Michael Cohen testimony: As it happened

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen delivers dramatic testimony in front of House panel about his former boss.

Michael Cohen, the former “fixer” and personal lawyer of US President Donald Trump, gave his testimony on Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Cohen, who worked for Trump from 2006 until 2018 in roles including as his personal lawyer, co-president of Trump Entertainment and deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia probe in August.

Those charges include fraud, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws, which he said he committed at Trump’s direction – an allegation the president has denied.

Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison in the United States. The start of that prison sentence is set to begin in May.


Here are the key moments from the testimony:

Cohen says he fears Trump may not allow ‘peaceful transition’

Cohen said during his congressional testimony on Wednesday that he fears Trump will not allow his successor to peacefully take control of the White House if he loses the 2020 presidential election.

“Given my experience working for Mr Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” Cohen said during his closing remarks.

Cohen says he hasn’t gone through Trump’s tax returns

Cohen said he’s seen the president’s tax returns but hasn’t gone through them.

Trump broke with decades of tradition for presidential candidates by refusing to release his income tax filings during his 2016 campaign. He has said he won’t release them because he is being audited.

Cohen on Wednesday undercut that rationale, saying he presumes Trump is not being audited.

Cohen said he asked Trump for paperwork about the audit to prepare Trump’s response to reporters about the issue but never received any documentation.

Cohen says Trump feared tax audit

Cohen said Trump did not want to release his tax returns because he feared public scrutiny would lead to an audit and penalties.

“What he didn’t want is to have an entire group of think-tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on,” Cohen told the House panel.

Cohen says Trump devalued his assets to pay lower taxes

Cohen said Trump devalued his assets in order to pay lower real estate taxes.

Cohen said Trump claimed Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, was worth more than what he reported to local tax authorities. Cohen said that in order to reduce real estate bills, he would devalue the assets and then put in a request to tax officials for a deduction.

Cohen also testified he had knowledge that the president inflated his assets to an insurance company.

Cohen: Trump asked me to mislead public about hush money

Cohen said Trump called him and asked him to mislead the public about hush money paid to a porn actress.

Cohen said that Trump called him in February 2018 to discuss the public messaging about $130,000 paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about allegations of an extramarital affair.

Cohen said Trump asked him to say that the president “wasn’t knowledgeable” about the payments.

In fact, Cohen said Trump directed and coordinated the payments. Documents also show Trump personally signed at least one cheque paid to Cohen to reimburse him for the payments.

The White House has denied Trump had an affair with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange says he never spoke to Stone

In a tweet, WikiLeaks said its publisher, Julian Assange, “has never had a telephone call with Roger Stone”.

It added that it “publicly teased its pending publications on Hillary Clinton and published [more than 30,000] emails on 16 March 2016”.

Cohen had testified that Stone told Trump about the WikiLeaks dump in a phone conversation.

Cohen: Trump told me to threaten people with litigation 500 times

Cohen told the House panel that over the course of his 10 years of employment, Trump told him to threaten people with litigation about 500 times.

“How many times did Mr. Trump order you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf,” asked Democratic Representative Jackie Speier.

“Quite a few,” Cohen responded. Asked whether it was 50, 100, 200 or 500 times, Cohen stopped her at 500 and said: “Probably.”

Cohens says he’s aware of other possible illegal acts involving Trump

Cohen told politicians on the House panel that he is aware of other possible illegal acts involving Trump that he could not discuss because they were under investigation.

Cohen, Trump’s onetime “fixer”, was asked at a congressional hearing if he was aware of other wrongdoing or illegal acts regarding Trump that had not been discussed before the panel.

“Yes and again those are part of the investigation that is currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York,” Cohen replied.

Cohen added that he could not discuss his last contact with Trump because it was under investigation.

Trump’s eldest sons tweet Cohen is trying to ‘save’ himself

Trump’s eldest sons are tweeting their thoughts about Cohen’s public testimony – and they’re ridiculing him as a disgruntled ex-employee out to try and save himself.

Donald Trump Jr tweeted that Cohen’s testimony sounded “like a breakup letter” and that it’s “funny how things change when you’re trying to save your a**.”

Trump Jr and Eric Trump suggest the longtime Trump loyalist is retaliating against the president after getting rejected for a White House job.

Eric Trump tweeted Cohen was “lobbying EVERYONE” to be chief of staff and that it “was the biggest joke in the campaign”. Cohen told the committee he was never interested in such a position.

Eric Trump also is taking aim at Cohen’s impending prison sentence by tweeting a Republican Party video about Cohen with the title, “Have Fun in Prison!”

Republicans say Cohen has lied before

Several Republicans on the panel have pointed out that Cohen has previously lied to Congress.

Republican Paul Gosar called Cohen a, “disgraced lawyer. You’ve been disbarred … You’re a pathological liar. You don’t know the truth from falsehood.”

Gosar added, “No one should ever listen to you and give you credibility. It’s sad.”

Cohen warns ‘Look what’s happened to me’

Responding to questions by Republican Jim Cooper about why he continued working for Trump, Cohen warns: “Look what’s happened to me.”

“I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years. I protected Mr Trump for 10 years,” Cohen told Cooper.

“The more people that follow Donald Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I did,” Cohen said.

“Look what’s happened to me,” he adds when Cooper asks what advice Cohen has for young lawyers.

Cohen: Trump inflated assets to be on Forbes list

Cohen said Trump inflated his assets to be on the Forbes list of the richest people.

Responding to questions by Democrat Lacy Clay,  Cohen said “Trump wanted each year to have his net worth rise on the Forbes wealthiest individuals list”.

Cohen says he practised ‘catch and kill’ for Trump

Cohen said he was involved in “several … catch-and-kill episodes”, but “these catch-and kill scenarios existed between David Pecker and Mr Trump long before [Cohen] started working for him in 2007”.

Catch-and-kill involves buying publication rights of stories so that they aren’t released.

Pecker is the CEO of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc.

In December 2018, federal prosecutors in New York said American Media Inc, as part of a deal to cooperate with prosecutors and avoid charges, admitted it made a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy magazine model, “in concert” with Trump’s presidential campaign.

Pecker met Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and at least one other member of the campaign in August 2015 and offered to help with negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women by buying the rights to those stories, according to a document made public by prosecutors.

Stone says Cohen’s statements on emails ‘not true’

Trump ally Roger Stone said Trump did not learn about the DNC hack leak from him.

“Mr Cohen’s statement is not true,” Stone told NBC News in a statement.

In his testimony, Cohen said in a phone call, Stone told Trump that the Wikileaks planned to drop emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Cohen says he was offered White House job

Responding to questions by Republican Jim Jordan, Cohen said he was offered a job at the White House, but turned it down because he was advised it would violate attorney-client privilege.

Cohen says he wouldn’t accept pardon

Cohen said that he has never asked for a pardon from Trump and would never accept one from the president.

Cohen’s team releases exhibits

Cohen’s representatives have released a dropbox link that includes the exhibits that Cohen is presenting to the House panel.

Among the documents are the checks Cohen said were written as reimbursement for hush money payments Cohen made “on [Trump’s] behalf”.

One of the cheques, Cohen said was signed by Trump while he was president.

Cohen: I don’t have evidence of collusion, but I have ‘suspicions’

Cohen said he does not have direct evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government during the election, but that he has “suspicions”.

Cohen says Trump ‘wrote personal cheque’ for hush money payment

Cohen said that as US president, Trump “wrote a personal cheque for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws”.

He said that while visiting Trump in the White House in February 2017, the president told him to not worry because reimbursement cheques were on the way.

“As he promised, I received the first cheque for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter,” Cohen said.

Stone told Trump there would be ‘massive dump of emails’

Cohen said that he was in Trump’s office when Roger Stone called to tell Trump that Julian Assange “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign”.

Cohens adds: “Mr Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.'”

Cohen says Trump ‘never expected to win’

Cohen said that Trump “never expected to win the primary” or the general election.

“The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity,” the former Trump lawyer said.

Cohen says in ‘Trump’s way, he was telling me to lie’

Reading from his prepared remarks, Cohen told the House panel:

In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in 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. In his way, he was telling me to lie.

To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

Cohen says Trump knew about release of hacked DNC emails

Cohen said Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National committee emails ahead of time.

Trump “was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails,” Cohen said.

Cohen calls Trump ‘racist’, a ‘con man’

Cohen said he is “ashamed” that he knows “what Mr Trump is”.

“He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Cohen told the House committee.

Cohen begins testimony

Cohen begins his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Congressional hearing under way

Congressional hearing under way featuring highly anticipated public testimony by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Excerpts of Cohen’s prepared remarks

“Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for president, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said ‘yes’ to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.

“I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.

“I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty – of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.

“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.

“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.

“He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.

“He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.”

Trump knew of Clinton email leak, Cohen to say in his testimony

Cohen plans to accuse Trump of being “a racist”, “a con man” and “a cheat” who committed “illicit acts” before Congress on Wednesday, according to a draft testimony (PDF) released by US media outlets.

Cohen will state in the testimony that Trump committed a variety of possible crimes, including making hush payments to aid his campaign and tax fraud.

The former lawyer claims that Trump asked if he “could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘s******'”, during former President Barack Obama’s term.

Cohen also claims Trump was told by Roger Stone, a longtime Republican political consultant, that WikiLeaks was in possession of emails that “would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign”.

Trump tweets Cohen ‘lying in order to reduce prison time’

In the run-up to Cohen’s testimony, Trump took to Twitter, saying his former lawyer was “lying in order to reduce his prison time” – a statement he has said before.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies