Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen delivers dramatic testimony in front of House panel about his former boss.
Michael Cohen, the former “fixer” and personal lawyer of US President Donald Trump, gave his testimony on Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Cohen, who worked for Trump from 2006 until 2018 in roles including as his personal lawyer, co-president of Trump Entertainment and deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia probe in August.
Those charges include fraud, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws, which he said he committed at Trump’s direction – an allegation the president has denied.
Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison in the United States. The start of that prison sentence is set to begin in May.
Here are the key moments from the testimony:
Cohen says he fears Trump may not allow ‘peaceful transition’
Cohen said during his congressional testimony on Wednesday that he fears Trump will not allow his successor to peacefully take control of the White House if he loses the 2020 presidential election.
“Given my experience working for Mr Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” Cohen said during his closing remarks.
Cohen says he hasn’t gone through Trump’s tax returns
Cohen said he’s seen the president’s tax returns but hasn’t gone through them.
Trump broke with decades of tradition for presidential candidates by refusing to release his income tax filings during his 2016 campaign. He has said he won’t release them because he is being audited.
Cohen on Wednesday undercut that rationale, saying he presumes Trump is not being audited.
Cohen said he asked Trump for paperwork about the audit to prepare Trump’s response to reporters about the issue but never received any documentation.
Cohen says Trump feared tax audit
Cohen said Trump did not want to release his tax returns because he feared public scrutiny would lead to an audit and penalties.
“What he didn’t want is to have an entire group of think-tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on,” Cohen told the House panel.
Cohen says Trump devalued his assets to pay lower taxes
Cohen said Trump devalued his assets in order to pay lower real estate taxes.
Cohen said Trump claimed Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, was worth more than what he reported to local tax authorities. Cohen said that in order to reduce real estate bills, he would devalue the assets and then put in a request to tax officials for a deduction.
Cohen also testified he had knowledge that the president inflated his assets to an insurance company.
Cohen: Trump asked me to mislead public about hush money
Cohen said Trump called him and asked him to mislead the public about hush money paid to a porn actress.
Cohen said that Trump called him in February 2018 to discuss the public messaging about $130,000 paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about allegations of an extramarital affair.
Cohen said Trump asked him to say that the president “wasn’t knowledgeable” about the payments.
In fact, Cohen said Trump directed and coordinated the payments. Documents also show Trump personally signed at least one cheque paid to Cohen to reimburse him for the payments.
The White House has denied Trump had an affair with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.
WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange says he never spoke to Stone
In a tweet, WikiLeaks said its publisher, Julian Assange, “has never had a telephone call with Roger Stone”.
It added that it “publicly teased its pending publications on Hillary Clinton and published [more than 30,000] emails on 16 March 2016”.
Cohen had testified that Stone told Trump about the WikiLeaks dump in a phone conversation.
Congressional hearing under way
Congressional hearing under way featuring highly anticipated public testimony by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Excerpts of Cohen’s prepared remarks
“Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for president, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said ‘yes’ to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.
“I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.
“I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty – of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.
“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.
“He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.
“He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.”
Trump knew of Clinton email leak, Cohen to say in his testimony
Cohen plans to accuse Trump of being “a racist”, “a con man” and “a cheat” who committed “illicit acts” before Congress on Wednesday, according to a draft testimony (PDF) released by US media outlets.
Cohen will state in the testimony that Trump committed a variety of possible crimes, including making hush payments to aid his campaign and tax fraud.
The former lawyer claims that Trump asked if he “could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘s******'”, during former President Barack Obama’s term.
Cohen also claims Trump was told by Roger Stone, a longtime Republican political consultant, that WikiLeaks was in possession of emails that “would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign”.
Trump tweets Cohen ‘lying in order to reduce prison time’
In the run-up to Cohen’s testimony, Trump took to Twitter, saying his former lawyer was “lying in order to reduce his prison time” – a statement he has said before.
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