Michael Cohen testifies before House committee

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>>App users: Watch Michael Cohen’s testimony late afternoon testimony here.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen:

5:15 p.m.: Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says he’s worried that if the president doesn’t win re-election, there will not be a “peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen is testifying Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee. He told the committee in closing remarks that his loyalty to Donald Trump has cost him his job, his family and his freedom. And he’s worried the country will suffer a similar fate unless people stop supporting Trump.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and orchestrating hush-money payments to women who said they had affairs with Trump.

He told the committee Trump is a racist conman who repaid him the hush money from the White House after he became president. Trump has strongly denied the allegations.

5 p.m.: Michael Cohen says President Donald Trump devalued his assets in order to pay lower real estate taxes.

Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, is testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

His comment on Trump’s assets came in response to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat.

Cohen says Trump claimed Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, was worth more than what he reported to local tax authorities. Cohen says 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.

4:55 p.m.: President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, says he’s seen the president’s tax returns but hasn’t gone through them.

Cohen is testifying Wednesday before the House oversight committee.

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 says 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 didn’t want to release his tax returns because he “didn’t want an entire group of think tanks, who are tax experts, to run through his returns.”

3:40 p.m.: The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into a U.S. congressman from Florida after it received a complaint about a taunting tweet he made hours before Presidnet Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before a U.S. House committee.

Florida Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker said in an email Wednesday that an investigation has been opened into Republican Matt Gaetz, but confidentiality rules prevent her from offering any further details.

Gaetz, who is a Florida Bar member, has 15 days to respond.

After an initial evaluation, the case is sent to a branch office and then a grievance committee, if Bar officials believe it has merit.

If the grievance committee finds probable cause, charges are filed with the Florida Supreme Court and then a judge is appointed to hear the case.

3:20 p.m.: A spokeswoman for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is dismissing Michael Cohen’s testimony as coming from a felon and convicted liar.

Kayleigh McEnany says in a statement Wednesday that Cohen is offering “what he says is evidence, but the only support for that is his own testimony.”

Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, is appearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

In his testimony, Cohen painted Trump as a racist and conman who acted like a mob boss. He said Trump used those around him to tamp down allegations that could be damaging to him.

McEnany emphasizes that prosecutors have said Cohen had an instinct to blame others and committed crimes, in part, to benefit himself.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

2:40 p.m.: President Donald Trump’s former lawyer says he was pressured by the president to lie to first lady Melania Trump about hush money payments paid to a porn actress who alleged she had an affair with Donald Trump.

Michael Cohen tells the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the president put him on the phone with Mrs. Trump, and Cohen says he misled her in that conversation.

Cohen is referring to $130,000 that he arranged to be paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

The White House has denied that Trump had an affair with Daniels.

2:10 p.m.: Fordham University is confirming it received a letter from Donald Trump’s then-lawyer threatening legal action if Trump’s academic records became public.

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has testified to Congress that Trump directed him to write letters warning his schools and the College Board not to disclose his grades or SAT scores.

Cohen has given the House Oversight and Reform Committee a copy of his letter to Fordham. It was dated May 2015, about a month before Trump started his presidential campaign.

Fordham says the letter from Trump’s lawyer was preceded by a phone call from a campaign staffer. Fordham says it’s bound by federal law barring the release of student records.

Trump attended the Roman Catholic university in New York City for two years. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

Penn and the College Board declined to comment.

>>App users: Watch Cohen’s early Wednesday afternoon testimony here.

1:50 p.m.: Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says President Donald Trump called him and asked him to mislead the public about hush money paid to a porn actress.

Cohen says during testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee 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 says Trump asked him to say that the president “wasn’t knowledgeable” about the payments.

In fact, Cohen says Trump directed and coordinated the payments. Documents also show Trump personally signed at least one check 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.

1 p.m.: President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, says prosecutors in New York are investigating conversations that Trump or his advisers had with Cohen after his hotel room was raided by the FBI.

Cohen is testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and he was asked by a Democrat, Raja Krishnamoorthi (krish-nah-MOOR’-thee) of Illinois, about the last contact Cohen had with Trump or any agent representing the president.

Cohen says it was about two months after his hotel room was raided by the FBI in April 2018. But Cohen is declining to provide more specific details and says prosecutors are investigating the matter.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, lying to Congress and other offenses.

He’s been cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.

12:45 p.m.: For much of Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony, Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee have called President Donald Trump’s former lawyer a liar.

Rep. Paul Gosar (GOH’-sahr) of Arizona and other Republicans say Cohen can’t be trusted for what he says about Trump because Cohen pleaded guilty last year for lying to Congress.

At the hearing, Gosar put up a sign that read “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire” and called Cohen a “pathological liar.”

Democrats shot back, with Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch saying committee Republicans “aren’t afraid you’re going to lie. I think they’re afraid you’re going to tell the truth.”

Cohen turned the focus on the president, saying lying became “the norm” working for Trump.

12 p.m.: President Donald Trump’s eldest sons are tweeting their thoughts about Michael Cohen’s public testimony — and they’re ridiculing him as a disgruntled ex-employee out to try and save himself.

Cohen is the president’s former lawyer who’s cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May. Cohen is testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Donald Trump Jr. tweets that Cohen’s testimony sounded “like a breakup letter” and that it’s “funny how things change when you’re trying to save your ass.”

Trump Jr. and Eric Trump suggest the longtime Trump loyalist is retaliating against the president after getting rejected for a White House job.

Eric Trump tweets Cohen was “lobbying EVERYONE” to be chief of staff and that it “was the biggest joke in the campaign.” Cohen tells the committee he was never interested in such a position.

Eric Trump also is taking aim at Cohen’s impending prison sentence by tweeting a Republican Party video about Cohen with the title, “Have Fun in Prison!”

11:17 a.m.: President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, says he doesn’t know whether Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, but he has “suspicions” about that.

Cohen tells a House committee that he witnessed instances before the election in which Trump was informed about WikiLeaks’ release of Democratic National Committee emails and about a Trump Tower meeting that included campaign advisers, Trump’s oldest son and a Russian lawyer.

Cohen says Trump had told him that the younger Trump “had the worst judgment of anyone in the world.”

Cohen also said Donald Trump Jr. “would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father.”

Cohen has turned on his former boss and cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Cohen begins a three-year prison sentence in May.

11:15 a.m.: “Not true.”

That’s the word from Roger Stone, a confidant of President Donald Trump, in response to a claim by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Cohen has testified to a House committee that Stone told Trump that the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks planned to release emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Cohen says Stone told Trump in July 2016 that Stone had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange, who run WikiLeaks, and that there would be a “massive dump” of emails harmful to the Clinton campaign.

Cohen’s allegation would contradict the president’s assertions that he was in the dark on this issue.

It’s not immediately clear what evidence Cohen has to support the allegation or how legally problematic the claim it might be for Trump.

Stone has pleaded not guilty to witness tampering and obstruction in Mueller’s investigation

11:10 a.m.: President Donald Trump’s former lawyer is apologizing to Congress and the American people for, in his words, “actively working to hide from you the truth about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.”

Michael Cohen is also apologizing to lawmakers for lying to Congress in 2017. Cohen pleaded guilty to that lying, among other offenses, and is headed to prison in May.

Cohen tells a House committee that “it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.”

11 a.m.: Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says he wouldn’t accept a pardon from the president and he didn’t ask for one.

Cohen is testifying under oath before the House Oversight and Reform Committee — and has said that Trump instructed him to pay off women who said they’d had affairs with the president. Trump has denied the claims.

For more than a decade, Cohen was a key power player in the Trump Organization and a fixture in Trump’s political life.

Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while he was working for Trump.

Cohen says he’s speaking before the committee to set the record straight and try to atone for some of his mistakes.

10:58 a.m.: President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, says Trump personally signed checks repaying him for hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Cohen has presented a check to the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The $35,000 check was from dated August 2017.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations connected to a $130,000 hush-money deal involving porn actress Stormy Daniels. She alleges an affair; Trump denies it.

Cohen says he personally paid Daniels. But Trump’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said Cohen was repaid through a retainer agreement.

Prosecutors have said the Trump Organization paid Cohen in monthly installments to reimburse him for the Daniels’ payment. They say Cohen used “sham” invoices to try to conceal the true nature of the payments.

A second check from March 2017 was signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s chief financial officer.

10:55 a.m.: The president’s former personal lawyer says Donald Trump lied about his wealth to look richer to Forbes magazine and less wealthy for tax authorities.

Michael Cohen is testifying under oath before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Cohen says financial documents show Trump inflated his assets to rank higher on the Forbes world’s billionaires list. Trump ranked 766th on the publication’s latest list, which was released last March.

Cohen claims Trump would also deflate his assets to pay lower real estate taxes.

Democrats have promised an aggressive effort to investigate the president since they regained control of the House in January.

For more than a decade, Cohen was a key power player in the Trump Organization and a fixture in Trump’s political life.

Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while he was working for Trump.

10:52 a.m.: Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is telling Congress that President Donald Trump lied to the American people about negotiations during the 2016 presidential campaign about a proposed Trump building in Russia.

Cohen says in public testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee that Trump “knew of and directed” the negotiations about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about the timing of the business proposal.

Cohen is testifying that Trump didn’t “directly” tell him to lie to Congress about the project but he did so “in his way.”

Cohen says that while he was negotiating the Russian business deal during the campaign, Trump would look him in the eye and tell him “there’s no business in Russia.”

10:50 a.m.: The top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee is charging that Democrats are bringing President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to testify so they can “start their impeachment process.”

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio tells the committee chairman, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, at the start of the hearing that “your chairmanship will always be identified by this hearing.”

Jordan and other Republicans are challenging Cohen’s credibility because Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress in 2017, among other charges.

Democrats invited Cohen to testify after he turned on Trump and started cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

10:45 a.m.: President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is accusing Trump of being a “racist.”

Testifying under oath before a House committee, Cohen says he heard Trump say that black people “would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

Cohen says that when he and Trump were driving through a “struggling neighborhood” in Chicago, Trump said that “only black people could live that way.”

Trump has denied charges of racism before, and has said, “I’ve never used racist remarks.”

For more than a decade, Cohen was a key power player in the Trump Organization and a fixture in Trump’s political life.

Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while he was working for Trump.

10:30 a.m.: The president’s former personal lawyer claims Donald Trump was told in advance that WikiLeaks planned to release emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House campaign.

That’s what Michael Cohen is telling the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

In his prepared testimony, Cohen says he was in Trump’s office in 2016 when Trump adviser Roger Stone called.

Cohen says Stone told Trump that Stone had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange, who run the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks group, and that there would be a “massive dump” of emails harmful to the Clinton campaign.

Cohen’s allegation would contradict the president’s assertions that he was in the dark on this issue.

It’s not immediately clear what evidence Cohen has to support the allegation or how legally problematic this claim it might be for Trump.

Special counsel Robert Mueller hasn’t suggested that merely being aware of WikiLeaks’ plans is by itself a crime.

Stone has pleaded not guilty to witness tampering and obstruction in Mueller’s investigation.

10:25 a.m.: The chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee says the public has a right to hear from former Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer.

Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland says Cohen’s testimony is necessary because it’s the committee’s job to search out the truth. Cummings says the committee won’t restrict any questions, and that means some lawmakers may ask about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

10:20 a.m.: As soon as the House hearing involving President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, got underway, a key Republican lawmaker claimed that the committee was violating its own rules.

Rep. Mark Meadows, a top Trump ally, said Cohen was showing “disdain” for the committee process by failing to submit his prepared remarks ahead of time.

Meadows claimed it was an intentional “violation of the rules.”

Cohen’s much-anticipated testimony was received by the committee the night before Wednesday’s session, according to the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

Meadows made a motion to postpone the hearing. Lawmakers quickly voted to reject the motion and the hearing resumed.

10:15 a.m.: A Democratic member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee says that restrictions on questions about Russia have been lifted when the committee questions Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer.

Just before the hearing began, Rep. Gerry Connolly said he’d discussed the issue with the committee’s leadership. The Virginia congressman said previous limits on questions about Russia were “null and void” because Cohen mentioned the issue in his opening statement.

The committee chairman had issued a memo outlining the scope of the hearing, and it didn’t include questions about Russia. Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings had said that he didn’t want to interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

10 a.m.: A congressional hearing is underway featuring the much-anticipated public testimony from Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer.

Cohen is expected to detail before the House Oversight and Reform Committee what he believes is Trump’s lying, racism and cheating, and possibly even criminal conduct.

Cohen, who was Trump’s longtime fixer, is the first high-profile witness called before the committee as newly empowered Democrats pursue an aggressive effort to investigate the president.

Cohen played a pivotal role in buying the silence of a porn actress and a former Playboy Playmate who both alleged they had sex with Trump. The president has denied their claims.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations connected to the payments and to lying to Congress.

He’s set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.

>>App users: Watch the beginning of Cohen’s testimony here


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer is planning to tell a House committee that Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and that Trump is a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat.”

Michael Cohen suggests in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press that Trump also implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow real estate project. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project, which he says Trump knew about as Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the 2016 election campaign.

The hearing is expected to provide the most damning depiction to date of Trump’s campaign and business operations from a onetime member of the president’s inner circle. It is the latest step in Cohen’s evolution from legal fixer for the president — he once boasted that he’d “take a bullet” for Trump — to a foe who has implicated him in federal campaign finance violations.

Cohen’s claims that Trump had advance knowledge of the emails contradict the president’s assertions that he was in the dark, but it was not clear what evidence Cohen had to support the allegation or even how legally problematic it would be for Trump. Special counsel Robert Mueller has not suggested that mere awareness of WikiLeaks’ plans, as Trump confidant Roger Stone is purported to have had, is by itself a crime.

Cohen says Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but “he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing.”

Cohen says that “in his way, he was telling me to lie.” He adds that lawyers for Trump had “reviewed and edited” the statement in which Cohen falsely said a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow had been abandoned in January 2016. Cohen has since said he continued pursuing the project for Trump for months after that.

In the prepared testimony, Cohen apologizes for his actions. “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” he says.

Trump, at a Vietnam hotel before a planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and unable to ignore the drama playing out thousands of miles away, lashed out at Cohen on Twitter, saying that his lawyer “did bad things unrelated to Trump” and “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

A judge already has set Cohen’s sentence, and Cohen’s cooperation before Congress will have no bearing on that term.

Cohen, ahead of his appearance, said Tuesday that the American people could decide “exactly who is telling the truth” when he testified before the House Oversight and Reform committee, setting the stage for an explosive public hearing that threatened to overshadow Trump’s summit in Vietnam with Kim.

On WikiLeaks, Cohen says in the prepared testimony that he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when longtime adviser Roger Stone telephoned Trump. Trump put Stone on speakerphone and Stone told him that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” according to Cohen.

Trump responded by saying “wouldn’t that be great,” Cohen says.

That month, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee’s server.

“A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time,” Cohen says in the prepared testimony. “The answer is yes.”

Cohen says he does not have direct evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government during the election, but that he has “suspicions.” Of a meeting in Trump Tower between campaign advisers, including Trump’s oldest son, and a Russian lawyer, Cohen says that Trump had frequently told him that Donald Trump Jr. “had the worst judgment of anyone in the world” and he “would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father.”

Cohen, once Trump’s loyal attorney, has turned on his former boss and cooperated with special counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation. He begins a three-year prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while he was working for Trump.

He met with the Senate intelligence committee for more than nine hours behind closed doors on Tuesday. Cohen said in brief remarks afterward that he appreciated the opportunity to “clear the record and tell the truth” to the panel after acknowledging he lied to the committee in 2017.

It was the first of three days of congressional appearances for Cohen. After the public hearing Wednesday, he will appear before the House intelligence panel Thursday, in private.

Republicans are expected to aggressively attempt to discredit Cohen, given that he has acknowledged lying previously. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement Tuesday it was “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.”

One Republican House member did more than just question Cohen’s credibility. Florida Republican Matt Gaetz tweeted Tuesday that the world is “about to learn a lot” about Cohen and suggested he knew of disparaging information that could come out during the hearing. Gaetz later apologized and said he was deleting the tweet.

Gaetz, a Trump ally who talks to the president frequently, is not a member of the committee that was questioning Cohen.

Democrats have been alternately suspicious of Cohen and eager to hear what he has to say. Sen. Mark Warner, the intelligence panel’s top Democrat, suggested in a brief statement to reporters outside Tuesday’s interview that Cohen had provided important information.

“Two years ago when this investigation started I said it may be the most important thing I am involved in in my public life in the Senate, and nothing I’ve heard today dissuades me from that view,” Warner said.

In addition to lying to Congress, Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump.

Federal prosecutors in New York have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Cohen told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty.”

Cohen says in his prepared testimony that he lied to the first lady, Melania Trump, about the affairs. Trump has denied that he had the affairs.

“Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets,” he says. “She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that.”

Cohen also says he will present the committee with a copy of the check Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse him for the hush money payments. He claims he has other exhibits as well, including some financial statements.

On the matter of racism, Cohen says the president made racist comments “disparaging African-Americans, saying at one point that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

Cohen is not expected to discuss matters related to Russia in the public hearing, saving that information for the closed-door interviews with the intelligence committees. House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings has said he doesn’t want to interfere with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links to Trump’s campaign.

Members of the Oversight panel are expected to ask questions about the campaign finance violations, Trump’s business practices and compliance with tax laws and “the accuracy of the president’s public statements,” according to a memo laying out the scope of the hearing.

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Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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