Trump branded a 'conman' as ex-lawyer savages him in Congress

Posted March 01, 2019

When President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, two of the Republicans who questioned him the most aggressively were Rep. Jim Jordan of OH and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (who heads the far-right House Freedom Caucus).

Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former lawyer, departs after testifying before a closed door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, February 26, 2019.

Speaking at a news conference in Vietnam on Thursday after his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un ended without agreement, the USA president said it was "sort of incredible" that such a hearing would be held back in Washington while he was on an important overseas trip.

Cohen says he isn't aware of direct evidence of co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation during the 2016 election.

Cohen said Stone told Trump he had been speaking with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who told him there would be a dump of emails within a couple of days that would damage Clinton's campaign. He presented copies of checks drawn on Trump's personal bank account - one of them signed by the president - that Cohen said were to repay him in 2017, evidence of Trump's involvement in the scheme. He said no collusion with the Russian hoax, ' Trump said, deeply paraphrasing.

It's not immediately clear what evidence Cohen has to support the allegation or how legally problematic this claim might be for Trump.

Without directly mentioning Cohen's specific comments about the alleged conversation, Stone said Cohen's "statement is not true". Cohen said Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but "he would look me in the eye and tell me there's no business in Russian Federation and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing".

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Mr Cohen told lawmakers Mr Trump is a racist.

"I am sad that Michael would turn his back on a man to whom he has repeatedly said he owes everything in the hope of a reduced prison sentence", she added.

The 52-year-old was convicted last year by NY federal prosecutors of campaign finance violations and tax evasion and by special counsel Robert Mueller of lying to Congress about Trump Organization plans in Moscow.

Lawmakers on the House intelligence panel said Thursday that they expected the hearing with Cohen to go "deeper" than his public appearance did - and guessed that the interview would continue into the night.

And he named two private lawyers working for Trump and his family - Jay Sekulow and Abbe Lowell - as having edited the false testimony on the Moscow Trump Tower project that led to Cohen's conviction for lying to Congress. When asked about that person publicly, Cohen said he believed it was the president's son.

Cohen said Trump continued efforts to build a skyscaper in Moscow during the height of the election campaign, saying he had previously lied in saying the project had been halted beforehand.

Republicans rarely challenged Cohen directly on the substance of his testimony, choosing instead to point out that Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress once, and could not be trusted.

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Mr Cohen said for instance that Trump directed him past year to lie about hush payments made to a porn actress to silence her claims of an affair with Trump.

That claim contradicts reporting and statements by the USA attorney for the Southern District of NY, who stated in court documents that in private communications, Cohen had told friends that he wanted a Trump administration job - and that when he didn't get one, he "found a way to monetise his relationship with an access to the President".

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, called the referral "baseless" and said Cohen had testified truthfully and "backed up much of his testimony with documents".

"In his way, he was telling me to lie", Cohen testified.

The White House and Republicans sought to undermine Cohen's credibility, insisting his history of lying to Congress - to which he pleaded guilty past year - made his testimony unreliable. The hearing proceeded along parallel tracks, with Democrats focusing on allegations against Trump while Republicans sought to undermine Cohen's credibility and the proceeding itself.

"It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes", Cohen said.

Eric Trump also tweeted a Republican Party video about Cohen with the title, "Have Fun in Prison!"

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Cohen pleaded guilty a year ago to lying to Congress about the Moscow project, but Schiff said he answered all of the panel's questions.