Cohen Has `Suspicions' of Collusion With Russia: Hearing Update

(Bloomberg) -- Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, is poised to hurl accusations of wrongdoing against the president Wednesday in an open hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Read Cohen’s prepared testimony here.

Cohen Has ‘Suspicions’ of Collusion With Russia (9:15 a.m.)

Among allegations in Cohen’s prepared testimony:

  • He doesn’t have direct evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia but “I have my suspicions.” In June 2016, he said, Donald Trump Jr., “leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice,” said “the meeting is all set.” That was the month Trump Jr. and others met with Russians dangling the prospect of dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
  • Trump “knew of and directed” negotiations for a Trump tower in Moscow “throughout the campaign and lied about it.” He said Trump never expected to win the presidency and “stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars” on the deal.
  • Trump “once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president.” He claims Trump also said “black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

Trump, Ahead of Kim Summit, Says Cohen is a Liar (6:28 a.m.)

Just hours before he was to sit down to dinner with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump blasted Cohen in a tweet, saying his former lawyer is a liar and a fraud.

Trump met with Kim for dinner at 6:28 p.m. in Hanoi, which is 6:28 a.m. in Washington. Yet shortly before the showdown summit, the president’s mind was occupied by events to take place in a congressional hearing room across the ocean.

Cohen to Tell House Panel That Trump Knew of Hack (4 a.m.)

Cohen plans to tell the committee about alleged misdeeds by his former boss, claiming that Trump knew during the 2016 presidential election that his ally Roger Stone was talking to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks about a release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails.

Cohen Has `Suspicions' of Collusion With Russia: Hearing Update

That and other dramatic assertions by Cohen are presented in his prepared remarks, along with descriptions of documentary evidence he said he would give the panel to back up some of his allegations.

“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is,” Cohen intends to tell the committee, about the man who he once said he’d take a bullet for. “He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” he said in the prepared testimony.

Cohen says he’s eager to tell his story in public. After closed-door testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, he told reporters, “I’m going to let the American people decide exactly who’s telling the truth.”

In his prepared remarks, he described his role in the Trump circle as “always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life.”

He said he is providing the committee with evidence that includes some of Trump’s closely guarded financial statements and 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.”

Cohen Has `Suspicions' of Collusion With Russia: Hearing Update

Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign-finance laws by arranging such payments.

Wednesday’s televised hearing will be the biggest public inquiry into Trump’s personal and business affairs since Democrats won control of the House in the November election.

Yet the credibility of the star witness will be challenged because he’s already pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including lying to Congress, and is headed to prison. Republicans have torn into the Democrats who now control the committee for giving Cohen a public forum and have prepared for rigorous cross-examination.

“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,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday.

Democrats say Cohen has much to reveal. Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight panel’s chairman, even ventured that the event may prove “a turning point in our country’s history.”

Under an agreement with the Justice Department, though, members won’t be allowed to ask Cohen about matters still under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s almost finished with his probe into whether Trump or anyone close to him conspired in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Here’s What’s Happened So Far:

  • Cohen was originally scheduled to testify in early February but he delayed his appearances, citing what he called threats from Trump.
  • GOP Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, a Trump ally, delivered a warning to Cohen late Tuesday, suggesting in a tweet that Cohen’s wife is “about to learn a lot” about Cohen, implying without offering any evidence that he’s had extramarital affairs. The tweet raised immediate accusations that Gaetz was trying to intimidate Cohen. Gaetz later tweeted an apology to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying it was not his “intent to threaten” and that he would delete the tweet.
  • A judge initially ruled that Cohen’s three-year prison sentence would begin in early March but then agreed to delay the start date until May 6.
  • Cohen has been disbarred in New York, according to a state appeals court filing made public Tuesday.

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