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.
That, folks, is an excerpt from Michael Cohen’s prepared testimony which he’ll deliver before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday.
Cohen’s public remarks come a day after he spoke for some nine hours behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he apologized for lying during testimony delivered in 2017. Here’s what he said after those proceedings on Tuesday:
As to whether or not Trump directly instructed him to tell those lies (as the bombshell BuzzFeed article published in January suggested), the answer is as follows (from his prepared remarks):
I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false – our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign. Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, 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. In his way, he was telling me to lie. There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me “How’s it going in Russia?” – referring to the Moscow Tower project. You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it. To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.
So there’s that. As a reminder, BuzzFeed reported that Robert Mueller had evidence to support the contention that Trump instructed Cohen to mislead lawmakers about his involvement with Russia. The special counsel’s office would subsequently refute that characterization. Now we have Cohen’s own account. Obviously, the fact that Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed false testimony to Congress and approved it is disconcerting.
On Monday, reports indicated that Cohen would reveal information that “has never been produced before” about Trump’s finances. That information was said to include specific, verifiable documents and now we know what those are. To wit, again from Cohen’s prepared remarks:
- A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account – after he became president – to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign;
- Copies of financial statements for 2011 – 2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank;
- A copy of an article with Mr. Trump’s handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself – he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs; and
- Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.
Here, apparently, is one of those documents:
Cohen plans to show a second $35k check signed by Don Jr. and Trump Org COO Allen Weisselberg from March 2017, @NBCNews reports. Cohen will say both checks were part of the reimbursement plan for the hush payments https://t.co/Hy3gTzyiSx pic.twitter.com/SCEAqMlXdh
— Allan Smith (@akarl_smith) February 27, 2019
On Roger Stone, Cohen claims to have been in the room when Stone, on speakerphone, no less, told Trump about a conversation with Julian Assange. This is damning in the extreme:
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”
None of this is in any way surprising, of course. Cohen is just reiterating his first hand account of what everyone already knows about Trump and indeed, all of this would match up perfectly with the experiences of anyone who has ever done business with the president before he ascended to the Oval Office.
Republicans will doubtlessly assail Cohen about his credibility and lob personal insults at him, something he seems resigned to at this juncture. Remember, this is a man who is headed to prison in May, who was the subject of a Hollywood-style FBI raid and who has spent more than 70 hours with aggressive prosecutors from Mueller’s team and from New York state. It’s hard to imagine he’s going to be rattled by a handful of angry Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Speaking of angry Republicans, Matt Gaetz is in all kinds of hot water for tweeting this on Tuesday night:
Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…
So, that’s Matt, suggesting, without evidence, that a congressional witness has cheated on his wife and then alluding to the possibility that she’ll sleep with other men after he goes to prison. Or, in other words, that’s witness tampering, which is precisely what Donald Trump did while participating in an insane shriek-a-thon with Jeanine Pirro last month following the release of the BuzzFeed article.
Initially, Gaetz was defiant, claiming his tweet was “witness testing” not “witness tampering”. This is hard to watch, but here it is anyway:
He would later throw in the towel and apologize after spending a couple of hours trading barbs with some of the tens of thousands of Twitter folk who were keen to explain just why that tweet was so ill-advised.
“While it is important 2 create context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did,” he wrote, just before midnight, adding that he would be “deleting the tweet”. “I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I’m sorry”, he went on to say.
Meanwhile, in keeping with Sunday and Monday’s theme of juxtaposing the Cohen testimony with the second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi (in an effort to illustrate just how surreal the world is in 2019)”, here is the obligatory first handshake and exchange of meaningless pleasantries between the US president and North Korea’s boy despot:
Yes, according to a homicidal maniac who has murdered his own family members, starved his own people and executed top officials with antiaircraft guns, the Vietnam summit is “possible because of Trump’s courageous decisions.”
Later, the two men will “courageously” sit down and have some dinner and Michael Cohen will “courageously” tell the American public just how corrupt the man currently negotiating on the country’s behalf with a nuclear-armed child really is.