Cohen to testify publicly before Congress

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran 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 CummingsBill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden comes to Washington to honor John Lewis Lawmakers set for tearful goodbye to John Lewis 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests 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 BurrSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Hillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review 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.