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The Cohen hearing has begun. Republican Rep. Mark Meadows immediately raises a point of order to complain that Cohen's testimony was not submitted 24 hours in advance. He moves to postpone the hearing.
Meadows, shouting, says Cohen submitting his testimony last night was an "intentional" move to show his "disdain" for the committee.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan then interjects to complain that CNN (supposedly) had Cohen's testimony before he did.
The committee has voted against postponing the hearing. "You've made it clear you do not want the American people to hear what Mr. Cohen has to say. But the American people have a right to hear him," Democratic chairman Elijah Cummings says to the pro-postponement Republicans.
Cummings: People will ask why we should believe Cohen now if he was lying then, and it's "a legitimate question." He says "we are in search of the truth"; Trump has made his own statements; the American people have the right to hear "the other side" and "make their own judgment."
Cummings also notes that Cohen has provided documents to corroborate some of his statements.
Cummings: I've made it "abundantly clear" to Cohen that if he doesn't tell the truth today, I'm going to be the first one to refer his lies to the Department of Justice. So it's not true he has nothing to lose, because he has "a lot to lose if he lies."
Rep. Jim Jordan, the Republican ranking member: "The first announced witness for the 116th Congress is a guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress."
Jordan claims that this hearing was orchestrated by Lanny Davis, the longtime Clinton associate. He says Cohen can't be trusted, has a longtime history of crime and deception, but "the Democrats don't care."
Jordan then brings in Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer, suggesting that he's behind this hearing, and the Christopher Steele dossier. He's basically arguing that the hearing is a nefarious Clintonworld-Steyer operation.
Cohen is now testifying. His prepared testimony is here:…. Summary thread here:
I'll return to live-tweeting when Cohen finishes reading the prepared testimony.
One thing I should add: Cohen says Trump's lawyers not only reviewed but "edited" his false statement to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower discussions.
Cohen has concluded his prepared testimony. He will now be questioned by committee members. Dem Cummings begins by asking if he recognizes the "gravity" of his criminal lying. He responds that he has lost his law license over it. "I most certainly do."
At Cummings's request, Cohen is outlining what happened with the Stormy Daniels payment. He said that the decision to make the payment was repeatedly discussed with Trump in advance. He says Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg was in the room when the decision was made.
Cohen says Weisselberg would "for sure" have more information about the discussions about the Stormy Daniels payment. He says Don Jr. would have "cursory" information about it.
Republican Jim Jordan begins by reading Cohen's detailed threat to ruin Daily Beast reporter @timkmak, which is outlined here:…
Jordan is making a case that Cohen has committed a bunch of crimes for himself, not just out of blind loyalty to Trump. Cohen is repeatedly acknowledging the crimes Jordan is listing were "not" only to protect Trump.
Cohen issues his first denial, saying he did not actually set up the Twitter account that called Cohen "sexy" and such. "We were having fun during a stressful time," he says. He adds, "I'm not sure how that helped me, sir."
Jordan points out that Cohen worked for Trump, a man he now calls a racist lying conman etc., for "10 years." Jordan points out he never got a White House job. He suggests that's what is motivating Cohen's turn - that he didn't "get brought to the dance."
Jordan says Cohen is behaving "just like everyone else" around Trump who's been fired or didn't get the job they wanted, like James Comey. Cohen denies this, saying he got "exactly what he wanted" - to be Trump's personal lawyer.
Dem Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is asking Cohen about the WikiLeaks email dump. Cohen is sticking to his prepared testimony. He says Trump did have some advance knowledge of the email dump, but he won't implicate Trump children, won't say Trump directed Roger Stone.
Wasserman Schultz asks Cohen if, based on his knowledge of Trump, Trump might be willing to cooperate with Russia, if he's capable of that. Cohen says this gets into speculation; he does add that Trump is "all about winning."
Cohen eventually says that Trump is, "yes," capable of collusion, but he basically says he doesn't know exactly what happened.
"If the Democrats were after the truth, they'd have an honest person here testifying," says Republican Rep. Mark Green.
Republican Rep. Mark Green calls Cohen a "fake witness." He says, "With all of the lies and deception, the self-serving fraud, it begs the question: what is the majority party doing here?"
Green asks Cohen what his future source of income will be. Cohen: "I don't expect I'm going to have a source of income when I'm in federal penitentiary." Green asks who paid Cohen's expenses to be at the hearing today. Cohen says himself.
Asked by Dem Rep. Carolyn Maloney whether Trump controlled everything at his company, Cohen says, "There was nothing that happened at the Trump Organization...that did not go through Mr. Trump with his approval and sign-off."
Cohen seemed to say that his threat to the Daily Beast reporter, which Jim Jordan raised earlier as an example as Cohen being a bad guy, was made with Trump's approval.
Cohen is describing AMI/National Enquirer's "catch and kill" procedure, in which the subject of a possible bad story would purchase the rights to the story to prevent it from being published. "I was involved in several of these catch and kill episodes," he says.
Cohen says Trump was practicing "catch and kill" with AMI's David Pecker to bury bad stories long before Cohen joined Trump in 2007.
The pattern so far: Democrats are asking questions to try to get Cohen to reveal information about Trump's behaviour; Republicans are asking questions that emphasize Cohen's own crimes and lies.
Republican Kentucky Rep. James Comer: You called Trump "a cheat. What would you call yourself?" Cohen: "A fool."
Cohen: The $130,000 figure was not negotiated; it was told to him, by Daniels's former lawyer Keith Davidson, that that was the amount Daniels wanted.
Cohen: Trump told us to just pay the fee to Daniels; "he directed us to go back to Mr. Weisselberg's office and figure this all out."
Republican Rep. Mark Meadows has brought Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton, a Black woman who used to work for the Trumps, to stand behind him. He tells Cohen he has never heard Trump make a racist comment.
Meadows asks Cohen for proof of Trump's racism. Cohen asks him to ask Patton how many Black executives Trump has. "The answer is zero," he says.
Lynne Patton has gone from planning Eric Trump's wedding, among other duties, to a senior federal housing job. Her very political social media presence is highly unusual for an official in her position.
Meadows is confronting Cohen about the money he has taken from pharma company Novartis and BTA Bank of Kazakhstan.
Cohen is describing how Trump allegedly directed him to make Forbes magazine think he was more wealthy than he was, for the purpose of the Forbes list of rich people. He would inflate Trump's assets and revenues. "It was based upon he wanted to value the asset at."
Cohen says Trump used inaccurate financial information to secure lower premiums from insurance companies.
Cohen also alleges that Trump submitted false financial information to Deutsche Bank to try to get money for his attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills.
Republican Rep. Jody Hice to Cohen: "If you lied, you are a liar, by definition."
Jody Hice asks if Cohen cooperated "with the Democrat Party" for this hearing.
Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, shouting, says it is Republicans who had the partisan agenda, by refusing to bring any Trump associate who pleaded guilty before the committee. He says, "Your side ran away from the truth, and we're trying to bring it to the American people."
Cohen says Trump repeatedly asked him during the campaign about the status of the proposed Russia project. Cohen says he would report back to Trump after every "communication" on the proposed deal.
Cohen responds to Republican attacks on his credibility, saying, "You don't have to take my word for it. I don't want you to. I want you to look at the documents." (There are documents in support of some but not all of his allegations.)
Jim Jordan, shouting again, expresses incredulity at Cohen's claim that Lanny Davis isn't getting paid right now and won't for years. Cohen: "I guess he thinks it's important."
Republican after Republican, in support of Donald Trump, is arguing that being a proven liar in the past means nothing you say now can be believed.
Republican Rep. Paul Gosar says Cohen is a "pathological person" who "doesn't know fact from fiction." He says he has concluded of Cohen, "He's got a problem."
Cohen says he is guilty of contributing to Trump's damage to the country, just as these Republicans are doing now. Like they're doing now, he says, "I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years."
Cohen: Watching what happened to my life should dissuade people from acting like me.
Cohen: "You don't know him. I do. I sat next for this man for 10 years and I watched his back. I'm the one who started the campaign." He says, "He is doing things that are great, but this destruction of our civility to one out of control."
Asked if he's seen Trump threatening physical violence to people, Cohen says, "No. He would use others." Asked to clarify that Trump would hire people, Cohen says, "He didn't have to hire them. They were already working there."
The committee is taking a break at Cohen's request.
Reporting from numerous news outlets has said that Cohen very much wanted a White House job.
Republican Virginia Foxx notes that Cohen lied to banks and Congress. "It seems to me that there's not much you won't lie about when you stand to gain from it," she says, suggesting he's here to rehabilitate his image, stay in the spotlight and maybe get a book deal.
Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx asks Cohen to promise he won't take a book or movie deal. Cohen says "no," he won't promise that. He says he's spoken to people about book and movie deals.
Foxx asks Cohen to promise he won't pursue deals to offer TV commentary or run for office in New York. Cohen says he won't promise that. Foxx says he's trying to use his background "to make money."
Republican Jim Jordan asks why Cohen's lawyer didn't deny the BuzzFeed story the special counsel's office disputed about Trump supposedly directing Cohen to lie. Cohen says it's not their job, they are not "the fact-checkers for BuzzFeed."
How do people think Cohen is doing?
Cohen: Trump had been denying ties to Russia for months, so with regard to his false testimony, "at the end of the day, I knew exactly what he wanted me to say." Adds, "He doesn't tell you what he wants"; he suggests, and "I know what he means...I've been around him for so long."
Cohen, pressed by Republican Thomas Massie, says he wasn't just going on "intuition," but his "knowledge" of what Trump wanted even when Trump didn't say it explicitly.
Republican Massie asks Cohen when was the first time he gave Trump "bad legal advice," then whether anyone else has offered to pay Lanny Davis for representing him. They've repeatedly raised the spectre of a hidden Democratic/Clintonworld hand behind Cohen.
Cohen had said he looked through boxes to find the documents he filed today. A Republican angrily asks him if these are boxes that should have been turned over to investigators. Cohen says it's stuff that has been returned to him.
Dem Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi asks if there are people in Trump's orbit who aren't coming forward with information because they're signed nondisclosure agreements. Cohen says he doesn't know.
Cohen, asked by Dem Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, says he's not aware of Trump using any illegal drugs, being delinquent on alimony payments, or, I think, being involved in abortions.
Asked by a Dem, Cohen says yes, he is aware of criminal behaviour by Trump that hasn't been discussed today. He says it's part of the SDNY investigation.
Cohen, indignant: "I did not want to go to the White House." He says he sat with Trump for an hour and explained the importance of having a personal attorney like him outside the White House.
Republican Rep. Michael Cloud asks Cohen to commit to donating any money from future book or movie deals to charity. Cohen says no, he's not going to promise that.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin says the Republicans aren't upset that Cohen lied to Congress for the president, "they're upset that you've stopped lying to Congress for the president."
Cohen: Trump was "supposed to pay" the Karen McDougal money but never did. "For whatever the reason may be, he elected not to pay it. David Pecker was very angry, because there were also other monies" Pecker had "expended on his behalf," never got reimbursed.
Cohen says he has "no reason to believe" that a Trump-Moscow-women-urination tape actually exists, though he's been contacted about such a thing a bunch of times over many years.
Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman begins by rejecting Cohen's claim that Trump wasn't originally intending to win. "He was running very hard," he says, adding that "I find it offensive" when "anti-Trump" people say that he was just brand-building.
Cohen is asked by Dem Rep. Harley Rouda about Trump saying under oath in 2013 that he wouldn't recognize Felix Sater in a private room. Cohen says "yes," it's true Trump knew Sater at the time; Sater had an office on the same floor of Trump Tower as Trump.
Rouda: Given Trump's familiarity with Sater, isn't it true that Trump misled at best and lied at worst, under oath? Cohen: "Yes."
Rouda keeps slowly calling Sater "convicted. Russian. mobster. Sater."
Republican Rep. Justin Amash asks Cohen why Trump hired him. Cohen: "I don't know, sir. You would have to ask him that question."
I believe Amash, who has criticized Trump on various things, is the first Republican today to do anything other than simply attack Cohen. He's asking some open-ended questions; says "I don't know" whether the committee should believe Cohen.
Cohen says "I am trying" to be different now. He thanks Amash for his questions, says others from the Republicans make it hard for him to "show some redemption."
Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs criticizes Cohen for impugning Trump's character "while he's across the Pacific Ocean trying to negotiate a deal" to "make the world safer."
Jim Jordan is sarcastically questioning Cohen's claim that he "started" Trump's campaign. "Wowww," he says. Cohen says he's referring to his website in 2011, which can be considered one of the origins of Trump's eventual Republican candidacy.
Cohen in response to Gibbs, who said Trump is very sincere in trying to help Americans: "I take no pleasure in saying anything negative about Mr. Trump. You've met him for a short period of time. I've been with him for over a decade."
Republican Rep. Clay Higgins: "I've arrested several thousand men. And you remind me of many of them. The ones that immediately become humble and remorseful at the time they're actually booked...and then return to their former selves when they're back on the street."
Republican Rep. Clay Higgins is pressing Cohen on where are the boxes of documents he referred to. "Where is this treasure of evidence?" Cohen: They were documents "in my law office when the FBI entered and seized documents."
Higgins: Testifying today got you on TV. Cohen: I've been on TV since 2011. Higgins: "I didn't know who you were until today, really." ???
Asked exactly what Roger Stone said to Trump, Cohen says: "Mr. Trump, I just want to let you know I just got off the phone with Julian Assange, and in a couple days there's going to be a massive dump of emails that is going to severely hurt the Clinton campaign."
Cohen says he doesn't think Trump knew what the contents of the WikiLeaks email dump would be, just that there'd be a batch of emails released.
Asked about Trump's other deals with AMI's Pecker, Cohen refers to a claim that Trump had "a love child with an employee...and there was an elevator operator who claims he overheard..." It's this:…
Republican Rep. Ralph Norman asks Cohen of his recording Trump: "Didn't you wiretap him illegally?" Cohen doesn't dispute the "illegal" part, but it wasn't illegal.
Cohen then says that his recordings of other people are legal, and that New York only requires one party in the conversation to consent. That's also the case with his Trump recordings.
Cohen: "I've never been to Prague. I've never been to the Czech Republic."
Cohen has consistently denied the dossier claim that he went to Prague for colluding-with-Russia purposes.
Cohen says he went to Europe during the campaign because his daughter was studying in London, but he did not meet with any Russians.
Cohen says that Felix Sater's idea to offer a Moscow apartment to Putin was a marketing ploy to allow them to raise prices on other Russians.
Q: "Is there a love child?" Cohen: "There is not, to my..." Q: So he paid someone off re a story of a love child that doesn't exist? Cohen: "Correct."
Pressed by Dem Rep. Jackie Speier about how many times he threatened people at Trump's request, Cohen settles on an estimate of more than 500 times. He says this includes reporters writing negative stories, etc.
Republican Rep. Carol Miller says she is disappointed Cohen is here today, this isn't why West Virginia sent her to Congress, Democrats just want to impeach Trump. She says she wants to focus on issues like border security and neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Cohen says he can give the committee his many recordings if they want them.
Cohen says he can assure people that Trump "would never, ever do something like" hitting his wife.
Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong is slamming Cohen for his willingness to turn over recordings of clients other than Trump to the committee, saying good lawyers would never do that. Cohen: "Just trying to co-operate, sir." He says that various others already have those tapes.
Cohen is asked about hiring someone to rig unscientific online polls for Trump, including a CNBC poll asking people to name important business leaders. He confirms the story. He says Trump directed him to do the rigging.
It is somewhat surreal to me personally to witness Republicans' sudden concern about serial lying.
Republican Rep. Greg Steube says there is no evidence that the checks Cohen produced today were actually related to the Stormy Daniels matter.
Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence says it's "totally insulting" how Republicans propped up one Black person as evidence that he's not racist.
Cohen says he fears for his safety because of Trump's ability to incite tens of millions of people.
Cohen is now less categorical about turning over his recordings, saying upon questioning from Republican Chip Roy, "I'll take it under advisement now, and if it's not a problem in terms of attorney client privilege...I'll turn it over."
Republican Rep. Chip Roy: "This is an embarrassment for our country." (He's talking about Cohen testifying.) He said he told his wife not to watch the hearing. She said don't worry, she has much more important things to do.
Cohen says he was a Democrat until he was going to be named deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and RNC finance chairman Steve Wynn made him switch parties.
They're taking a recess for "an hour or so," Cummings says.
The hearing has resumed.
Cohen says his lawyers continue to believe that the witness disclosure form that asks witnesses to list contracts or payments "originating with a foreign government" does not apply to his relationship with BTA Bank. Republicans note the Kazakh government's ownership in the bank.
Asked if he knows if Trump's tax returns were actually under audit in 2016, Cohen says he doesn't know for sure; he says he asked for a copy of the audit letter to use in his dealings with the press, "and I was never able to obtain one."
Asked by Dem Rep. Ro Khanna if he's alleging that Trump directed transactions in conspiracy with his CFO and Don Jr. as part of a criminal conspiracy "of financial fraud," Cohen says, "Yes." He says he doesn't want to get into whether it's being investigated by SDNY.
Mark Meadows is reading this tweet from pro-Trump pastor Darrell Scott, who was part of the Trump transition, into the record.
Dem Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asks Cohen about an AMI "treasure trove" of documents related to Trump's catch-and-kill arrangements. Cohen says he doesn't know if it still exists, Pecker and some others would know.
Cohen says Alan Weisselberg and some others would know more about Trump inflating assets to get insurance benefits. He agrees with Ocasio-Cortez that Trump's tax returns would help shed light on this.
Ocasio-Cortez asks Cohen about Trump allegedly deflating the value of a Florida golf course to try to reduce his tax bill. Cohen says, "It's identical to what he did at Trump National Golf Club and at Briarcliff Manor."
Here's the excellent WaPo story on how Trump inflated and deflated the value of his golf courses depending on whether he was dealing with local tax authorities or others:…
Cohen: "He tasked me to find a straw bidder to ensure that his painting, which was going last in the auction, would go for the highest amount of any of the paintings."
Cohen is asked if Trump could have a Black friend and still be racist. "Yes," he says.
Asked if he's aware of other instances where Trump used his charitable foundation to benefit himself, Cohen says, "yes." He speaks of this case described by the NYT. It's not currently clear, to me at least, how it benefited Trump:…
Dem Rep. Ayanna Pressley's question: "Would you agree that someone could deny rental units to African-Americans, lead the birther movement, refer to the diaspora as 'shithole countries' and refer to white supremacists as 'fine people,' have a black friend, and still be racist?"
Mark Meadows says he has nieces and nephews of colour and it's racist to suggest that he brought in Lynne Patton as a prop.
Cohen is making closing remarks. He says he fears there will not be a "peaceful transition of power" if Trump loses in 2020.
Cohen is offering a general denunciation of Trump, criticizing him for things like attacking the media and attacking a Gold Star family.
Cohen: "You don't separate families from one another or demonize those looking to America for a better life. You don't vilify people based on the god they pray to, and you don't cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies."
Cohen concludes: "To those who support the president and his rhetoric as I once did: I pray the country doesn't make the same mistakes that I have made or pay the heavy price that my family and I have paid."
Jim Jordan is accusing Cohen of lying that he didn't set up that Twitter account that called him sexy and such, saying he asked the tech person to do it, and lying that he didn't want a job in the administration.
Cummings, in his closing statement, refers to the WaPo's count of Trump's false and misleading statements, nearly 9,000. (I count 4,445 false ones.) He says "it's stunning."
The Cohen hearing is over.
Cummings delivered an emotional, meandering closing statement that appeared to bring Cohen to tears. He finished by very angrily noting that contrary to Republicans' claims, this was not his committee's first hearing. (Jim Jordan began the day by saying that it was.)
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