Michael Cohen testifies before Congress
President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen said he regrets the day he said "yes" to his boss.
"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 the presidency, to launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance and actively win. I regret the day I said yes to Mr. Trump," he said.
"I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way," he said.
Cohen said he had "misplaced loyalty" and he is ashamed that he "chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts."
Here's how he put it:
"I am ashamed of my weakness and my 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, and he is a cheat."
President Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen was just sworn in ahead of his testimony before Congress.
"Mr. Cohen, if you would please rise, I will begin to swear you in. Raise your right hand. Do you swear or affirm that the testimony that you are about to give is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings asked.
Cohen said he did.
Remember: In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, a charge from special counsel Robert Mueller's office.
GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, criticized Chairman Elijah Cummings for holding a hearing and allowing Michael Cohen to testify:
"This might be the first time someone convicted of lying to Congress has appeared again so quickly in front of Congress. Certainly it's the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness in a hearing. And there's a reason this is a first, because no other committee would do it. Think about this."
Jordan claimed the hearing was orchestrated by Cohen's legal consultant and spokesman, Lanny Davis.
"So now Clinton loyalist, Clinton operative Lanny Davis has persuaded the chairman of the oversight committee to give a convicted felon a forum to tell stories and lie about the president of the United States so they can all start their impeachment process. Mr. Chairman, we are better than this. We are better than this," Jordan said.
Watch Rep. Jordan's comments:
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said that if Michael Cohen lies in his testimony today, he will personally turn over those lies to the Department of Justice.
Here's what he said in his opening statement:
"I have made it abundantly clear to Mr. Cohen that if he comes here today and he does not tell us the truth, I will be the first one to refer those untruthful statements to DOJ. SO when people say he doesn't have anything to lose, he has a lot to lose if he lies."
He continued: And the American people, by the way, voted for accountability in November, and they have a right to hear Mr. Cohen in public so they can make their own judgements."
A little bit of context here: In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, a charge from special counsel Robert Mueller's office.
In his opening statement, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings explained why his committee asked Michael Cohen, President Trump's former fixer, to testify today:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are in search of the truth. The President has made many statements of his own, and now the American people have a right to hear the other side. They can watch Mr. Cohen's testimony and make their own judgment."
He went on to describe a check that Cohen will present during the hearing to support his testimony. It is dated Aug. 1, 2017 for the amount of $35,000. Cohen will say in his testimony the check was signed by the President and was part of the reimbursement for "illegal hush money I paid on his behalf."
Watch Cummings' comments here:
Shortly before leaving his hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, en route to his meeting with North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un, President Trump tweeted this about Michael Cohen's testimony:
"He is lying in order to reduce his prison time," he said.
Although the President has attempted to downplay their connections, Cohen was the his former lawyer, confidant and fixer.
The hearing started just moments ago, and Republicans swiftly tried to delay it. The committee held a roll call vote on the issue.
The GOP objection: Republican Congressman Mark Meadows said the testimony was not supplied to to the committee in the required 24 hours ahead of time.
Of note: Most major news organizations — including CNN — had a copy of the testimony last night.
Watch the moment here:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings just called today's hearing featuring testimony from Michael Cohen to order.
Rep. Mark Meadows quickly requested that the committee postpone the hearing, saying representatives were not given enough time to review evidence.
Michael Cohen is expected to discuss a scheme to obtain reimbursement for the $130,000 payment he made in 2016 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, to silence her for an affair she alleged with President Trump. (Trump has denied the affair.)
Federal prosecutors have previously explained the scheme in court filings, saying that Cohen falsely submitted invoices to the Trump Organization, at the direction of “executives” of the company, during the year 2017, for a total of $420,000. The reimbursements were to be paid in monthly installments of $35,000, according to prosecutors.
In court filings, prosecutors cited two Trump Organizations executives (“Executive-1” and “Executive-2”) who were involved in the reimbursement scheme, but didn’t name them.
At today's hearing, Cohen is expected to say that one of the checks he received to reimburse him was from Trump’s personal bank account and was signed by Trump.
Though federal prosecutors with the Manhattan US Attorney’s office didn’t reference any such check in their charges against Cohen, they obtained evidence of the check from Trump’s personal account during their investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Cohen is also expected to testify that other checks he received were signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who received immunity in the investigation of Cohen. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization declined to comment on Cohen’s expected testimony.
A spokesman for the Manhattan US Attorney’s office declined to comment.