This is a developing story. Follow this page for updates on the latest from the Cohen hearing.
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, said Wednesday that Trump’s business operation is being investigated for illegal acts that haven’t yet been publicly disclosed.
Asked by Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois if he was aware of any other wrongdoing or illegal acts that hadn’t yet been discussed in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Cohen replied, “Yes … those are part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York,” referring to the Manhattan-based U.S. attorney’s that would have jurisdiction over Trump’s business empire’s headquarters.
Cohen is providing unprecedented insight to the Oversight Committee into how Trump ran his business empire for more than a decade.
In his opening statement, Chairman Elijah E. Cummings told reporters that Cohen will testify he knew Roger Stone was in touch with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks dump of Democratic emails.
What you missed from Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony
The chairman addressed doubts about Cohen’s testimony — he was convicted of lying to Congress and tax evasion and is to start a three-year prison sentence in May.
Here is the latest from the hearing:
Trump’s sons part of ‘criminal conspiracy’: Cohen implicated Trump’s eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, in the illegal hush money scheme to buy the silence of two of the president’s former mistresses.
“There were three other people who were equally involved in this conspiracy?” Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna asked.
“Yes,” Cohen replied.
“And you’re the only one who’s in jail for this?” Khanna said.
“Going to jail,” Cohen responded.
No love child: Cohen opened up about his former boss’ attempts to “catch and kill” stories about him that could have led to negative coverage in the media, even rumors that Cohen testified he believed had no basis in truth.
Such stories that Trump sought to bury through his allies at American Media, Inc. — even though Cohen said he believes they are not true — were rumors of a secret videotape allegedly showing Trump striking his wife, Melania Trump, in an elevator and a purported love child he had with a former housemaid.
Watch Cohen’s full opening statement
Cohen forcefully asserted that he did not believe either of these rumors had merit. But Trump had his friend and owner of the National Enquirer tabloid magazine, David Pecker, pay thousands of dollars to purchase silence from the sources of those rumors anyway, Cohen testified.
“Is there a love child?” Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California asked Cohen.
“There is not, to the best of my knowledge,” Cohen replied.
“So [Pecker] paid off someone about a love child that doesn’t exist?” Speier asked.
“Correct. It was about $15,000,” Cohen said.
Cohen’s motives questioned: Cohen is still working with investigators on multiple threads for their investigations, he testified in response to questions from GOP Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin.
Grothman suggested that Cohen was testifying before the committee and offering up information about his relationship with the president in order to reduce his three-year prison sentence through a measure in the U.S. criminal code that allows judges to cut prison time for criminals who continue to work with and provide key information to investigators.
But Cohen countered that his public appearance before the committee Wednesday would not aid his pursuit of a reduced sentence.
“This congressional hearing today is not going to be the basis for a Rule 35 motion. I wish it was. But it’s not,” Cohen said.
“I’ve incarcerated many people, and you remind me of many of them,” said GOP Rep. Clay Higgins, a former Louisiana sheriff.
Operational details: Throughout his testimony, Cohen described in detail the manner in which he felt Trump pressured him and other Trump Organization representatives to lie to the media — and even Congress — about the president’s dealings without explicitly telling them to do so.
“Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” Cohen said in his opening statement.
In a meeting the early summer of 2017, Cohen met with Trump and Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers, to talk about Cohen’s upcoming testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, he said Wednesday in response to questions from Democratic Reps. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia and John Sarbanes of Maryland.
Trump did not specifically direct Cohen to lie in the meeting, but he repeated statements that he had delivered publicly, that there was “no Russia, no collusion,” and that the investigations into such claims were “witchcraft,” Cohen said.
The White House’s “goal” for Cohen’s congressional testimony about the president’s dealings with Russia for a Trump Tower in Moscow was “to stay on message,” Cohen said.
“He’d been saying that to me for many months. At the end of the day, I knew exactly what he wanted me to say,” Cohen said.
GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky countered Connolly’s questioning by asking Cohen whether Trump had explicitly told him to lie to Congress or if Cohen had simply relied on his “intuition.”
“Did you at that time … do what you thought Mr. Trump wanted you to do, not specifically what he’s told you to do?” Massie asked.
“At times, yes,” Cohen responded.
“So you just went on your intuition?” Massie asked.
“I don’t know if I would call it intuition as much as i would just say, my knowledge of what he wanted, because it happened before and I knew what he had wanted.”
Asked by Massie about how Trump would communicate indirectly with subordinates, Cohen replied, “That’s how he speaks. He doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders — he speaks in a code. And I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade.”
Thug life: Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, one of the most soft-spoken members of Congress, asked Cohen whether Trump would threaten his business adversaries with physical violence.
“No. He would use others” within the Trump Organization, Cohen said.
“Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization was to protect Trump,” he said. “Every day, we knew we were going to lie for him. That became the norm.”
Why he flipped: Cohen said that some of Trump’s biggest controversies since he took the oath of office spurred him to plead guilty and begin cooperating with federal prosecutors about his relationship with the president.
He cited Trump blaming people on “many sides” for the violence at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, in 2018, when the president sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“It’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for. I was doing the same things that [he’s] doing now,” Cohen said, responding to a question from Cooper.
Rebuttal witness: Trump retweeted a posting from earlier Wednesday morning as he prepared to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which he said that Cohen was one of many lawyers who worked for him and was lying to get a reduced prison sentence.
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
Cashing in: In an apparent attempt to uncover Cohen’s motivations for appearing publicly and delivering incendiary allegations about the president, GOP Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee asked Cohen what his source of income would be while he was in prison.
“I don’t expect I’m going to have a source of income when I’m in the federal penitentiary,” Cohen said, to laughter from the room.
Cohen said that he does not have a book deal, but he has been contacted by numerous filmmakers, publishers, and other media agents about telling his inside account of the Trump Organization and 2016 campaign.
“I have no book deal in the process. I’ve been contacted by many including for television, movie,” he said. “If you want to tell me who you would like to play you, I’m more than happy to write the name down?” Cohen told Green.
Opening a door to Russia: Cummings had initially agreed with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to limit the scope of Wednesday’s public hearing to avoid any questions about Russia, reserving those topics for Intel’s closed-door meeting with Cohen on Thursday.
But Cummings appeared to leave the door open for his committee to probe Cohen and Trump and his inner circle’s interaction with Russians after Cohen invoked those issues in his opening statement.
“In Mr. Cohen’s written testimony, he has made statements relating to Russia and these are topics that we understand do not raise concern from the Department of Justice. So in fairness to the ranking member and all committee members, we will not restrict questions relating to the witness’ testimony or related questions he is willing to answer,” Cummings said.
While Cummings’ decision to allow lawmakers to ask Cohen was last-minute, he consulted and was in regular contact with Schiff about plans for the proceeding, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.
Going there: The first Democratic lawmaker to question Cohen after Cummings, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, reached right into the jar by asking if the president’s family members — his son-in-law Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka, and son Donald Jr. — were involved in the Trump Tower Moscow deal.
“The company was involved in the deal, which means the family was involved in the deal,” Cohen said.
Wasserman-Schultz then asked Cohen whether Trump and family could have been “conflicted or compromised” in the months leading up to the 2016 election by virtue of the fact that Trump had publicly lied that he had no business dealings with Russia.
“Yes,” Cohen responded.
Cohen testified in his opening statement that he felt Trump and his White House lawyers had pressured him to lie to Congress about the timeline of the negotiations for the tower, which lasted through the summer of 2016, after trump had won the Republican nomination.
That lie is the basis for Cohen’s conviction for lying to Congress.
The Trump family continued those negotiations for the Moscow Tower because Trump did not think he would actually win the primaries, much less defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election, Cohen testified.
“He had no desire or intention to lead the nation — only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’”
Oversight Republicans are live-trolling Cohen by putting up poster boards of tweets from the Twitter account “Women for Cohen.”
Cohen tried hard not to glance at them, and they didn’t appear to break his concentration. But he has to have seen them. pic.twitter.com/dfOFFZrOrp
— Griffin Connolly (@GriffinConnolly) February 27, 2019
On the sidelines: Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who appeared to threaten Cohen on Tuesday ahead of his testimony, was seen in the hearing room Wednesday morning.
“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 tweeted Tuesday afternoon. He later deleted the tweet and apologized to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Dishing details: Cohen began his testimony by alleging the president directed illegal hush payments to his former mistresses. Cohen’s prepared remarks released late last night said the president frequently showed himself to be a racist with comments disparaging black people.
Cohen didn’t stray from his prepared testimony, telling the committee that “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.”
Cohen also said in his statement that Trump, as a presidential candidate, knew that his recently indicted campaign adviser Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks dump of Democratic National Committee emails and that Trump knew of and directed the negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the 2016 campaign and lied about it because he “never expected to win the election.”
Truthful witness?: Cummings addressed Cohen’s veracity as a witness in his opening statement.
“Some will certainly ask, if Mr. Cohen was lying then, why should we believe him now? That is a legitimate question,” Cummings said. “Here is how I view our role:
“Every one of us in this room has a duty to serve as an independent check on the executive branch. We are searching for the truth. The president has made many statements of his own, and now the American people have a right to hear the other side,” he said. “They can watch Mr. Cohen’s testimony and make their own judgment.”
Technicalities: House Republicans tried to delay the hearing before it started, motioning to postpone the former Trump lawyer’s testimony on technical grounds.
Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina interrupted Chairman Elijah Cummings’ opening remarks to protest that the committee is supposed to receive prepared testimony from its witnesses between 24 and 48 hours before they appear. Cohen did not supply his testimony until 10:08 p.m. Tuesday.
“CNN had the testimony before we did,” ranking Republican member Jim Jordan of Ohio cut in.
Democrats quickly shot down the motion, but not before Republicans forced a 24-17 roll call vote and delayed the hearing’s start.
Cummings responded to the Republicans’ motion saying, “The American people can judge his credibility for themselves.”