Do you believe Michael Cohen?
Several outlets reported on Tuesday that Trump’s former lawyer and fixer is prepared to offer damning testimony concerning his former boss, including that he engaged in criminal conduct while in office. The revelations will come Wednesday, when Cohen is scheduled to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee. Cohen will also testify in private sessions before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
The president’s alleged criminal conduct is reportedly in relation to the $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election. Cohen has already said that he made the payment on Trump’s behalf, and that it was intended to prevent news of Trump’s alleged affair with Daniels from breaking as Trump contended for the presidency. The Southern District of New York has also determined that Trump ordered the payment, which would constitute a felony campaign finance violation. It’s unclear what kind of criminal conduct relating to the payment Trump engaged in after taking office, although Cohen is expected to go into what someone familiar with the testimony described to the New York Times as “granular detail” regarding how he and Trump orchestrated the payment.
Cohen will also reportedly go into detail about several aspects of Trump’s finances, allegedly with documentation for support. According to the Washington Post, Cohen will explain how Trump inflated his net worth for personal reasons, like appearing on the annual Forbes list, while deflating it when it came time to pay property taxes. Cohen will also detail Trump’s “lies, racism and cheating,” the Wall Street Journal reports, of which he will provide anecdotal evidence. Several people associated with Trump have said he often expressed racist sentiments. In November, Cohen told Vanity Fair that Trump said prior to the election that “black people are too stupid to vote for me.” Trump has denied all allegations of racism and infidelity.
What Cohen will not discuss on Wednesday is anything relating to Russia, although the topic will very much be on the table during the closed-door sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. The first session, with the Senate Intelligence Committee, commenced Tuesday morning.
Michael Cohen arrives at Senate Intel pic.twitter.com/Qpz1UJSx8h
— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) February 26, 2019
The president and his allies have sought to discredit Cohen as a liar. Trump has repeatedly lashed out at his former confidant on Twitter, even urging investigators and the press to look into Cohen’s family. Cohen was originally slated to testify voluntarily before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on February 7th, but backed out after citing threats from the president. A subpoena was issued shortly after Cohen canceled his voluntary appearance.
Last week, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who sits on the House Oversight Committee and will question Cohen on Wednesdsay, said in a statement that it is “beneath the dignity of the Congress” to give Cohen a platform, and that he is “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.”
After reports of the nature of Cohen’s testimony emerged Tuesday morning, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed Jordan in a statement calling Cohen a “disgraced felon.”
White House statement regarding Micheal Cohen’s testimony to Congress this week: pic.twitter.com/i1QfSPkO2p
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) February 26, 2019
Concerns over Cohen’s credibility are valid, to a certain extent, as he’s already admitted that he lied to Congress in order to protect Trump, and it’s not out of the question that he would try to shape testimony in a way that could increase the chances of getting his sentence reduced. His turn from someone who said they would “take a bullet” for Trump to someone who says his “first loyalty” is now to the United States, is something over which Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are expected to grill Cohen on Wednesday, according to the WSJ.
As dubious of a character as Cohen may be, no one else could possess such an intimate knowledge of the president’s personal and financial dealings. If he lies to lawmakers this week, he will be doing so under penalty of perjury, which could lead to more jail time. Last fall, Cohen pleaded guilty to several federal crimes, including campaign finance violations resulting from the pre-election hush money payments. He is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence on May 6th.