Michael Cohen’s public testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday is something every American should watch. It was reported on Tuesday that Cohen would offer several damning allegations about President Trump, including that he engaged in criminal conduct while in office. Cohen’s opening statement lives up to the hype.
Obtained Tuesday night by Politico, the statement’s 20 pages contain a month’s worth of bombshell revelations about the president, covering everything from what Trump allegedly knew prior to the 2016 election to his efforts to prevent the release of his college transcripts. Cohen also provided documentation to corroborate certain elements of his testimony, including a reimbursement check signed by Trump for the pre-election hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is,” Cohen writes. “He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”
Trump, who is currently in Hanoi, Vietnam, meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was quick to respond. “Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately),” Trump wrote. “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!”
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
Several key revelations followed Cohen’s concise assessment of the president’s character.
Cohen claimed that Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks was going to release a trove of Democratic National Committee emails that had been hacked by Russia prior to the 2016 election. Cohen explained that he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when Trump’s secretary informed him that Roger Stone was on the phone. Trump put it on speaker, and Stone told him that he had spoken with Assange and that a “massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign” was coming in a few days. “Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great,'” Cohen writes.
This is significant not only because of the implication that the president knew of a scheme to release illegally obtained material in order to damage his opponent, but because Trump told Special Counsel Robert Mueller in writing that he never discussed WikiLeaks with Stone.
Stone, who was indicted by Mueller late last month on charges stemming from his relationship with WikiLeaks, has also said that he never discussed the email dump with the president.
Trump to Mueller (per CNN): Stone and I never discussed WikiLeaks.
Cohen to Mueller: I witnessed a phone call between Trump & Stone in which Stone said he spoke to Assange.
If Mueller can corroborate this statement by Cohen, then Trump has committed a felony and lied to Mueller
— Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) February 27, 2019
Also addressed in the statement is whether Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress about when negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ceased (in January 2016) when in reality they extended well into the campaign. Last month, BuzzFeed News reported that Trump directed Cohen’s testimony, but the report was refuted by the special counsel’s office. On Wednesday, Cohen explained that while Trump did not “directly” tell him to lie, he certainly suggested that he should do so in his own way. “In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating with Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing,” Cohen writes. “In his way, he was telling me to lie.”
Cohen also says that Trump frequently asked him for updates on the Moscow Trump Tower negotiations throughout the campaign, and that Trump’s personal lawyers “reviewed and edited” his false statement to Congress about when negotiations ended (which seems like a big deal).
Big, big allegation in today's Michael Cohen testimony: Trump's lawyers signed off on his statement lying to Congress: pic.twitter.com/meb34OjWXi
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) February 27, 2019
Cohen implied similarly that Trump knew ahead of time of Donald Trump, Jr,.’s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to gather “dirt” on Clinton from Russia. He recalled being in Trump’s office in “probably” early June 2016 when Trump, Jr., came in and went behind Trump’s desk, which Cohen found peculiar. “I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: ‘The meeting is all set.’ I remember Trump saying, ‘OK good…let me know.'”
Cohen explained that there was no way Trump, Jr., would set up any meeting of any significance without the approval of his father.
Cohen's testimony as it relates to the Trump Tower meeting is important, but you can't help but laugh at how Trump speaks about his own son, @DonaldJTrumpJr: "Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world." pic.twitter.com/1ics2bVPZv
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) February 27, 2019
Cohen also produced receipts, literally, regarding the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election, and says that Trump told him to lie to Melania about the affair. To make the payment, Trump allegedly asked Cohen to use his personal funds and promised that he would be reimbursed later. He was indeed paid back, in the form of 11 check installments that were doled out while Trump was president. “The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws,” Cohen says. “You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
CNN obtained an image of one of the $35,000 checks prior to Cohen’s testimony Wednesday morning.
CNN Exclusive: This is copy of check from Trump to Cohen, which he says was reimbursement for $35k hush money. Date is Aug 1 2017, while Trump was president. Obtained by @GloriaBorger pic.twitter.com/tpk52cJwLF
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) February 27, 2019
In addition to the revelations that could have legal implications for Trump, Cohen also paints the president as an insecure, amoral racist who has no regard for the welfare of the United States. He notes how Trump forced him to write letters to his schools threatening legal action if they were to release any of Trump’s grades. He writes of how Trump ran for president strictly to enhance his brand, and that he never even expected to win the primary. He points out how much worse Trump’s private racism is than what he says in public. “He once asked me if I could name a country that was run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole,'” Cohen says. “This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.” Cohen also says that when he and Trump were driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, Trump said “that only black people could live that way.”
Cohen is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence on May 6th.
This post will be updated as Cohen’s testimony unfolds.