Meadows confronts Cohen in testy exchange on Trump racism accusations

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsDemocrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.C.) on Wednesday brought in Trump administration staffer Lynne Patton, who is black, to push back against Michael Cohen's allegations during testimony before a House panel that the president is a racist.

"You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism," Meadows said.

"She says that, as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Ala., that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist," the conservative Republican added.

Patton, who serves in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, provided a statement to the House Oversight and Reform Committee that was entered into the record but not read aloud during the hearing.

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Cohen during his testimony noted that he is responsible for Patton joining the Trump Organization and for "the job she currently holds."

Meadows said he's spoken with Trump "over 300 times" and has not heard any racist comments from the president. He pressed Cohen for proof of his allegation, including whether he had recordings. 

"No, sir," Cohen responded, acknowledging that he has recorded other conversations.

"Do you have proof?" Meadows asked.

"Ask Ms. Patton how many people who are black are executives at the Trump Organization," Cohen said. "And the answer is zero."

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Patton said that "it doesn't take you 15 years to call someone a racist."

"Unless they’re not one," she added.

Cohen, who worked for the president for years as his personal attorney, said in his opening statement before the congressional panel that Trump is a "racist" and a "conman."

He cited past claims that the president said black people "are too stupid to vote" for him and said Trump made racist comments on the set of "The Apprentice."

Trump's critics and some Democrats have labeled the president racist, pointing to his vocal role in pushing the "birther" conspiracy theory that former President Obama was not born in the U.S. and his comments that "both sides" were to blame for violence at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

The president has deflected such criticisms, touting economic gains for African-Americans and other minority groups during his administration.

--This report was updated at 1:37 p.m.