Michael Cohen agrees to testify publicly before Rep. Elijah Cummings' oversight committee

Frederick Owens
January 12, 2019

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Representative Adam Schiff said in a statement on Thursday that he welcomed Cohen's upcoming public testimony, but he added that Cohen would need to speak to lawmakers in a private setting as well.

The New Yorker, who is to begin a three-year prison sentence in March, is a pivotal figure in investigations by the special counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, and by federal prosecutors in New York into campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments to two women who say they had sex with Trump.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer who was recently sentenced to three years in prison, will testify before the House Oversight Committee in February , in a dramatic early move from Democrats as they prepare to ramp up investigating the president.

In a statement, Cohen said he agreed to testify in "furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers".

Cohen pleaded guilty in two separate cases for campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

"I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily", said Cummings in a statement.

MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley argued Thursday after the hearing date was announced that the testimony "is potentially even more important than the Mueller report". Cohen has said he made the payments at Trump's direction and with the intent to influence the election.

Trump has denied having the extramarital affairs.

In an interview with ABC News after his conviction Cohen said Mr Trump knew it was wrong to order the hush payments.

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Cohen has testified behind close doors to both the Senate and the House previously, some of which led to his conviction on lying to Congress.

On the subject of the payments, Trump insisted he only found out about them after they were made, despite the release of a 2016 recorded conversation in which Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair.

"We don't want to do anything to interfere with the Mueller investigation - absolutely nothing", Cummings said.

Elijah Cummings, the committee's chair, said the panel would avoid interfering with Mueller's investigation.

The session will come just under a month before he is due to turn himself in for a three-year prison sentence.

He pleaded guilty in August in return for a plea deal.

Soon after his appearance in front of House Oversight was announced, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) released a statement welcoming the testimony but also stressing the need for Cohen "to answer questions pertaining to the Russian Federation investigation". Cohen's appearance in public, before national television cameras, will begin to fulfill that promise, but is likely to only be the first of a string of public testimony that could prove damaging to the president.

He added, "As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better".

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