Michael Cohen’s public testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee Wednesday was as combative as expected, with plenty of congressional grandstanding and partisan fireworks.
But amid the barbs were several revelations that shed new light on the Russia probe, on President Trump’s hush money payments, and on other Trump controversies Cohen was involved in.
Here’s a look at what we learned:
Cohen Is Assisting With Other Unspecified Probes With Trump Links
Perhaps the biggest bombshell is what Cohen couldn’t discuss Wednesday. Asked specifically about his communications with Trump after an FBI raid on his home, and more broadly about other Trump misconduct the committee hadn’t discussed yet, Cohen in both instances said that he couldn’t answer those questions because of ongoing investigations in the Southern District in New York.
Later on the hearing, he said again that he was assisting prosecutors on those questions.
“There are ongoing investigations currently being conducted that have nothing to do with this committee or Congress that I am assisting in,” Cohen said.
Trump’s Personal Attorneys Edited His 2017 Prepared Testimony About Russia Biz Dealings
Cohen testified that Trump’s attorneys, and specifically Jay Sekulow, edited his prepared testimony to Congress in 2017, which he later admitted included false statements about his work on a Trump Tower project in Moscow.
“There were changes made, additions,” Cohen said, adding that the main alteration was “the length of time that the Trump Tower Moscow project stayed and remained alive.”
As part of a joint defense agreement, the draft testimony was circulated to Trump’s legal team, as well as to Abbe Lowell, who is representing Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Cohen said.
Following the hearing, Sekulow denied that Trump’s attorneys edited Cohen’s statement to change the length of time the Trump Org was in negotiations for the Moscow project.
Additionally, Cohen revealed that he met with Sekulow at the White House at President’s request in May 2017.
They met to discuss “document production as well as my appearance before” the congressional committees, Cohen testified.
Ivanka And Don Jr. Were Briefed Around 10 Times On Trump Tower Moscow
Cohen went into more detail about how he kept Trump and his family appraised of the developments with the Trump Tower Moscow project through 2016. He briefed Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. “approximately 10” times, he said. As for Trump himself, he would tell Cohen, “Michael, walk with me,” Cohen said.
“He was heading to a rally, or to a car, and as I was walking him to the elevator, he would ask me a series of questions, quickly,” he said, adding that he would “report back” to Trump after “each communication that I had.”
Trump Had Advanced Knowledge Of 2016 Hacked Email Dumps
Cohen dropped a major bomb in the opening remarks of his testimony, in which he recalled overhearing Trump on a July 2016 phone call with Roger Stone during which Stone told the then-candidate about an imminent hacked email dump.
“Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great,’” Cohen testified.
Later in the hearing Cohen elaborated more about the episode. Trump had put Stone on speaker phone, in Cohen’s retelling. Stone claimed in the call that he had been in contact with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and told Trump that there’d be a dump of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the next few days, according to the testimony.
Cohen clarified that he had no knowledge whether Trump was aware of the “sum and substance” of the email dump.
Asked who the committee could talk to in order to corroborate Cohen’s account of the phone call, he suggested Trump’s longtime assistant Rhona Graff.
Graff alerted Trump of Stone’s call — yelling to Trump “Roger is on line one” — according to Cohen’s testimony.
Cohen Talked Hush Money Payments With Trump In 2018
Cohen also testified at length about the hush money payments he orchestrated on Trump’s behalf to women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with the President.
He said that in February 2018, more than a year after Trump took office, Trump was still directing him on how to message the payments.
Cohen said that Trump told him to state publicly “that he was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements and that he wasn’t knowledgeable of my actions.”
Trump, Don Jr., And Weisselberg All Signed Hush Money Reimbursement Checks
Cohen, perhaps in anticipation of doubts about his credibility, provided the proverbial receipts, in the form of a check that Trump himself signed that Cohen said was reimbursement for the payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
But it was not just Trump who signed the checks — 11 in total — that paid Cohen back for securing Daniels’ silence. According to Cohen, Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization exec Allen Weisselberg signed at least one of the other checks, a copy of which Cohen provided to the committee.
Cohen Reveals Why He Used Line Of Credit To Pay Off Alleged Trump Paramour
A relatively minor but ongoing mystery surrounding the payment to Daniels was why Cohen used a home equity line of credit to make it.
“The reason that I used the home equity line of credit as opposed to cash that I had in the same exact bank is because I didn’t want my wife to know about it,” Cohen said at a House Oversight Committee hearing. “She handles all of the banking, and I didn’t want her coming to me and asking, ‘what’s the $130,000 for?’”
Trump Told Cohen He Didn’t Want Outside Experts Scrutinizing His Tax Returns
Cohen provided an alternative reason that President Trump, who’s claimed to be under audit, hasn’t allowed his tax returns to be publicly released.
Trump told Cohen, in Cohen’s account, that “what he didn’t want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces.” Trump feared such scrutiny would result in an audit and eventually in penalties, according to the testimony.
Cohen couldn’t say for sure whether Trump was, in fact, under an audit. But he said he had sought documentation of an audit to help him to respond to press inquiries about the returns and never received any.
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