Top moments from the Cohen hearing

Top moments from the Cohen hearing
© Greg Nash

Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress on Wednesday gripped the nation as he unloaded a number of major accusations against his former boss, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE. 

In one of the most dramatic hearings in years, Cohen expressed remorse for working for Trump, clashed with Republican lawmakers and provided more clues to the ongoing investigations of the White House. 

Here are some of the biggest moments from Wednesday’s riveting hearing.

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Cohen claims Trump committed other “illegal acts” that remain under investigation

Cohen told lawmakers that he’s aware of additional illegal acts Trump committed that were not discussed at Wednesday’s hearing, but that he could not elaborate because they relate to an ongoing Southern District of New York (SDNY) investigation. Cohen estimated that he last spoke with Trump or someone acting on his behalf last summer, though he could not recall a specific date.

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

Democratic Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiDemocrats face balancing act with Mueller report demands House passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin Cummings says he needs to examine Cohen's testimony further amid GOP allegations of perjury MORE (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 … those are part of the investigation that is currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York,” Cohen replied.

The exchange raises additional questions among lawmakers eager to investigate the president, and is the latest reminder that Trump faces legal headaches beyond the special counsel’s probe.

Cohen is cooperating with prosecutors after he pleaded guilty last year in the SDNY probe to charges of bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance law violations. He later admitted to the special counsel that he previously lied to Congress, and was sentenced last year to three years in prison. He is scheduled to start serving his time in May. 

Cohen links hush money payments directly to Trump

Cohen has been at the heart of the controversy over payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump. But on Wednesday he made it clear — Trump had knowledge of the payments from the beginning.

The president’s former personal lawyer testified that Trump called him in February 2018 and directed him to mislead the public about the president’s knowledge of a payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump.

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Cohen asserted that the president, whom he consistently referred to as “Mr. Trump,” knew “everything” about the arrangement and that the two men coordinated messaging on the scheme well into Trump’s presidency.

He also said Trump told him to say that the president “was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements and he wasn’t knowledgeable of my actions.”

Trump initially told reporters he was unfamiliar with the arrangement to pay Daniels, but later said he reimbursed Cohen through a retainer fee that was unrelated to his campaign. Trump has denied the affairs, and has insisted that the payments did not violate campaign finance laws. Cohen said he regretted lying about this issue to first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Trump to visit Japan in May to meet with Abe, new emperor Trump dodges media's questions after Mueller report release MORE.

Cohen on Wednesday presented a copy of a check signed by Trump for $35,000, saying the money was one installment of reimbursements he received for paying Daniels.

Cohen told legislators that a statement he issued in February 2018 saying he used his own personal funds to pay Daniels and that “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction” or reimbursed him was technically accurate, because he left out Trump in his individual capacity.

Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance law violations related to the payments to Daniels and former 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.

Sparks fly between Cohen and conservatives

Cohen repeatedly locked horns with Republican lawmakers who sought to undermine his credibility as a witness.

In one testy exchange, Cohen fired back at Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanOvernight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe Schumer staffer-turned-wrestling coach focus of new documentary MORE (Ohio) after the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee alleged that he lacked remorse for the actions he took as Trump’s lawyer.

“Shame on you,” Cohen said, accusing Jordan of twisting his words. “That is not what I said, not what I said.”

The back-and-forth began when Jordan accused Cohen of denying the SDNY’s charges that he committed financial crimes, which he had pleaded guilty to committing.

“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 Rep. James Comer (R-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. “I am remorseful and I am going to prison … I will be away from my wife and family for years.”

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Washington in frenzy over release of Mueller report MORE (R-N.C.), a staunch ally of the president, also snapped at Cohen when pressing him on whether he or his attorneys deliberately waited to submit his prepared testimony. Meadows attempted to delay the hearing over the late testimony, but his motion was voted down.

“So you were writing it [Tuesday] night?” Meadows said in response to Cohen’s excuse, throwing down a pile of papers in frustration. “Don’t give me that bull.”

The GOP strategy to seize on Cohen’s past and raise concerns about credibility issues to the hearing was apparent before the event began. Republicans propped up placards around the hearing room that featured quotes critical of Cohen from the federal judge who sentenced him last year. 

“Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass,” one read. 

Still, Cohen had a warning for the president’s Republican allies, stating that those who “blindly” follow Trump will suffer similar consequences to him.

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

“I can only warn people, the more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”

Allegations of racism take center stage

Allegations of racism permeated Cohen’s congressional hearing, from the president’s former lawyer accusing Trump of racism to members appearing to float similar claims against each other.

In his opening remarks, Cohen accused Trump of being a “racist” in addition to being “a cheat” and a “con man,” claiming that the president said black people “would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

That allegation set off a domino effect: Meadows invited Lynne Patton, a Trump administration staffer who is black, to the hearing to counter Cohen’s allegations that the president is a racist.

But Democrats on the committee did not take the move well.

Rep. Brenda LawrenceBrenda Lulenar LawrenceHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI Bipartisan group asks DHS, ICE to halt deportations of Iraqi nationals MORE (D-Mich.), who is black, swiped at Meadows for bringing Patton to the hearing, calling it “totally insulting” to suggest her presence nullified Trump’s behavior.

And Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Dems plan Monday call on Mueller report: 'Congress will not be silent' MORE (D-Mich.), who is Muslim, called it a “racist act” to use a black woman to refute allegations of racism against the president, sparking an immediate confrontation between her and Meadows.

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

Meadows immediately responded by urging Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsElijah Cummings: 'I am begging the American people to pay attention to what's going on' Nadler: We will subpoena the entire Mueller report early Friday Dem House chairs: Mueller report 'does not exonerate the president' MORE (D-Md.), with whom he has a friendly relationship, to strike Tlaib’s comments from the record — which he described as an unfair attack against him.

The freshman Democrat then clarified her comments, saying that she wasn’t accusing Meadows of being racist, but that she believed it was a “racist act.”

“There’s nothing more personal to me than my relationship … my nieces and nephews 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 replied, visibly fuming.

Cummings and Tlaib both said that they didn’t believe that Tlaib was calling Meadows a racist, and Meadows then dropped his request that the remarks be stricken from the record.

“As everybody knows in this chamber, I’m pretty direct. If I wanted to say that I would have,” Tlaib said. “But that’s not what I said.”

Morgan Chalfant contributed.