On Feb. 27, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before the House Oversight Committee. This testimony comes in light of Cohen pleading guilty, last August, to eight counts of financial crimes, including tax fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful corporate contributions and excessive campaign contributions, as reported by CNBC. Because of these charges, Cohen was not welcome with open arms, Congressman Jim Jordan being the most skeptical of Cohen’s appearance as he openly challenged Cohen’s credibility throughout the testimony. The testimony adopted this environment of hostile doubt and rampant distrust, and it set the tone for what became a fiery event.
Cohen commenced the explosive testimony by bashing the president in his opening remarks. Deeming Trump a racist, conman and a cheat, Cohen provided several examples of why the president is each of those things. Citing examples of Trump refusing payment for services provided to him, making racist remarks and inflating and deflating his real estate earnings, Cohen was very detailed in his accounts of the president’s alleged actions. Cohen also claimed that Trump consistently directed him to send threatening letters, such as ones sent to Trump’s previous learning institutions, prompting them to avoid publishing Trump’s academic records and SAT scores. Trump also forced Cohen to send letters to service providers, informing them that Trump would not be paying them for their labor. The opening statement was certainly hostile toward Trump and what followed was questioning by the committee members that revealed relevant information that Congress intends to look further into.
One important reveal was that Trump allegedly knew more about connections with Russia than he has admitted to. The Guardian reported that Cohen alleged that he overheard Donald Jr. whispering to the president that “the meeting is all set,” referring to the Trump Tower meeting that involved Donald Jr., other Trump associates and Russians to discuss strategy to disadvantage then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Another important takeaway from the testimony is a $35,000 check written to Cohen, signed by Trump from his personal bank account, which was one of many installments of reimbursement for the “hush” payments made to Stormy Daniels during the presidential race. The check provided by Cohen was signed while Trump was already in the White House. As reported by The Guardian, this check is considered the “smoking gun document” that “proved a conspiracy by Trump to commit criminal fraud by hiding the purpose of company spending.” Cohen alleged that Trump was aware of each stage of the hush money payments and reimbursements to Cohen, who made the payments.
Illinois congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi asked Cohen if he knew of any other “wrongdoing or illegality” past what Cohen has already testified. Cohen stated that there was and the southern district of New York is investigating those wrongdoings. One of the wrongdoings being investigated is the criminal fraud committed in the events of the Stormy Daniels payment situation. Further, Cohen revealed that Felix Sater, a real estate developer involved in the planning of a Trump tower in Moscow, was well-known by Trump and even had an office on Trump’s floor in his building in Manhattan. Trump previously denied knowing who Sater was.
The testimony was revealing and what comes next is only a matter of speculation. As the southern district of New York continues its investigation and the Oversight Committee decides to what to do with the new information, it is important to follow the events post-testimony.