Cohen admits to wrongdoing, points finger at Trump
WASHINGTON—Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, made a series of damaging accusations against his old boss during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing Wednesday. Cohen brought documents corroborating certain aspects of his testimony, including a copy of an August 2017 check for $35,000 from Trump allegedly written to reimburse him for hush money paid to pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006. The check did not include a description, though Cohen claims it was part of an installment paying him back for a home equity loan he took out to give Clifford $130,000. Cohen previously pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to the hush money payments to Clifford and to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Trump. The president denies that either affair took place.
Cohen also said that Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks would release emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the height of the 2016 presidential race. He said he was present in July 2016 when Trump put his adviser Roger Stone on speakerphone. Stone said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had told him to expect an email dump damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign soon. Both Stone and Trump have denied prior knowledge of the emails.
In his testimony, Cohen did not offer any direct evidence that Trump colluded with Russia to steal the emails or influence the election. “But I have my suspicions,” he said, adding that he believed Trump had prior knowledge about a Trump Tower meeting that involved his son, Donald Trump Jr., other campaign officials, and several Russians. Cohen said he remembers being in a room with Trump where his son told him, “The meeting is all set,” a reference he took to mean the Trump Tower meeting.
Cohen also made a number of personal and business accusations against the president. He said Trump lied about the amount of his personal wealth to tax authorities, refused to release records about his Vietnam War medical deferment because he dodged the draft, and made numerous racist statements about African-Americans, including an instance in which he called them “too stupid” to vote for him. Cohen also produced copies of threatening letters Trump directed him to write to Trump’s high school and college and the College Board, warning them against releasing his grades and SAT test results.
The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, said the panel should not believe Cohen, given his past record of lying to Congress. In November 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to a congressional committee about a real estate project to build a Trump-branded project in Russia. Cohen testified in August 2017 that the project ended in January 2016 but later admitted that discussions continued through June 2016. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., warned that he would refer Cohen to the Justice Department to be prosecuted if he lied to them again.
On Tuesday, a New York judicial panel disbarred Cohen from practicing law, a result of his guilty plea last year for lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.
Trump attacked Cohen’s credibility in a tweet Wednesday: “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.”
Cohen is due to report to prison May 6 to begin a three-year sentence.
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