Michael Cohen, President Trump’s embattled former lawyer and fixer, was set to testify before Congress on February 7th. Then, late last month, he backed out, citing fear over threats from his former boss. A day after Cohen reconsidered voluntarily appearing before Congress, the Senate Intelligence Committee left him with no choice, issuing a subpoena that effectively forced him to testify. He’ll do so next week. A lot. On Tuesday, Cohen will sit down for a private session with the Senate Intelligence Committee. On Wednesday, he’ll appear publicly before the House Oversight Committee. On Thursday, he’ll appear before the House Intelligence Committee for another closed-door session. If Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis is to be believed (a big “if,” no doubt), we could learn a lot about Trump’s potential involvement in criminal activity.
“He will pull the curtain back and we will hear true stories of Trump’s complicity in crimes, and his immoral, bigoted, and morally vacant character in specific, detailed personal anecdotes,” Davis said of his client’s upcoming testimony, according to former White House counsel John Dean, who appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 on Wednesday. “I think he’s a powerful witness,” Dean said. “He’s been with the president for a long time. He knows his business practices … I think he is potentially a very dangerous witness for the president.”
Former White House Counsel @JohnWDean: It's possible Micheal Cohen is now the most anticipated witness against a sitting President since Watergate and he is "potentially a very dangerous witness." https://t.co/FGa3asGaoc pic.twitter.com/g77drauZ3U
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 21, 2019
Davis responded to a request for comment from Rolling Stone by citing a tweet in which he thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for “standing up for the institution and against a bully.”
Cohen was intimately familiar with the inner-workings of the Trump Organization, and was at the center of several of Trump’s maneuverings that have been of interest to investigators. Most notably, he facilitated the payment of $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels, the porn star with whom Trump allegedly had an affair, in order to keep the story out of the press as Trump vied for the presidency. Trump has denied having any knowledge of the payment, but Cohen said while pleading guilty to a number of crimes last year that the payment was made at the direction of the president. Federal investigators later said the same, adding that the payment was made with the intention of boosting Trump’s chances of being elected. In other words, it constituted a felony campaign finance violation.
Cohen is also presumed to have extensive knowledge of the president’s financial relationship with Russia. While testifying before Congress in 2017, Cohen lied about when negotiations ended regarding a plan to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow. Though Cohen said the project was dead by January 2016, it was later revealed that talks continued well into the summer. Last month, Trump’s current legal counsel, Rudy Giuliani, said that negotiations continued all the way up until the 2016 election. Giuliani was commenting in response to a story published by BuzzFeed News a few days earlier that alleged that Cohen told prosecutors working in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office that Trump directed him to lie to Congress about when the negotiations ended. Mueller’s office disputed the story at the time, and next week Cohen will have the opportunity to confirm or deny the report. If it’s true and the president did indeed direct Cohen to perjure himself, it would be another blow to those arguing the president is not a felon.
It’s unclear exactly on which issues Cohen will testify next week, but Davis seems to have indicated that he’s not going to hold back. Also unclear is what kind of impact Cohen’s testimony will have, regardless of how incriminating it may seem for the president. Trump and his allies have repeatedly painted Cohen as an unreliable witness with a history of lying. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who sits on the House Oversight Committee, said on Thursday that it is “beneath the dignity of Congress” to allow Cohen to testify. “I am saddened that Democrats have sunk so low as to promote an admitted liar just to satisfy Tom Steyer and the political forces on the left who will settle for nothing less than impeachment,” he wrote in a statement.
Though Cohen may not be the most credible witness, it’s not as easy to convince the public that Mueller is unreliable. The special counsel’s office has interviewed Cohen extensively, as well as plenty of others who could potentially corroborate his claims. It was reported on Wednesday that Attorney General William Barr will announce next week that Mueller’s investigation has concluded, and it will be up to Barr to decide whether the special counsel’s report will be released to the public, or even to Congress. If he doesn’t, congressional Democrats may be ready with another subpoena, this time for Mueller himself.