Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney for President Donald Trump, appeared before the House oversight committee Wednesday in a highly publicized hearing that produced several eyebrow-raising moments.
After he delivered his explosive prepared testimony, lawmakers spent hours grilling Cohen about his past conversations and business dealings with Trump.
While Democrats took a more measured approach in their exchanges with Cohen, Republicans tore into the former lawyer ― he was recently disbarred ― over his past lies to Congress and his willingness to turn on the president.
Here are some of the wildest exchanges from the hearing:
Republicans Tried To Postpone Hearing
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) accused Cohen of breaking committee rules by submitting his written prepared testimony less than 24 hours before the hearing. In a fiery display, Meadows called on the committee chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), to postpone the hearing.
Several other Republicans, including its ranking GOP member, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, joined Meadows in his motion to delay the event.
The committee voted 24-17 to proceed with the hearing.
“Each of us in this room has this duty to serve as an independent check on the executive branch,” Cummings said. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are in search of the truth.”
Cohen Called Trump A ‘Racist’ And A ‘Conman’ In Prepared Testimony
After being sworn in, Cohen spent roughly 30 minutes reading his written prepared testimony, which was leaked to the media Tuesday evening.
Some of the most jaw-dropping lines included Cohen calling the president a “racist,” claiming Trump knew of Wikileaks’ plan in 2016 to publish hacked emails damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, and alleging the president repaid him with personal checks for hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” Cohen read from his testimony. “I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”
He Handed Over Documents That Allegedly Exemplify Trump’s Shady Behavior
Cohen said several documents he submitted to the House panel will prove Trump engaged in “conman”-like behavior as well as financial misconduct.
He provided two images of checks from Trump-linked bank accounts that were dated March 2017 and August 2017 and totaled $71,000. Cohen said the money was part of a repayment plan for his hush money payments to Daniels.
Cohen also detailed threats he made to schools and the College Board on behalf of Trump to pressure them not to share information about his academic history.
“When I say conman, I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores,” he told the committee.
Fordham University confirmed the authenticity of a copy of a letter Cohen submitted to the committee in which he threatened to hold the institution liable to the fullest extent should they release Trump’s educational records.
Republicans Repeatedly Attacked Cohen’s Credibility
GOP committee members frequently pointed out that Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for a series of charges he pleaded guilty to last year, including lying to Congress.
“Here’s what I see: I see a guy who’s worked for 10 years and is here trashing the guy he worked for for 10 years, didn’t get a job in the White House and now you’re behaving just like everybody else who got fired or didn’t get the job they wanted,” Jordan told Cohen, who denied having ever wanted to work in the White House.
The Republican lawmakers also displayed posters apparently meant to embarrass Cohen and undermine his credibility.
“Liar liar pants on fire!” stated one poster featuring a picture of Cohen’s face. Other signs featured tweets from the @WomenForCohen fan account created during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen chuckled when Jordan brought up the @WomenForCohen account, alleging that he didn’t personally set up the account and that it wasn’t created to protect Trump’s interests.
“We were having fun,” Cohen told Jordan. “We were having fun during a stressful time.”
He later accused the GOP committee members of “blindly” following Trump as he once had and slamming their behavior as “really unbecoming of Congress.”
“It’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for,” he said. “I’m responsible for your silliness because I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years.”
Cohen Said It’s Possible Trump Was Compromised By A Foreign Agent
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) asked whether he believed Trump would cooperate or collude with a foreign power to win the presidency, a possibility special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“In your opinion and experience, would he have the potential to cooperate or collude with a foreign power to win the presidency at all costs?” Wasserman Schultz asked.
Cohen responded: “Yes.”
The former attorney said he wasn’t sure whether Trump colluded, but he did think there was “something odd about the back-and-forth praise” Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have offered each other.
Cohen Alleged Trump Regularly Lied About His Net Worth
Trump would overvalue his assets in order to move up on Forbes magazine’s list of wealthiest people and when dealing with insurance companies, Cohen alleged.
The former attorney claimed Trump once inflated his net worth by roughly $4 billion while pursuing a loan from Deutsche Bank to buy the Buffalo Bills football team.
Meadows Cited Black HUD Official In Attempt To Prove Trump Isn’t Racist
The Republican lawmaker attempted to debunk Cohen’s allegation that Trump is racist by referencing Department of Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton, who is black. He claimed Patton would never work for a man who is racist.
“Neither should I, as the son of a Holocaust survivor,” Cohen said. “Ask Ms. Patton how many black people are executives at the Trump Organization. The answer is zero.”
The incident sparked outrage among at least a couple committee members of color, including Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
Tlaib condemned Meadows’ “racist” use of Patton as a “prop.” Meadows lashed out at Tlaib, angrily disputing that he’s racist and noting he has “nieces and nephews” of color.
Tlaib later said she was not specifically calling Meadows a racist.
“I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like,” she said.
Cohen Said Trump Is ‘Becoming An Autocrat’
Asked if Trump would directly threaten people he wanted to intimidate, Cohen replied, “No. He would use others. I’m not so sure he had to hire them, they were already working there.”
“He’s sending out the message that this is his country; he’s becoming an autocrat,” he added.
Later during the hearing, Cohen said that while working for Trump, he threatened people “quite a few times.” He estimated as many as 500 times.
Cohen Said Trump Directed Him To Lie To The Public ― And Melania ― About Daniels Payments
The former attorney acknowledged that he previously lied about the president’s awareness of the hush payments to Daniels, who alleges her sexual relationship with Trump occurred in 2006, just a few months after the president’s third wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to the couple’s son.
“Not only did I lie to the American people ― I lied to the first lady,” Cohen said. “When the president called me, I was sitting in a car with a friend of mine and he had me speak to her and explain to the first lady.”
Cohen Said Federal Prosecutors Are Investigating Other Possible Illegal Acts Committed By Trump
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) asked Cohen if he’s aware of any additional “wrongdoing or illegal act” linked to Trump that wasn’t discussed in the hearing Wednesday.
“Yes,” Cohen responded. “Those are part of the investigation that is currently being looked at by the (federal government’s) Southern District of New York.”
He said he could not elaborate, citing ongoing investigations.
Cohen Isn’t Aware Of Alleged Pee Tape
Asked about the rumored Russian blackmail on Trump, stemming in part from a so-called “pee tape” showing him involved in sexual acts, Cohen said he has “no reason to believe that tape exists.”
A dossier compiled in 2016 by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele suggested Putin had compromising information on Trump, including the alleged tape.