National Security

Live coverage: Cohen clashes with GOP over Trump allegations

Stefani Reynolds

President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen delivered explosive public testimony about his former employer Wednesday on Capitol Hill. 

Cohen described Trump as a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat” in his opening remarks, and also claimed that Trump knew his longtime ally Roger Stone had communicated with WikiLeaks about releases of hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The timing of Cohen’s appearance before a Democrat-led House committee eager to launch investigations into the president couldn’t come at a worse time for Trump, who is in Vietnam meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for denuclearization talks.

Cohen pleaded guilty to several federal crimes last year, including lying to Congress and campaign finance violations stemming from a scheme to pay off women who alleged affairs with Trump during the campaign. He is due to report to prison for a three-year sentence in May.

Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee started at 10 a.m.

Hearing adjourned

5:25 p.m. 

Cummings gaveled the hearing to a close after roughly seven hours.

Cohen delivered testimony on a broad array of subjects, including Trump’s business, the president’s involvement in potentially criminal acts and his past work for Trump.

Cohen will meet privately with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

— Brett Samuels 

Cummings urges lawmakers to ‘get back to normal’

5:20 p.m.

Cummings closed the hearing with an impassioned plea for lawmakers to “get back to normal” and to consider the country they are leaving future generations.

“I don’t know why this is happening for you, but it is my hope that a small part of it is for our country to be better,” Cummings said to Cohen at the conclusion of roughly seven hours of testimony.

“The president called you a ‘rat,’ ” Cummings added. “We’re better than that. We really are. I’m hoping that all of us can get back to his democracy that we want and that we should be passing on to our children so that they can do better than what we did.”

Cohen became visibly emotional as Cummings acknowledged the difficulty of the circumstances for the longtime Trump attorney.

“Hopefully this portion of your destiny will lead to a better Michel Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world,” Cummings said as Cohen reached for a drink of water.

The chairman grew more impassioned, shouting into the microphone as he called on lawmakers to reflect on how they’re protecting democracy.

He took a swipe at Republicans, who earlier in the hearing suggested holding a hearing with Cohen was an indication that Democrats were out to get the president.

Cummings noted that the committee previously held a hearing on prescription drug prices.

“We can do more than one thing,” Cummings said. “And we have got to get back to normal.”

— Brett Samuels

Cohen lashes out at Trump in concluding remarks

5:05 p.m.

Cohen lashed out at the president in his closing remarks, saying he refuses to remain silent in light of the harm he says Trump is inflicting on the country.

“I have acknowledged I have made my own mistakes and I have owned up to them publicly and under oath, but silence and complicity in the face of the daily destruction of our basic norms and civility to one another will not be one of them,” he said. 

He went on to attack Trump over various behaviors and policies, including his attacks of the media, his zero-tolerance immigration policy and the government shutdown.

“We honor our veterans even in the rain. You tell the truth even when it doesn’t aggrandize you. You respect the law and our incredible law enforcement agents, you don’t villainize them. You don’t disparage generals, gold star families, prisoners of war and other heroes who had the courage to fight for this country. You don’t attack the media and those that question what you don’t like or what you don’t want them to say,” he said.

“You take responsibility for your own dirty deeds. You don’t use your power of your bully pulpit to destroy the credibility of those who speak out against you. You don’t separate families from one another or demonize those looking to America for a better life. You don’t vilify people based on the God they pray to. And you don’t cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies. And finally, you don’t shut down the government before Christmas and New Years just to simply appease your base.”

Cohen noted that his work for Trump has cost him nearly everything, ranging from his law license to his freedom, adding that his knowledge of how the president operates makes him fear about the transition of power should Trump lose in next year’s presidential election. 

“I did things and I acted improperly, at times at Mr. Trump’s behest. I blindly followed his demands. My loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me everything. My family’s happiness, friendships, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation, and soon my freedom,” he said.

“And I will not sit back, say nothing and allow him to do the same to the country. Indeed, given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

— Tal Axelrod

Tlaib, Meadows spar over allegation of ‘racist act’

5:00 p.m.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) sparked a confrontation with Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) when she said it was a “racist act” to use a black woman to refute allegations of racism against Trump.

“Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean that they aren’t racist,” Tlaib said.

“And it is insensitive … the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself,” Tlaib continued, getting emotional.

Meadows had invited Lynne Patton, a Trump administration staffer, who is black, to the hearing to push back against Cohen’s allegations during his testimony that the president is a racist.

Meadows immediately responded, asking that Tlaib’s comments be stricken from the record as he believed it was an attack on him.

The freshman Democrat then clarified her comments, saying that she wasn’t accusing Meadows of being a racist but that she believed it was a “racist act” to bring a black woman to the hearing to counter allegations of racism against Trump.

“There’s nothing more personal to me than my relations … my niece and nephew are people of color, not many people know that,” Meadows said.

“And to indicate that I asked someone who is a personal friend of the Trump family…that’s she’s coming in to be a prop, it’s racist to suggest that I asked her to come in for that reason,” he said.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Ocasio-Cortez gathers names of Trump associates with knowledge of his finances

4:45 p.m.

Cohen testified Wednesday that President Trump inflated and deflated his assets over the years, and provided Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) with a list of Trump associates who could provide additional information.

Asked if the president ever provided inflated assets, Cohen answered that he had. The longtime Trump attorney added that the congresswoman could find more information and documentation on the practice at the Trump Organization, and from Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari.

Cohen also confirmed to Ocasio-Cortez that Trump was interested in reducing his local tax bills by deflating his assets. The New York congresswoman cited a golf club near her home district as an example. 

“You deflate the value of the asset and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction,” Cohen said, explaining the practice.

Cohen said he did not know whether an October New York Times report that Trump engaged in dubious tax practices to reap millions was true, but said Weisselberg would.

— Brett Samuels 

Cohen casts doubt on Trump’s tax audit


Cohen expressed doubt on whether Trump’s tax returns were actually under audit by the IRS during the presidential election.

The president has cited an audit as the reason he hasn’t made his tax documents public.

When Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) asked Cohen if he knew whether Trump’s tax returns were actually under audit in 2016, Cohen replied, “I don’t know the answer.”

“I asked for a copy of the audit so that I could use it in terms of my statements to the press, and I was never able to obtain one,” Cohen said.

Cohen said that Trump told him that he didn’t want think tanks examining his tax returns, leading to an audit that could result in penalties.

“I presume that he’s not under audit,” Cohen said.

Under IRS policy, the agency audits the sitting president’s tax returns. However, the IRS has said that audits don’t prevent people from releasing their own tax returns.

Democrats are interested in viewing Trump’s tax returns to learn about any conflicts of interest he may have.

Cohen said that he’s seen Trump’s returns but has never gone through them. He described the returns as “quite long.”

— Naomi Jagoda

Hearing reconvenes

4:28 p.m.

The hearing reconvened later Wednesday afternoon. Cohen entered the room and sat back in his seat, as photographers snapped photos of him for about a minute. 

— Morgan Chalfant 

Committee breaks for votes

2:33 p.m. 

The committee broke for a brief recess so that lawmakers could vote. The hearing is expected to reconvene about a half hour after the final vote series Wednesday afternoon.

The committee is expected to move through just one round of questions with Cohen, according to a committee aide.

— Morgan Chalfant

Cohen says he fears social media threats

2:15 p.m. 

Cohen said he fears threats that have poured in over social media, suggesting the president’s social media use has sparked online angst.

{mosads}“When you have access to 60 million plus people that follow you on social media and you have the ability within which to spark some action by individuals that follow him, and from his own words that he can walk down Fifth Avenue, shoot someone and get away with it, it’s never comfortable,” Cohen said before trailing off.

Cohen added that he fears “a lot, and it’s not just him. It’s those people that follow him and his rhetoric.”

The former Trump lawyer said he’s had to adjust his everyday habits out of fear from online threats.

“I don’t walk with my wife if we go to a restaurant, go somewhere, I don’t walk with my children. I make them go before me because I have fear, and it’s the same fear that I had before when he initially decided to drop that tweet in my cell phone,” he said.

“I received some tweets, I received some Facebook Messenger, all sorts of social media attacks upon me whether it’s a private direct message that I’ve had to turn over to Secret Service because they’re the most vile, disgusting statements that anyone can ever receive, and when it starts to affect your children, that’s when it really affects you.” 

Earlier in the hearing, Cohen accused the president of seeking to intimidate him prior to his testimony, citing Trump’s accusations that he is a “rat.”

— Tal Axelrod

Stormy Daniels thanks Cohen for testimony

2:15 p.m.

Adult-film star Stormy Daniels thanked Cohen for telling “the truth” about the hush money payments she received to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.

Daniels issued a statement to MSNBC as Cohen testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform expressing sympathy for him and his family.

“Michael, I’m proud of you for finally beginning to tell the truth about what you did, and trying to repair some of the harm you have caused,” Daniels said. “I can hear the pain and regret you feel for betraying your family and your country. My heart goes out to you and your family.”

Daniels said she empathized with Cohen’s fear, and noted that he and the president previously called her a liar. Daniels alleged during a “60 Minutes” interview last year that an individual implied something would happen to her daughter if she spoke about the alleged affair with Trump.

“Thank you for having the courage, at long last, to begin to tell the truth,” she added. “I hope that some day soon your family and mine can both leave this nightmare behind.”

Cohen testified that Trump was aware of the scheme to pay Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. 

Cohen said the president called him in February 2018 to coordinate public messaging after reports on the payment first emerged, and provided a copy of a check from Trump that was a reimbursement for the payment to Daniels.

The president has provided shifting explanations about his knowledge of the payments, but has denied the alleged affair and insisted the hush money arrangement did not violate campaign finance laws.

— Brett Samuels 

Cohen says he discussed Russia travel with Corey Lewandowski

2:10 p.m. 

Cohen said that he discussed the possibility of Trump traveling to Russia in connection with the Trump Moscow project with Trump campaign aide Corey Lewandoski.

Court filings unsealed in November state that Cohen “asked a senior campaign official about potential business travel to Russia” during the 2016 campaign. Trump identified that individual as Lewandowski on Wednesday.

“[Trump] told me to speak to Corey to see what dates might be available,” Cohen said. 

Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about discussing plans to travel to Russia in connection with the project. Neither he nor Trump ultimately traveled to Russia as part of the discussions and the real-estate deal never came to fruition.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Cohen provides more ‘catch and kill’ details, denies existence of tape showing Trump striking his wife

1:50 p.m.

Cohen provided more details about the “catch and kill” arrangements made through AMI to squash unflattering stories about Trump.

He first denied that there is a tape of Trump striking his wife in an elevator, which has been rumored to exist.

“I’m certain it’s not true,” Cohen said, adding that there have multiple attempts to buy the tape if it did exist.

And he said that another story purchased by AMI to kill it about Trump having a love child is also not true, to the best of his knowledge.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Cohen says he’s never been to Prague

1:46 p.m. 

Cohen told lawmakers that he has never traveled to Prague.

McClatchy reported last year that foreign intelligence services had evidence of a mobile phone linked to Cohen pinging cell towers around Prague between August and September 2016.

The report, which Cohen denied at the time, gave credence to a claim in the controversial Trump-Russia dossier that Cohen as Trump’s lawyer secretly met with Russian government representatives in Prague in August 2016.

“I’ve never been to Prague,” Cohen said.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Cohen says Trump directed him to lie about hush money payment

1:35 p.m.

Cohen testified that Trump called him in February 2018 and directed him to mislead the public about the president’s knowledge of a hush money payment to adult-film star Daniels.

Cohen told lawmakers Trump called him while he was meeting with a reporter in February 2018 to coordinate on public messaging about payments to Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with the president.

“What did president ask or suggest you say about the payments or reimbursements?” Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) asked.

“He was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements and he wasn’t knowledgeable of my actions,” Cohen said. 

“He asked you to say that?” Hill asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Cohen replied.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in January 2018 that Cohen had paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. The president has denied the affair took place.

Trump has offered shifting explanations about when he knew about the payments, but initially told reporters that he was unfamiliar with the arrangement to pay Daniels.

Cohen told lawmakers that his statement issued in February 2018 that he used his own personal funds to pay Daniels and that “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was party to the transaction” or reimbursed him was technically accurate.

“I purposefully left out Mr. Trump individually from that statement,” Cohen said.

“Why did you say it that way?” Hill said.

“Because that’s what was discussed to do between myself, Mr. Trump and Mr. Weisselberg,” he said, referencing Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg.

Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance law violations related to the payment to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also alleged she had an affair with Trump. He said in court documents at the time that he made the payments at Trump’s direction.

— Brett Samuels

Cohen says he came up with idea of Trump presidential bid in 2011

1:25 p.m. 

Cohen said that he came up with the idea that Trump should run for president back in 2011.

“I saw a document in a newspaper that said who would you vote for in 2012, 6 percent of the people said they would vote for Donald Trump,” Cohen said

“I said to him, ‘Mr. Trump look at this’ and he said ‘well wouldn’t that be great?’ ” Cohen said. “And that’s how it all started.”

Cohen also said he started the website in 2011. That site is no longer active.

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Meadows snaps at Cohen amid questioning: ‘Don’t give me that bull’

1:24 p.m.

Meadows grew frustrated while pressing Cohen on whether former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean advised Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis on submitting his testimony last minute.

Cohen, who denied that he had spoken personally to Dean, said he was working late on his testimony Tuesday night ahead of his public appearance.

“So you were writing it last night?” Meadows said, thrusting down his papers in a sign of frustration. “Don’t give me that bull.”

Cohen, who appeared taken aback by the remark, said he was working with his lawyers to make “edits all the way through the night.”

“We were working until 11, 12 o’clock last night to finish everything,” Cohen told Meadows.

 — Olivia Beavers

GOP rep defends Trump against Cohen claim he didn’t want to be president

1:00 p.m. 

Rep. Glenn Grotham (R-Wis.) pushed back against Cohen’s assertion in his opening testimony that Trump had no desire to lead the country and that he campaigned for president to boost the Trump brand.

“I just want to clarify that I dealt with President Trump several times as he was trying to get Wisconsin,” Grotham said. “He was always confident. He was working very hard. And this idea that somehow he was just running to raise his profile for some future venture, at least in my experience, is preposterous.

{mosads}“I find it offensive when anti-Trump people imply that he didn’t expect to win,” he added.

Cohen said in his opening remarks that Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” adding that the president “never expected to win the primary” and “never expected to win the general election.”

“The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity,” Cohen said.

— Brett Samuels 

Cohen says changes were made to testimony about Trump Moscow deal after meeting with Trump lawyers 

12:58 p.m. 

When asked about whether Trump’s personal lawyers made changes to his written 2017 congressional testimony, Cohen replied, “There were changes made.”

Cohen said changes were made to the testimony at a meeting with Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow but he didn’t go into detail about them beyond saying they were about the message regarding how long the discussions about building a Trump property in Moscow went on.

“There will several changes that were made, including how we were going to handle that message,” Cohen said.

In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the real-estate property discussions. Cohen admitted, among other things, that the talks extended as late as June 2016 — six months longer than he testified.

— Morgan Chalfant

Cohen says there are other examples of wrongdoing involving Trump that he can’t discuss

12:50 p.m.

Cohen told lawmakers that he’s aware of additional illegal acts President Trump committed that have not been discussed at Wednesday’s hearing, but that he could not elaborate because they relate to a Southern District of New York investigation.

Cohen estimated that he last spoke with Trump or someone acting on his behalf last fall, though he could not recall a specific date.

“I would suspect it was within two months post-the raid,” he said, referring to the April 2018 FBI raid of his home, hotel room and office. 

Asked what they discussed, Cohen said, “Unfortunately this topic is actually something that’s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss and not to talk about these issues.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) asked if there was “any other wrongdoing or illegal act” that Cohen is aware of regarding Trump that had not yet been discussed.

“Yes and that’s part of the investigation being looked at by the Southern District of New York,” Cohen said.

Cohen pleaded guilty last year in the Southern District to charges of bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance law violations.

— Brett Samuels

Cohen said he met with Trump ahead of House Intel interview

12:45 p.m. 

Cohen said that he met with Trump and Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow ahead of Cohen’s interview with the House Intelligence Committee in August of 2017. 

“He wanted me to cooperate,” Cohen said of Trump, and for him to saying that “there is no Russia, there is no collusion.”

“It’s all a witch hunt and this stuff has to end,” the president’s former attorney said of Trump’s message.

When asked by Connolly if he believed Trump was coaching him on his testimony, Cohen said that it would be difficult to characterize it like that specifically. 

“It’s difficult to answer because he doesn’t tell you what he wants,” Cohen said.

But he said that Trump wanted him to stick to the “party line he created,” that there was no collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Connolly defends Cohen from GOP attacks on credibility

12:40 p.m.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) defended Cohen from attacks on his credibility by Republican lawmakers, saying that Congress “historically has relied on all kinds of shady figures who turned.”

“The idea that a witness would come to us who’s flawed, and you certainly are flawed, means that they can never tell a truth, has no validity whatsoever to a single word they say, would discredit every single criminal investigation trial of organized crime in the history of the United States,” Connolly said. “Because all of them have relied on someone who’s turned.”

Republicans on the panel have repeatedly cited Cohen’s past false statements and guilty plea to claim that he is not a credible witness.

“So don’t be fooled by what my friends on the other side of the aisle are doing,” Connolly said. “It is do everything but focus on the principal known as Individual No. 1 in the Southern District of New York.”

Cohen said earlier during the hearing that Individual No. 1 listed in court filings in his case refers to Trump.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Cohen knocks Republicans for avoiding questions about Trump

12:32 p.m.

Cohen knocked ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other GOP lawmakers for focusing using their time to impugn his credibility rather than ask about President Trump.

“I just find it interesting, sir, that between yourself and your colleagues that not one questions so far since I’m here has been asked about President Trump,” Cohen said. “That’s actually why I thought I was coming today. Not to confess the mistakes that I’ve made. I’ve already done that.”

“I’m not here today, and the American people don’t care about my taxes,” Cohen added. “They want to know what it is that I know about Mr. Trump. And not one question so far has been asked about Mr. Trump.”

Cohen’s barb came after Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) yielded some of her time to Jordan, who proceeded to press Cohen on why he and his lawyers didn’t refute a recent BuzzFeed News story that the special counsel’s office disputed.

Jordan and other Republicans have cited Cohen’s guilty plea for lying to Congress as well as his past comments defending Trump to depict him as a hypocrite and a liar. 

— Brett Samuels

Panel takes first break of the day

12:12 p.m.

The committee took a brief recess shortly after noon at Cohen’s request after approximately two hours of testimony.

Roughly a dozen lawmakers have questioned Cohen thus far, covering a range of topics. The ex-lawyer has detailed his conversations with the Trump family about a property in Moscow, about whether he believes Trump is capable of colluding with Russia and about the president’s financial records.

GOP lawmakers have hammered Cohen after his credibility and his past statements that were fiercely defensive of the president.

There are still dozens of lawmakers who have yet to question Cohen, whose testimony is likely to last for several more hours.

— Brett Samuels

Cohen says he briefed Trump Jr., Ivanka on Trump Moscow talks

12:00 p.m. 

Cohen told lawmakers that he briefed Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump on plans to build a Trump property in Moscow during the 2016 campaign.

Cohen said that he briefed the Trump family on “approximately ten” occasions about the project, which never came to fruition.

In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the property plans within the Trump Organization, acknowledging that the talks extended into June 2016 — six months later than he originally claimed.

Cohen told the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday that Trump did not direct him to lie to Congress about the property plans but that he did so to protect the president. 

Cohen details how he would help get Trump on Forbes wealthiest list

12:00 p.m.

Cohen described how he would help exaggerate Trump’s net worth to bolster the president’s ranking of the wealthiest people in Forbes Magazine.

In response to questions from Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Cohen said that there were times when he was asked, along with Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, to talk to a Forbes reporter “because Mr. Trump wanted each year to have his net worth rise on the Forbes wealthiest individuals list.”

He said that Trump’s assets would be valued at highly by trying to find the highest possible price per square foot in the area to value Trump’s properties, or by using the gross rent roll multiplied by a multiple that would be made up.

“It’s based upon what he wanted to value the asset at,” Cohen said.

Cohen provided the committee with some of Trump’s financial statements.

Cohen said that he would use the documents when discussing Trump’s net worth with news outlets such as Forbes, and would also provide them to insurance companies so that premiums would be lower. He said this was done with Trump’s knowledge.

“I believe these numbers are inflated,” Cohen said.

When Clay asked Cohen if he thinks Trump ever submitted inflated assets to obtain a loan, Cohen said that the documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank to get money in an effort to purchase the Buffalo Bills.

— Naomi Jagoda

Cohen: I turned on Trump because of ‘Helsinki,’ ‘Charlottesville,’ and the ‘daily destruction of civility’

12:00 p.m.

In his Wednesday testimony to Congress, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said he turned on the president because of “Helsinki,” “Charlottesville” and the “daily destruction of civility.”

When asked by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) what the breaking point was that led him to “tell the truth” Cohen responded, “There are several factors: Helsinki, Charlottesville, watching the daily destruction of our civility to one another.”

Cohen also said that Trump was “becoming an autocrat.”

“When he goes on Twitter and he starts bringing in my in-laws, my parents, my wife, he’s sending out the same message that he can do whatever he wants,” he said. “This is his country, he’s becoming an autocrat.” 

Meadows confronts Cohen in testy exchange on Trump racism accusations

11:55 a.m.

Meadows brought Trump administration staffer Lynne Patton, who is black, to the hearing, citing her relationship with the president to push back against Cohen’s allegations 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, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.”

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

Cohen 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. 

“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.”

Cohen, who worked for the president for years as his personal attorney, alleged in his opening statement that Trump is a “racist” and a conman, citing past comments from the president that black people “are too stupid to vote” for him.

— Brett Samuels 

Meadows accuses Cohen of violating lobbying law

11:50 a.m.

Meadows (R-N.C.) accused Cohen of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a federal law requiring lobbyists to disclose any work they do for foreign governments or political parties. Meadows asked that the committee consider criminal referrals at their next business meeting. 


Earlier, Meadows focused his questioning on money Cohen received from BTA bank in Kazakhstan.

— Morgan Chalfant

Cohen to Jordan: ‘Shame on you’

11:45 a.m.

Cohen shot back at the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee after Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) said Cohen was already turning back on his claims of remorse for actions he took as President Trump’s lawyer.

Cohen accused Jordan of twisting his words during the exchange at Wednesday’s hearing, sharply telling the congressman “shame on you.”

“Shame on you, Mr. Jordan,” Cohen said. “That is not what I said, not what I said.”

The back-and-forth began when Jordan accused Cohen of disputing the fact that he had committed the financial crimes that he pleaded guilty to committing after being charged by authorities in the Southern District of New York.

“We just had a five-minute debate where Mr. Cohen disputes what the Southern District of New York found, what the judge found that he was actually guilty of committing bank fraud,” Jordan said.

Cohen pushed back, saying he was merely trying to correct what GOP lawmaker Rep. James Comer (Ky.) had said in questioning him.  

“What I said was, I took responsibility and that I take responsibility. What I was doing was explaining to the gentleman that his facts are inaccurate. I take responsibility for my mistakes,” he said.

— Olivia Beavers

Cohen reasserts he has no evidence of Trump ‘in terms of collusion’ with Russia

11:30 a.m.

Cohen told lawmakers that Trump will “do what is necessary” to win, but that he does not have direct evidence the president colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign and it would be unfair to speculate whether the president has lied about it.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) sought to pin Cohen down on whether he believed the president had colluded with Russia.

“Knowing how Mr. Trump operates with his winning at all costs mentality, do you believe that he would cooperate or collude with a foreign power to win the presidency? Is he capable of that?” Wasserman Schultz asked.

“It calls on so much speculation, ma’am,” Cohen responded. “It would be unfair for me to give you an answer to that. Mr. Trump is all about winning. He will do what is necessary to win.”

He responded “yes” when the congresswoman asked if Trump had the potential to cooperate with a foreign power to win the presidency at all costs, but was less committal when asked if Trump lied about colluding with the Russians during the 2016 campaign.

“I wouldn’t use the word colluding,” Cohen said. “Was there something odd about back-and-forth praise with President Putin? Yes. But I’m not really sure that I can answer that question in terms of collusion.”

Cohen said during his opening statement that he does not know of direct evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia, but that he has his suspicions.

Wasserman Schultz served as the head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 election, when WikiLeaks published a tranche of emails from the organization.

— Brett Samuels

Jordan tears into Cohen, notes past crimes

11:10 a.m.  

Jordan tore into Cohen during his questioning, reciting his crimes and casting doubt on the truthfulness his testimony.

Quoting from court filings, Jordan, a fierce Trump ally, noted that federal prosecutors declared that Cohen “did crimes that were marked by a pattern of deception and permeated his professional life.” Jordan also suggested Cohen had only turned on the president because he didn’t get a job in the White House.

Jordan grilled Cohen on his false statements to Congress, failure to report income to the Internal Revenue Service, and false statements he made to a bank — all of which Cohen had pleaded guilty to in federal court.

As Jordan listed off Cohen’s criminal conduct, he repeatedly asked: “Was that done to protect the president?” Cohen repeatedly answered, “No, it was not.”

Jordan also raised a Twitter account called “Women for Cohen” that a firm working for Cohen created during the 2016 campaign to raise his profile, which the Wall Street Journal previously reported.

“Was that done to protect the president?” Jordan asked. 

“I didn’t set that up,” Cohen answered, noting a woman working for the firm RedFinch Solutions did so.

“We were having fun during a stressful time,” Cohen said.

Jordan also questioned why Cohen continued to work for Trump for a decade, despite witnessing the conduct he described. He suggested Cohen was only testifying against Trump because he has a selfish ax to grind.

“You wanted to work for the White House, but you didn’t get brought to the dance,” Jordan accused. 

“I didn’t want to got to the White House,” Cohen said, refuting him. Cohen said he was “offered jobs” but declined them.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Cohen compares Trump to a mobster

11:05 a.m. 

Cohen compared Trump to a mobster, claiming he was seeking to intimidate him before he testified before Congress. 

“By coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurrilous attacks by the president and his lawyer, trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel,” Cohen said towards the end of his opening remarks. 

“Mr. Trump called me a ‘rat’ for choosing to tell the truth, much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government,” he continued.

Cohen then cited two tweets from the president that he says aimed to intimidate him.

“Remember, Michael Cohen only became a ‘Rat’ after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unread of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?” one tweet read.

In another, Trump claimed that Cohen “lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

Cohen argued in his opening remarks that these tweets clearly show Trump was trying to encourage “someone to do harm to me and my family.”

He also expressed surprise that Trump and his allies would go after him and his family.

“I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family and unleash his TV lawyer to do the same,” Cohen said, in what appears to be a reference to the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who said on Wednesday that anyone who believed Cohen’s testimony would have to be a “fool.”

— Olivia Beavers 

Cohen: ‘No doubt in my mind’ Trump knew he was reimbursing hush money payments

11:00 a.m. 

Cohen said that there was “no doubt in my mind” that Trump knew that he was reimbursing Cohen for a hush money payment made to Daniels to stay quiet about an alleged affair when Trump wrote him a personal check while serving as president.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked Cohen if the former lawyer was testifying that Trump “wrote you a check out of his personal account while he was serving as president of the United States of America to reimburse you for hush money payments?” Cohen replied that he was.

“The president claimed he knew nothing about these payments, his ethics filings said he owed nothing to you,” Cummings continued. “Based on your conversations with him, is there any doubt in your mind that President Trump knew exactly what he was paying for?”

“There was no doubt in my mind and I truly believe there was no doubt in the mind of the people of the United States of America,” Cohen replied.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Cohen offers public apology 

10:55 a.m. 

Cohen was contrite in his testimony, repeatedly noting that he continued working for Trump despite knowledge of what the onetime confidant of the president described as “racist,” illegal and nefarious behavior.

At the end of his opening statement, Cohen offered an apology to the lawmakers before him and to the American people. Cohen is slated to soon report to prison to serve a three-year sentence for campaign finance violations, making false statements to Congress and other charges. 

“Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching,” Cohen said. “I am sorry for my lies and for lying to Congress. And to our nation, I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.”

— Morgan Chalfant 

Cohen says Trump had ‘no desire’ to serve as president

10:50 a.m. 

Cohen said that Trump had “no desire” to lead the country, but instead sought to build his personal brand with his 2016 presidential campaign.

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen said. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation, only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.”

“Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial in political history,” Cohen continued. “He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity.”

Multiple pundits and observers — including author Michael Wolff and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough — have speculated since he took office that Trump did not expect to win the presidency when he ran in 2016.

The businessman has given every indication he intends to run for a second term in 2020 and held his first campaign rally of the year earlier this month in Texas.

— Brett Samuels

Cohen takes sworn testimony oath

10:29 a.m. 

Cohen, raising his right hand, swore before the committee that the testimony he was about to give is the “whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me god.”

Cohen answered in the affirmative after Cummings read the oath.

He has also vowed in his prepared opening remarks to tell the truth, promising to include documentation to help support his claims.

— Olivia Beavers 

Jordan paints Cohen hearing as attempt to impeach Trump

10:25 a.m. 

Jordan used his opening statement to disparage the purpose of Wednesday’s hearing, painting Cohen as not being a credible witness and the start of Democratic efforts to impeach the president.

The lawmaker noted that Cohen is the first major witness to appear before the committee since it was taken under Democratic control, describing the president’s former fixer solely as “a convicted felon.” 

“Your chairmanship will always be identified with this hearing,” Jordan said to Cummings.

{mossecondads}”When we legitimize dishonesty we delegitimize this institution,” the Republican said, referring to Cohen’s past lies to Congress. “We are supposed to pursue the truth, but you have stacked the deck against the truth.”

He also claimed that Wednesday’s hearing was orchestrated by Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis, highlighting Davis’s ties to the Clintons.

And Jordan said that the Democrat-lead hearing was designed “to give a convicted felon a forum to tell stories and lie about the president of the United States, so they can all start their impeachment process.”

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Cummings says Cohen prepared testimony ‘deeply disturbing’

10:20 a.m.

Cummings described former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s prepared testimony as “deeply disturbing,” saying it raised “great questions” about the legality of President Trump’s conduct while in office.

“The testimony that Michael Cohen will provide today, ladies and gentlemen, is deeply disturbing and it should be troubling to all Americans,” Cummings said, noting that the public would need to make its own judgments about Cohen’s credibility given his past false statements to Congress. 

Cummings particularly noted that Cohen, who worked for Trump for roughly a decade, came equipped with evidence in the form of a check signed personally by Trump in August 2017 that repaid him for hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels. 

Cohen has pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law by orchestrating the payment, which he has admitted was done to prevent negative information from surfacing about Trump during the 2016 campaign. Cohen has said that Trump directed him to make the payments.

Trump has offered shifting explanations for the payments, which Cummings noted, including denying knowledge of them in April and later acknowledging he repaid Cohen but that the payments were a retainer for legal services. Trump has denied wrongdoing. 

“This new evidence raises a host of troubling legal and ethical concerns about the president’s actions in the White House and before,” Cummings said.

Cummings acknowledged that it was a “legitimate question” whether Cohen is a credible witness. Last November, Cohen admitted to lying to the House and Senate intelligence committees about discussions within the Trump Organization to build a Trump property in Moscow and agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Cohen is slated to begin a three-year prison sentence for the campaign finance violations, false statements and other charges he pleaded guilty to last year.

Republicans like committee ranking member Jim Jordan (Ohio), a fierce Trump ally, have seized on Cohen’s past lies as reason for him not to be trusted in his public testimony Wednesday. 

“We all have to make our own evaluations of the evidence and Cohen’s credibility,” Cummings said in his opening remarks, describing his past lies as an “important factor” for lawmakers to weigh. 

“But we must weigh it and we must hear from him,” Cummings added. 

Cummings signaled that his committee, which has broad oversight powers, would take steps following Cohen’s testimony to get to the bottom of Cohen’s testimony and allegations about the hush-money payments and other matters.

“We will continue after the day to collect more documents and testimony,” Cummings said. “Mr. Cohen’s testimony is the beginning of the process — not the end.” 

— Morgan Chalfant

Meadows attempts to delay hearing over timing of Cohen’s written testimony

10:10 a.m.

An irate Meadows attempted to postpone Cohen’s testimony at the start of the hearing, claiming that Cohen withheld submitting his written testimony until late Tuesday night in violation of committee rules. 

Meadows said that Cohen had not submitted his opening statement until about 10 p.m. on Tuesday and that Congress only received excerpts on Wednesday morning.

“It was an intentional effort by this witness and his adviser to once again show his disdain for this body,” Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said in reference to Cohen’s past false statements to Congress.

The committee voted against delaying the hearing.

“You’ve made it clear that you don’t want the American people to hear what Mr. Cohen has to say,” Cummings said, directing his comments toward Meadows and Jordan. “But the American people have a right to hear him, so we’re going to proceed.”

Jordan pushed back, saying that they “didn’t say stop the hearing, we said postpone it” so they could receive the written statements and exhibits in accordance with committee rules.

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Cohen arrives 

9:59 a.m.  

Michael Cohen entered the room just before 10 a.m. He paused for about a minute as a spattering of photographers took pictures of him in the witness chair. House lawmakers filled the chairs in the room facing him. 

— Morgan Chalfant 

Dems defend Cohen’s credibility

9:50 a.m.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that Cohen has an incentive to be truthful with lawmakers, pushing back against GOP criticisms that Cohen is untrustworthy.

Whitehouse noted on Twitter that Cohen’s cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors could be imperiled if he’s found to have perjured himself during congressional testimony.

“Looking at prison, all #Cohen’s incentives are to be truthful,” Whitehouse said.


The senator responded directly to a tweet from Trump, who repeated his claim that Cohen is lying to secure a lighter prison sentence.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) noted in a tweet of his own that Cohen has agreed to testify under oath, whereas Trump has not, saying that gives the former attorney’s words additional weight.

— Brett Samuels 

Crowds swarm Capitol Hill ahead of Cohen appearance

9:40 a.m. 

The scene outside the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing room was chaotic ahead of Cohen’s testimony Wednesday morning. 

Throngs of reporters, cameramen, photographers and onlookers from the public flocked the hallways of the Rayburn House Office building.

Cohen’s attorney and spokesman Lanny Davis could be seen sitting in the front row behind Cohen’s seat a half hour before the hearing was slated to begin.

— Morgan Chalfant

Giuliani: Anyone who believes ‘pathetic’ Cohen is a ‘fool’

8:05 a.m.

Giuliani, who currently serves as Trump’s personal attorney, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that one would have to be a “fool” to believe Cohen’s testimony.

“It’s pathetic. This is a lawyer who tapped [sic] his own client when he claimed he was being loyal. If you believe him you are a fool,” Giuliani told the news outlet.

“Let’s see if these Democrats want to ask about his many crimes that have nothing to do with anyone but his coterie of business associates with questionable connections,” he added.

Giuliani suggested Cohen “may be” tied to Russian organized crime and raised Cohen’s father-in-law’s past criminal conviction. The former New York City mayor has made similar comments before, prompting allegations of witness tampering.

Giuliani said last year that Trump and his legal team had no concerns about Cohen cooperating with prosecutors, but he has since shifted his tone to repeatedly slam the longtime Trump Organization as untrustworthy.

— Brett Samuels 

Trump blasts Cohen on Twitter

7:30 p.m.

President Trump early Wednesday sought to distance himself from Cohen, slamming his ex-lawyer in a tweet between meetings with Vietnamese officials and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also,” Trump tweeted. “He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!”

Cohen is represented by Lanny Davis, who has long been an adviser and ally to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The early morning tweet marked the first time Trump weighed in on Cohen’s testimony to Congress since it was scheduled.

Cohen will begin his testimony a short time after the president is scheduled to conclude his first round of talks with Kim in Vietnam.

— Brett Samuels

Tags 2016 campaign Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Cohen testimony Corey Lewandowski Debbie Wasserman Schultz Donald Trump Donald Trump Jr. Elijah Cummings Eric Swalwell Gerry Connolly Hillary Clinton Ivanka Trump Jim Cooper Jim Jordan Jimmy Gomez Katie Hill Lacy Clay Live coverage Mark Meadows North Korea Raja Krishnamoorthi Rashida Tlaib Robert Mueller Roger Stone Sheldon Whitehouse Trump tweets Virginia Foxx Watch live White House
See all Hill.TV See all Video