Michael Cohen, left, arrives to testify before a closed door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee with his lawyer, Lanny Davis. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo
The president’s former lawyer will publicly accuse Donald Trump of a crime over three days of Capitol Hill testimony this week.
Updated 02/26/2019 02:36 PM EST
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, plans to offer up a document to lawmakers that he claims will show the president engaged in criminal conduct related to a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, according to a person familiar with his planned congressional testimony.
The person said the document will refute a claim by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, that Cohen used a $35,000 a month retainer from Trump as reimbursement for paying off Daniels. Cohen — who will soon report to prison for a three-year sentence tied to a litany of tax fraud and lying charges — is scheduled to appear Wednesday in a public House hearing, and will also testify privately on Tuesday and Thursday before Senate and House investigators.Story Continued Below
During his testimony, Cohen also plans to address a much-discussed BuzzFeed report that the president ordered him to lie to Congress about business dealings in Russia during the campaign. The story initially sparked impeachment speculation, but was later thrown into question when special counsel Robert Mueller’s office took the rare step of issuing a carefully worded denial of certain elements of the piece.
“He’ll explain exactly why he lied and how he came to lie,” said the person familiar with Cohen’s testimony.
More broadly, Cohen will go into personal and character accusations against Trump, saying the president made racist remarks in front of him such as questioning the intelligence of African-Americans, according to the person.
As word of Cohen’s expected damning accounts leaked out Tuesday morning, the White House and Trump supporters began pushing back against the president’s former lawyer, highlighting his criminal record and deceitful history.
“Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that didn’t address Cohen’s specific allegations.
“Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same,” she added. “It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”
On Capitol Hill, Trump’s closest allies echoed the sentiment.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tweeted: “Tomorrow @OversightDems will hold their first big hearing. For their first big witness, they will roll out the red carpet for Michael Cohen. … Here’s the problem: Michael Cohen is going to prison in two months for several crimes, including LYING TO CONGRESS.”
Trump’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Perhaps the most attention on Wednesday will center on Cohen’s account of a payment made to Daniels during the 2016 election to buy her silence about an alleged affair. For the first time publicly, Cohen plans to accuse the president of acting criminally in the matter, a charge Trump has long denied.
Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for making the pay off. But court documents also implicated Trump in the scheme, saying he was a key player in the plot.
Separately, the person familiar with Cohen’s testimony confirmed a report in The Wall Street Journal that Cohen will accuse Trump of manipulating his finances for business and personal purposes, including inflating and deflating his net worth and avoiding property taxes.
Additionally, the former lawyer plans to discuss tweets from Trump that Cohen said were meant to intimidate him. Cohen was slated to go before the House committee in January, but his legal team delayed the appearance, citing threats against him and his family.
The president tweeted on Dec. 16: “Remember, Michael Cohen only became a ‘Rat’ after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?”
The person familiar with Cohen’s testimony said Trump’s use of the word “rat” “has a meaning for people who are in prison.”
But in a text on Tuesday, Giuliani dismissed such insinuations, insisting that the president was merely referencing media reports about potential ties between Cohen’s business dealings and the Russian mafia.
“All the tweets did was to point out the allegations in the media already about his and his family connections to Russian-Ukrainian organized crime and how that is probably part of the reason that the [Southern District of New York] told the court they would not take his cooperation unless he fully cooperated,” he said. “It’s absurd to say that any one of us threatened him.”
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