Cohen to testify publicly before Congress

President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen has agreed to voluntarily testify before the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee next month, the Democratic chairman of the panel announced Thursday. 

“I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily,” Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Oversight schedules Thursday vote to hold Kellyanne Conway in contempt Trump tweets, rally chant dominate Sunday shows as president continues attacks Sunday shows - Fallout over Trump tweets MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement.

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“I want to make clear that we have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office. The Committee will announce additional information in the coming weeks.”

The announcement of the hearing represents the first major power play by Democrats to use their newfound majority in the House to drill down on investigations into the president.

Cohen is scheduled to testify before the committee on Feb. 7 in public, promising major fireworks as Democrats question him on links between the Trump campaign and Russia and his admissions about hush-money payments to women alleging affairs with the president.

However, Cummings clarified to reporters later Thursday that there would be "limitations" on members' questioning so as not to interfere with the special counsel's ongoing investigation. 

“We don’t want to do anything to interfere with the Mueller investigation, absolutely nothing," Cummings said. 

In his own statement, Cohen said he looks forward “to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”

Last year, Cohen pleaded guilty to numerous federal charges, including one count of lying to Congress in connection with Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE’s sprawling Russia investigation. Cohen has been cooperating with Mueller’s team and provided him useful information related to the Trump Organization and his contacts with the White House, according to the special counsel.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations stemming from an effort to pay off women who alleged affairs with Trump, admitting it was done to prevent negative information from surfacing during the election. Cohen also implicated Trump in the scheme in a dramatic moment that capped the end of his once close relationship with the president.

Trump has denied directing Cohen to break the law and suggested the payments did not amount to campaign finance violations. The president has also described Cohen as a “rat” willing to lie to prosecutors in order to get a lighter prison sentence.

When asked about the scheduled testimony, Trump told reporters later Thursday that he is "not worried about it at all."

Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail last month by a federal judge in Manhattan and is expected to report to federal prison in early March.

Other congressional committees have also expressed an interest in questioning Cohen in the wake of his guilty pleas.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffPelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz Mueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties Hillicon Valley: Equifax to pay up to 0M over data breach | Settlement invites criticism from lawmakers | Microsoft settles bribery case | Election security to take back seat at Mueller testimony MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday that he welcomed Cohen’s public testimony before the Oversight panel but also said it would be “necessary” to have Cohen appear behind closed doors as his committee probes Russian interference.

“We hope to schedule a closed session before our committee in the near future,” Schiff said.

Intelligence Committee Republicans ended the investigation abruptly last year amid complaints from Democrats, who said it had been completed prematurely. 

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into Russian interference, has also sought a return appearance from Cohen. 

"The request still stands, regardless of any public testimony Mr. Cohen may give on other issues," Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban Top North Carolina newspapers editorial board to GOP: 'Are you OK with a racist president?' Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-N.C.) said in a statement Thursday. 

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to the House and Senate Intelligence committees about plans to build a Trump property in Moscow, acknowledging that the talks lasted until June 2016 –– six months than he had previously stated. 

“In furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers, I have accepted the invitation by Chairman Elijah Cummings to appear publicly on February 7th before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform," Cohen said in his statement released through his attorney Thursday.

– Olivia Beavers contributed. 

 

Updated: 5:08 p.m.