Guess who’s coming to Washington — again? Michael Cohen has finally managed to squeeze an appearance at the House Oversight Committee into his busy schedule tomorrow, a schedule which has been complicated by a pending three-year federal prison sentence. Cohen earned that from his previous Congressional appearance, but Cohen wants to atone for his earlier sins by dishing out the dirt on his former client, Donald Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cohen has a prodigious amount of dirt to dish, too:
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, will for the first time publicly accuse the president of criminal conduct while in office related to a hush-money payment to a porn star, a person familiar with his planned testimony before Congress said.
Appearing on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, Mr. Cohen also will make public some of Mr. Trump’s private financial statements and allege that Mr. Trump at times inflated or deflated his net worth for business and personal purposes, including avoiding paying property taxes, the person said. The financial statements were developed by Mr. Trump’s accountant, the person said. The Wall Street Journal hasn’t seen those statements.
Mr. Cohen’s testimony is expected to focus on his “behind-the-scenes” accounts of working for Mr. Trump for over a decade, a period during which Mr. Cohen will say he witnessed “lies, racism and cheating” by Mr. Trump, the person said.
Mr. Cohen is expected to recount racist remarks Mr. Trump allegedly made to him, including instances in which Mr. Trump allegedly questioned the intelligence of African-Americans and criticized their lifestyle choices, the person said.
No one thought Trump was a saint, but airing this out in public is going to be embarrassing at the least for the White House. Democrats will have their ad teams combing through C-SPAN to find the attack-material. Will any of it be true? Cohen’s track record in testifying truthfully to Congress is *ahem* spotty, but unlike the lies he told the last time, these will be tough to fact-check. The only handy argument for Trump will be to repeatedly remind people about the charges to which Cohen pled guilty, which included lying to Congress. As witnesses go, Cohen’s hardly among the more credible.
Expect Republicans on the committee to aggressively remind Cohen of that, The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant reports. They want to have Rod Rosenstein on hand in the same hearing to assess Cohen’s credibility:
Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) outlined the scope of the hearing last week. It will include questions about Trump’s compliance with financial disclosure requirements and campaign finance and tax laws; his conflicts of interest; his business practices; the accuracy of his public statements; potential fraud or inappropriate practices within the Trump Foundation and efforts by the president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to “intimidate” Cohen and stop him from testifying. …
Republicans on the committee, meanwhile, are likely to raise questions about Cohen’s credibility by zeroing in on the former Trump loyalist’s own illegal conduct, including his lies to Congress. On Monday, Jordan and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) wrote to Cummings asking he invite Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to testify alongside Cohen so he could address Cohen and his crimes.
“If you intend to proceed with Michael Cohen as the star witness of the Committee’s first big hearing, Members should have an opportunity to assess his credibility,” they wrote.
Want to bet that Rosenstein’s checked his schedule for tomorrow and discovered a long-standing fact-finding trip to Tokyo on it? The last thing Rosenstein needs now is an opportunity for House Democrats to tee off on him over Robert Mueller, especially after his comments yesterday. Nice try, fellas.
The only saving grace for Trump’s team is that tomorrow’s hearing will be the only one in public. Cohen is meeting today with the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session, and he’ll meet with their House counterparts behind closed doors. That makes mention in tomorrow’s hearing of any Trump-Russia-collusion theories off-limits. However, it’s unclear what if anything Cohen would have on those topics. Robert Mueller didn’t seem very interested in Cohen, turning over his prosecution to the US Attorney in the Southern District of New York and then writing a tepid filing for Cohen’s sentencing that merely acknowledged his cooperation.
Nonetheless, the circus will be open for business in the Beltway. Expect all the clowns from across the political spectrum to come out of the woodwork.
Addendum: And here we go …
White House on Michael Cohen's congressional testimony this week: "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.”
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 26, 2019