It was a dramatic day on Capitol Hill. The president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, facing prison for lying to Congress, was back before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday, testifying to having knowledge and evidence that the president of United States was nothing more than a common criminal.
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts, rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is — he is a racist, he is a con man and he is a cheat,” Cohen said.
With Democrats in charge, the hearing concentrated on the majority amplifying Cohen’s piercing opening statement with leading questions. On the other hand, Republicans concentrated on impugning Cohen’s credibility, pointing out that this was a man who lied to Congress and plead guilty to other crimes in federal court.
Here’s some of what happened:
Committee Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings: Donald 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 to Mrs. Clifford. Is that what you are telling the American people today?
Cohen: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Mr. Cohen, how long did you work in the White House?
Cohen: I never worked in the White House
Jordan: And that’s the point, isn’t it Mr. Cohen.
Cohen: No, sir.
Jordan: Yes it is. You wanted to work in the White House. You didn’t get brought to the dance and now…
Cohen: I was extremely proud to be personal attorney to the president of the United State of America. I did not want to go to the White House.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: Would he have the potential to cooperate or collude with foreign power to win the presidency at all costs?
Rep. Mark Green: He’s going to prison for lying to Congress and he’s the star witness to Congress. If you read the sentencing report on Mr. Cohen, words like “deceptive” and “greedy” are scattered throughout that report. It paints a picture of a narcissist, a bully, who cannot tell the truth whether it’s the president or about his own personal life. But today he’s the majority party’s star witness.
Rep. James Comer: Mr. Cohen, you called Donald Trump a cheat in your opening testimony. What would you call yourself?
Cohen: A fool.
Comer: Well, no comment on that.
Rep. Jim Cooper: Have you ever seen Mr. Trump personally threaten people with physical harm?
Cohen: No, he would use others.
Cooper: He would hire other people to do that?
Cohen: I’m not sure that he had to hire them, they were already working there. Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Everyday most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something, and that became the norm. And that’s exactly what’s happening right now in this country, and it’s exactly what’s happening here in government.
NJTV News Correspondent Briana Vannozzi is in Washington DC where she ran into some of the New Jersey delegation.
Frank Pallone was so busy going from committee hearing to committee hearing that he said he didn’t have time to listen to the testimony, but certainly was concerned.
Rep. Donald Norcross from South Jersey said he was taking a pragmatic, almost tepid, approach waiting to see what the facts are and the full scale of the testimony and any supporting documentation that’s provided to Congress.
Reps. Tom Malinowski and Bonnie Watson Coleman said while they may not still be a smoking gun, there’s a whole lot of smoke.
“The most serious matter that arose in today’s hearing is just confirmation that President Trump threw out the 2016 campaign was trying to do business with the Putin regime, trying to build a tower in Moscow, and lying to the American people about it, even as he was taking positions throughout the campaign that were favorable to Putin and to Russia. That is one of the most stunning things that I’ve ever heard in my life about a president of the United States,” Malinowski said.
“There’s people who are questioning the credibility of Mr. Cohen, and rightfully so, but he doesn’t have anything to gain from this but he has something to lose if he lies before Congress,” Coleman said.
Coleman added that the public is paying for the hearings, so they have a right to know what’s in the report. She expects to question further what support is out there and look into some of those documents.
Malinowski said his main question is what, if any, influence did this have or is this having over the president’s foreign policy decision making? He is a president for the American people, or he is strictly out for his own interests?
Both were quite concerned about what they were hearing. When Malinowski was asked specifically about the implications as far as an impeachable offenses, he said, while those words specifically may not be floating around within the delegation, they certainly are in a hush tone that they will be looking to see what criminal offenses there are.
Cohen on Wednesday talked about some criminal investigations that haven’t been made public yet. Coleman said he still has more to lose even though his credibility may be in question. They’re going to be looking into the allegations he made seriously, and of course seeing how that affects New Jersey because it is all taxpayer money that’s going toward the Mueller investigation and these allegations will only further that.
There are 42 members on the committee — a full day of questions and testimony. Many Democrats see impeachable offenses in Cohen’s testimony, but Republicans insist it’s all political theater.