The opening statement that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and self-styled “fixer,” plans to deliver at the top of his testimony before the House Oversight Committee was leaked late Tuesday night. In his planned remarks, Cohen enunciates a considerable amount of regret, enumerates several pieces of evidence, and spares his former employer no quarter.
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” Cohen writes. “I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat.”
The New York Times broke the story overnight.
Cohen returns to Congress, where he previously gave testimony about Trump’s financial dealings, seeking to repair the damage he blames himself for enabling. By the looks of his opening statement, he’s also aware of the need to make a game effort in repairing his own tattered reputation.
“Before going further, I want to apologize to each of you and to Congress as
a whole,” Cohen says, “The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump. Today, I’m here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.” Coming off as credible will be a high hurdle for Cohen to surmount, and Republicans have vowed to make every effort to undermine his credibility.
In his opening statement, Cohen alleges Trump “knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.” He also lays out some of the documented evidence he believes will shine a light on the president’s character, including a “copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account…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 also plans to furnish Congress with various financial statements and documents which speak to both Trump’s innate corruption and narcissism.
Additionally, Cohen will seek to explain to the members of the committee exactly how Trump advised him to deceive Congress and others. “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress,” says Cohen. “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.
If Trump felt it would not ultimately matter whether or not he lied about participating in this deal, Cohen explains there’s a perfectly good reason: “He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election.”
“The campaign – for him – was always a marketing opportunity.” One that went, Cohen implies, spectacularly wrong:
I knew early on in my work for Mr. Trump that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests. I am ashamed to say, that when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. As the President, I consider it significant and dangerous.
You can read Cohen’s full opening statement here.