Michael Cohen’s Testimony: Hush money, fraud, and more

The former lawyer of President Donald Trump testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, answering a variety of questions related to his service to the president.

Cohen plead guilty in August of last year to several different counts, including two types of fraud and campaign finance violations. On top of this, Cohen also plead guilty in December of giving a false testimony regarding the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow.

In the days leading up to Cohen’s testimony, a copy of the testimony was obtained in advance by certain news outlets. In that testimony, it was reported that Cohen planned on calling President Trump a ‘Con Man’ and a ‘Cheat’. These damning statements were backed up by his actual testimony on Wednesday.

During Cohen’s 10-hour public meeting with the House Oversight Committee, the former lawyer went into detail on these accusations, describing himself as ashamed for what he has done.

The comments on ‘shithole countries’ that the president made last year were given more depth during Cohen’s testimony, with the former lawyer saying that Trump once asked him to “name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a shithole”. Trump made this statement when Barack Obama was president of the United States.

Cohen also went more in depth about the hush money Stormy Daniels was paid in 2016 over an affair with President Trump, saying that the president knew about the payments and reimbursed him.

The construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow was another subject talked about during the testimony. Cohen admitted that he lied to Congress in early 2016 when he said that talks over the building were ended in January, when in fact continued well into Trump’s 2016 campaign.

When questioned about the tower project last year, Trump said that he wasn’t trying to hide anything, and that the project just fell through. During the testimony last Wednesday, Cohen implied that Trump wanted him to lie about the project, but did not directly tell him to lie.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman senator and part of the House Oversight Committee, had one of the more interesting interactions with Cohen during the testimony. Oscasio-Cortex asked Cohen if “to [his] knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?”. Cohen’s response, a quick confirmation of the senator’s question, may open Trump up to investigations of fraud.

Cohen’s testimony may be contaminated by news on Tuesday, March 5 that he may have asked for a presidential pardon last year, contradicting what he said in his testimony before Congress. In December 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years of prison, and will start that sentence in May.