Donald Trump; Michael Cohen (AP/Getty/Salon)

Michael Cohen to "provide the American people with answers" in public testimony before Congress

Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" is set to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7


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Joseph NeeseShira Tarlo
January 10, 2019 9:50PM (UTC)

Before he begins his three year sentence in federal prison for his role in buying the silence of women who alleged affairs with the future president during the 2016 presidential election, Michael Cohen will testify publicly before Congress.

President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" — who also pleaded guilty to financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress — is set to testify before the House Committee of Oversight and Reform on Feb. 7.  Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., who was made chairman of the committee after Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, made the announcement Thursday.

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“I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily," he said in a statement about the upcoming hearing. "I want to make clear that we have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office."

In a statement, Cohen said he made the decision to testify voluntarily before Congress in furtherance of his "commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers." "I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired," he added.

http://twitter.com/MichaelCohen212/status/1083466897302134784

Congressman Cummings said that the Oversight Committee, which is also slated to take on increases in prescription drug prices later this month, would announce more information about the hearing in the coming weeks. The Maryland representative sent a pair of letters to both the White House and the Trump Organization earlier this week following a previous request for documents pertaining to the president's alleged failure to report debts and payments to his personal attorney "to silence women alleging extramarital affairs with the president before the election."  Cummings has asked for that information to be returned by Jan. 22.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC News it would also be essential that "Cohen [a]nswer questions pertaining to the Russia investigation," and said that they "hope[d] to schedule a closed session before our committee in the near future."

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison Dec. 12 by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III. At the time, he made an emotional apology, confessing that his "weakness could be characterized as blind loyalty to Donald Trump."

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Pauley said Cohen had committed a "smorgasbord" of crimes involving "deception" stemming from "personal greed and ambition," according to the New York Times. He added, "as a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better." He also ordered Cohen to pay nearly $2 million in financial penalties for his crimes. Previously, in special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing probe of alleged collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about an abandoned Trump Tower project in Moscow.

Cohen, who was previously one of the president's most loyal and ardent defenders in business in politics, indicated last year that his loyalty to Trump might be wavering as he vowed to "put family and country first" by cooperating with prosecutors. His decision to cooperate with Mueller has made him arguably one of the most key witnesses against his former boss — and the special counsel's office, for its part, appears to view Cohen as a valuable cooperator who can highlight Trump's business dealings as Mueller continues to probe any connection the president has to Russia. Mueller's prosecutors did not recommend a specific sentence in their case, saying that Cohen should not receive additional prison time beyond his sentence in the New York case.

Mueller's team credited Cohen with providing "useful information" about the ongoing Russia investigation, as well as "relevant information" about his contacts with people connected to the White House in 2017 and 2018, suggesting an ongoing inquiry into obstruction of justice. Notably, the special counsel indicates that Cohen "described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements within it." That statement signals that Mueller believes someone in the Trump administration knew of and approved in advance Cohen's misleading statements to Congress, which is potentially impeachable if Trump himself is implicated.


Joseph Neese

Joseph Neese is the Managing Editor of Salon. You can follow him on Twitter: @josephneese.

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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