campaign finance reports, prosecutors argued in their case against Cohen. If Trump orchestrated those payments and knew they were illegal if left unreported on his FEC reports, that would constitute a felony, experts have said.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff indicated Thursday that his committee may also soon be sitting down with Cohen — but behind closed doors — to ask questions pertaining to Mueller’s investigation.
“Mr. Cohen has expressed an interest in telling his personal story in open session, and we welcome his testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Reform,” the California Democrat said in a statement Thursday. “It will be necessary, however, for Mr. Cohen to answer questions pertaining to the Russia investigation, and we hope to schedule a closed session before our committee in the near future.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, said in a statement Thursday that Democrats inviting Cohen to deliver testimony “suggests [Cummings] will be using the committee as a venue for political theater rather than legitimate oversight.”
Cohen “has admitted to providing intentionally false and misleading testimony to Congress. He is also a witness in ongoing law-enforcement matters, including Special Counsel Mueller’s probe,” Jordan said. “This makes clear that Chairman Cummings and the Democrats will do whatever it takes to attack this President.”
Flashback: Trump blasts former fixer Michael Cohen