Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, despite his previous conviction for lying to Congress during his last testimony. After hours of questioning, Democrats were unable to find the smoking gun they were looking for.
As someone who faces jail time for past lies, Cohen is certainly an unreliable narrator. Republican lawmakers questioning him today were sure to make that known, calling him a “pathological liar,” among other names.
Cohen’s testimony was mostly boring and uninformative, but did confirm some details exonerating President Trump. Among other key takeaways, Cohen was unable produce any evidence for any of the following: Collusion with Russia, a directive from Trump to lie under oath, or that Cohen ever went to Prague.
1. Cohen Nukes Key Element of Steele Dossier
One of the linchpins of British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, the pretext for Russiagate investigations, was the claim that Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Russian officials to discuss making non-traceable payments to hackers.
“Have you ever been to Prague?” South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman asked in Wednesday’s testimony.
“I’ve never been to Prague,” said Cohen, adding: “I’ve never been to the Czech Republic.”
Cohen previously denied this accusation when BuzzFeed published the explosive dossier in January 2017. Maybe addressing it under oath will settle the absurdity of the dossier once and for all.
2. Cohen Says Trump Did Not Direct Him To Lie Under Oath
“I lied to Congress [about] when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January of 2016. That was false. Our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign. Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” he said.
Cohen then went on to say that he believes Trump “made clear” that he “wanted” Cohen to lie, through his tone and body language.
3. Cohen Admits He Has No Evidence Of Russian Collusion
During his opening statement, Cohen said, “Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not, and I want to be clear. But I have my suspicions.”
Later on, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked Cohen whether he believed the president had colluded with Russia.
“Knowing how Mr. Trump operates with his winning at all costs mentality, do you believe that he would cooperate or collude with a foreign power to win the presidency? Is he capable of that?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t use the word colluding,” he said. “Was there something odd about back-and-forth praise with [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin? Yes. But I’m not really sure that I can answer that question in terms of collusion.”
4. Cohen Accused Trump of Knowing About the Roger Stone-WikiLeaks Scandal
In his written remarks, Cohen accused Trump of having a conversation with his adviser Roger Stone, who was allegedly working with WikiLeaks, about releasing stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee.
In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’
This is not an accusation that Trump orchestrated the DNC leaks, but that he heard a rumor about something that WikiLeaks was already publicly promoting. Seems like an oppo dump any presidential candidate would be happy to hear of about his or her opponent.
Cohen said the purported conversation between Trump and Stone took place on July 18 or 19. Here's WikiLeaks promoting the upcoming release of Hillary-related emails on its *public Twitter account* on July 7! Idea that Stone ever had special foreknowledge is totally unsupported pic.twitter.com/FBZ1W7eA3O
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) February 27, 2019
5. Cohen Said He Never Wanted to Work in the White House. Trump Family Says Otherwise
Rep. Jim Jordan ripped Cohen for turning on the president after he was denied the opportunity to work in the White House. “You didn’t get a job in the White House. Now you’re acting like everyone else who doesn’t have a job…like Andy McCabe and James Comey,” Jordan said, referring to fired FBI officials.
“No, sir,” Cohen replied. “All I wanted is what I got…to be the personal attorney to the president. I got exactly what I wanted.”
Cohen, who was Trump’s personal attorney for 10 years, was reportedly hoping to get a job on the campaign or in the White House once Trump was elected. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen was aiming for the chief of staff position.
After Cohen adamantly denied wanting to work in the Trump administration during the testimony, the president’s sons took to mocking him on Twitter.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 27, 2019
6. Cohen Refuses to Say He Won’t Profit From a Book Or Movie Deal
North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx asked Cohen, “Can you commit under oath that you have not and will not pursue a book or movie deal based on your experiences work for the president?”
“No,” Cohen replied.
“Can you commit under oath that you will not pursue upward opportunities to provide commentary for a major network with your experiences working for the president?” Foxx asked.
“No,” said Cohen, again.