Michael Cohen sat before the House Oversight Committee for seven hours on Wednesday, fielding questions about President Trump while deflecting attacks on his own character. Trump’s former attorney and fixer offered a host of bombshell revelations, implicating his former boss in a host of federal crimes ranging from insurance fraud to engaging in a conspiracy against the United States. All told, it could wind up being one of the most consequential congressional hearings in American history. Not surprisingly, reactions were mixed.
President Trump made his feelings known before the hearing began. “Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately),” he tweeted early Wednesday morning before retweeting the sentiment as Cohen was fielding questions from lawmakers. “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!
He elaborated Thursday during a press conference following his aborted summit with Kim Jong-un.
President Trump on Michael Cohen hearing: "I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing. They could've made it two days later or next week and it would have been even better." https://t.co/mkWisai97H pic.twitter.com/CSKcTjlwtV
— The Hill (@thehill) February 28, 2019
Prominent figures in Trump’s orbit felt similarly. Roger Stone, who Cohen said spoke to Trump about WikiLeaks’ plan to release hacked Democratic emails prior to the 2016 election, told the New York Times that “Mr. Cohen’s statement is untrue,” possibly violating the gag order handed down last week by Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Earlier this month, Stone was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges stemming from his connection to WikiLeaks.
"Mr. Cohen's statement is untrue," Stone tells me by phone. Won't say more. Stone had been asked about an alleged conversation months ago by me and others, said it was untrue then.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 27, 2019
Trump’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, who Cohen said reviewed and edited his testimony to Congress that included a lie about negotiations surrounding a potential Trump Tower in Moscow, also refuted Cohen’s testimony. “Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the President edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false,” he wrote in a statement.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s other personal attorney, and who Cohen referred to on Thursday only as the president’s “TV lawyer,” lashed out on Twitter.
Michael Cohen committed provable perjury at least 3 or 4 times today. One was when he testified that he didn’t want a position in the Administration. There are many witnesses that can testify to the contrary. Let’s see if Chairman Cummings will refer it for prosecution.
— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) February 28, 2019
Incredibly as a result of Cohen’s pathological lying, Cohen perjured his way into possibly yet another DOJ investigation. He came there to lie his way into a reduction of sentence and left looking at another sentence.
— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) February 28, 2019
Giuliani also praised the work of the House Republicans questioning Cohen, particularly Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). “Jordan is so far the best lawyer by far,” he told NBC News by text. Jordan’s response to the hearing mirrored that of Giuliani. “Michael Cohen is delusion” he told Bret Baier on Fox News Wednesday night. Jordan went on to allege that the hearing was the “first step” in a Democratic plan to impeach the president, a sentiment he echoed at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday. “The Democrats want to impeach. It’s crazy,” he said. “So that’s what yesterday was about. It was the start of laying that foundation. We just got to be ready for it, know it’s coming, and stop them with the facts.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a close ally of both Jordan and Trump, reportedly discussed the hearing with the president Wednesday night. On Tuesday, Gaetz threatened Cohen on Twitter. “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” he wrote. “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…” He later deleted the tweet and apologized, and is now being investigated by the Florida Bar.
President Trump called @mattgaetz last night from Hanoi to talk the Cohen testimony and the threats (since rescinded) Gaetz made about Cohen.
"I was happy to do it for you. You just keep killing it," Gaetz was heard telling him.
(Gaetz told me he doesn't discuss calls w/POTUS)
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) February 28, 2019
“#FakeNews,” Gaetz replied.
Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham held the party line over in the Senate. “From what I heard today, Mr. Cohen did not provide any evidence at all that would suggest President Trump colluded with the Russians,” he said. “From that angle, Mr. Cohen did nothing but reinforce the narrative that there is no collusion.” Graham failed to weigh in on the numerous federal crimes in which Trump was implicated on Wednesday.
Democrats did. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee will question Cohen behind closed doors on Thursday, wrote on Twitter that Cohen “provided the American public with a first-hand account of serious misconduct by Trump & those around him.”
Today Cohen provided the American public with a first-hand account of serious misconduct by Trump & those around him.
Tomorrow we‘ll examine in depth many of those topics including Trump Tower Moscow, Roger Stone/Wikileaks and any WH role in Cohen’s false statements to Congress.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 28, 2019
Others responded by saying that the testimony strengthened the case that Trump committed crimes, criticizing the performance of House Republicans and praising House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who closed the hearing with an impassioned speech in which he said he hopes the testimony will lead to “a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America and a better world.
Chris Coons on the Cohen hearing: "Apparently candidate Trump surrounded himself with criminals and liars yet we're supposed to believe that he and his campaign did nothing illegal." @MSNBC
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 28, 2019
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 27, 2019
Elijah Cummings is a hero.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) February 27, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she wasn’t watching. “Let me say this,” she told reporters. “I care a lot more about the bad policies of Donald Trump than his bad personality.” Several other prominent lawmakers exercised similar caution in discussing the hearing, stressing that impeachment shouldn’t be discussed until Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is released. “Let me repeat: We need to wait for the Mueller report and see what it says,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), according to Politico. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) agrees. “Any discussions about impeachment proceedings remains premature,” he said. “The heart of the investigation … is whether Donald Trump or close associates of the Trump campaign were involved in working with Russian spies to sell out our democracy.”
Nevertheless, the information gleaned from Cohen’s hearing was substantial, and Cummings suggested that it could only be the beginning of the House’s inquiry into Trump’s potential criminality. After the hearing adjourned, he told reports that he expects that “more shoes will drop” and that it’s likely the committee will seek to question Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Both Trump Jr. and Weisselberg were mentioned on several occasions on Wednesday, with Cohen claiming the latter could corroborate many of his claims regarding Trump’s financial dealings.
Cummings thinks "more shoes will drop."
Asked him if he wants to bring Don Jr and Weisselberg in, he said he "probably" will but will consult with SDNY.
Also, said he warned Cohen not to lie bc he would "nail you to the cross."
On impeachment, wants to "proceed cautiously" pic.twitter.com/r0E1YfKm40
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 28, 2019
When Cummings was asked whether he believed Trump has committed a crime while in office, he said that he does now. “Based on looking at the text, and listening to Mr. Cohen, it appears that he did,” he said.