Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is set to testify to the House Oversight Committee this morning. According to his opening statement, Cohen will tell the committee that the president is a “cheat,” a “racist,” and a “conman” who directed him to lie to Congress about his work on the Trump Tower Moscow project and payoffs to Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an affair she had with Trump while he was married to first lady Melania Trump. Republicans are already gunning for Cohen, trying their best to discredit him.
You can watch the hearing in the embedded livestream at the top of this post. We will be adding updates below throughout the day. Scroll down from the bottom if you want to read in chronological order.
5:30 – After some fiery closing remarks by Elijah Cummings, that’s a wrap on the hearing and the live-blog. Please see our home page for more of our coverage.
5:00 – Fireworks as Rashida Tlaib says that Meadows bringing in an African-American woman as a prop is a racist act. Meadows is upset that she has impugned his honor by calling him a racist. She counters that she is not accusing him of being a racist. Cummings intervenes. It’s a hell of a show that has absolutely nothing to do with Cohen or the subject of this hearing. But it is a heck of a show.
4:54 – Some excellent, direct questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, trying to elicit information about Trump’s schemes to get tax breaks by undervaluing his properties. This makes him look like a cheap plutocrat scamming the public out of revenues while their cities crumble. No grandstanding, just the facts, ma’am. Ayanna Pressley now up, also asking some direct questions about Trump’s abuse of his charitable foundation to pay personal expenses.
This is why it was good to put a couple of these high-profile freshmen on the Oversight Committee. They get good experience in one of Congress’s most important functions, and some good exposure and seasoning for future oversight responsibilities.
4:39 – Democrat Jimmy Gomez of California asks Cohen if Trump’s taxes are really under audit. Cohen replies that he doesn’t know, but Trump once told him he didn’t want to release his returns because he was afraid knowledgable experts would tear them apart, which would lead to an audit. It’s always projection with Trump.
4:30 – After a two-hour (!) break, we’re back with a debate from this morning. Republicans tried to nail Cohen for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for some work he did for a bank in Kazakhstan. Cohen replied that it wasn’t a government entity despite being partly owned by the government of Kazakhstan. Over the break, he and his lawyers conferred and agreed that is still their interpretation, and he didn’t have to register under FARA. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan complain for a minute, but Cummings bangs his gavel and moves on. The Republicans seem either cowed or just tired.
4:00 – The hearing still has not resumed, so while we wait, here is MSNBC analyst Maya Wiley giving her opinion on the earlier “Donald Trump cannot be racist, he has a black employee” moment from this morning.
3:34 – Matt Gaetz showed up at the hearing this morning to lean against a wall and scowl in Cohen’s direction. Considering the trouble he seems to be in over his infamous tweet on Tuesday, he may have not wanted to do that.
1:13 – Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI): What does Donald Trump fear most? Everyone watching this hearing: STAIRCASES.
12:46 – Cohen says he can’t discuss his last communication with Trump (which was about two month after the raid on his home and office in 2018) because it’s being investigated by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. And from Hanoi comes the sound of a Diet Coke bottle shattering as it is hurled against a hotel room wall.
12:38 – The GOP strategy of having each member of the committee yield the last minute or two of their time to Jordan remains really odd. Yes, Jordan seems to be getting under Cohen’s skin. But there is only so much he can do in sixty seconds. Then a Democrat immediately gets five uninterrupted minutes to rail about Trump and give Cohen time to collect himself. By the time we get back to Jordan, the audience has forgotten about his last go-round.
12:23 – While we wait for the committee to return from break, you can watch Cohen and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) get snippy with each other here.
12:02 – Cohen telling the committee that he had spent a week going through boxes to pull documents so Congress wouldn’t have to take his word for it because he knows he has a credibility problem was surprsingly effective.
11:54 – Here is the moment when Cohen said that Mueller may have evidence of communication between Julian Assange and Roger Stone about Wikileaks’s doc dump of stolen DNC emails.
11:42 – I don’t think Mark Meadows’s strategy of “You say Donald Trump is a racist yet I have never heard him say anything racist therefore CHECKMATE MR. COHEN” is quite the “gotcha” he thinks it is.
11:31 – Cohen’s discussion of how he would work with AMI on “Catch and Kill” stories about Trump’s adulteries was interesting, just for the nuts-and-bolts aspect of it. You could imagine it as a scene in Suits.
11:28 – Yeah, that’s it. Cohen just wants to star in Real Federal Prisoners of Westchester County.
And that’s what all this is about. Cohen just wants to be famous. He always wanted his own TV show and the limelight and when he couldn’t get it one way he had to try another.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 27, 2019
11:20 – Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) says that the star witness “is a scorned man going to prison for lying to Congress.” Again, the lies he told Congress were that Donald Trump is a great and honest guy.
11:03 – Speaking of petty, here is a video the Republican Party put out yesterday telling Cohen “Have fun in prison!” Before he was indicted last year, Michael Cohen was the deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee.
10:59 – Cohen’s statement was almost too perfect. It conforms to every stereotype of Trump that has permeated our culture for four years – the president is a racist and a conman who only ran for the office as a marketing ploy, Donald Trump Jr. has terrible judgement, and so on. Is it believable? Yes. Does it also sound like petty score-settling by a man hung out to dry by a person he once revered? Also yes.
10:31 – Very much an “I come to bury Mr. Trump, not to praise him” tone to Michael Cohen’s opening statement.
10:18 – One other note before Cohen starts speaking: Trump’s allies are asserting that we can’t believe what Cohen says because he’s a convicted liar. What he was convicted of lying about was that Donald Trump had followed the law.
10:05 – And we’re off with the Republicans, predictably, trying to slooooooow things down with motions and complaints. Going to be a long day.