President Donald Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen testified in front of the House Oversight Committee Wednesday. Among the dozens of members who questioned Cohen over several hours, a small group of legislators asked pointed questions that helped bring new information to light.
While much of the hearing was rife with grandstanding and useless monologues from members of both parties, questions from Reps. Katie Hill (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) homed in on Cohen’s long history of lying for the president, threatening perceived enemies, and alleged tax fraud and campaign finance crimes. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) also asked Cohen about whether he had traveled to Prague, where he is alleged to have planned campaign collusion with Russian actors.
Here’s more information about what the lawmakers asked — and what we learned from their questions.
Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA)
Early on in the hours-long hearing, Hill, the committee’s vice chair, pressed Cohen over the payments he made to Stormy Daniels and other women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs in the run-up to the 2016 election.
“What did the president ask or suggest you to say about the reimbursements?” Hill asked Cohen.
“That he was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements and he was not knowledgeable of my action,” Cohen responded.
Hill clarified, asking whether the president had specifically asked Cohen to lie about Trump’s knowledge of the reimbursements. Cohen responded definitively, saying, “Yes ma’am.”
Hill then asked whether there is additional corroborating evidence that the president was involved in a criminal campaign-finance scheme (using his own money to make a large payment to influence the campaign would violate federal law). Cohen quickly responded, “There are 11 checks that I received for the year.” Those checks reimbursed Cohen for payments he made to silence women who claimed they had affairs with then-candidate Trump. Cohen added that he could get copies of the checks from his bank if needed.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA)
During his time, Gomez also focused on questions about Trump’s finances. The president has repeatedly refused to release his taxes, saying he cannot release them while they are under audit. Gomez asked Cohen whether Trump is, in fact, under audit at all.
“I don’t know the answer,” Cohen said. “I asked for a copy of the audit so that I could use it in terms of my statements to the press, and I was never able to obtain one.”
Gomez also asked whether Cohen has any knowledge about what is in Trump’s taxes, and Cohen said he does not, before adding, “He has said to me… that what he didn’t want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces and then he’ll end up in an audit and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.”
Gomez asked that if the president feared he could fall under audit, would that imply the president isn’t currently (and wasn’t then) under audit?
“I presume that he is not under audit,” Cohen said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
Ocasio-Cortez also focused on Trump’s finances and alleged fraud the president perpetrated.
“To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” she asked Cohen, who responded immediately, “Yes.”
Asked who else knows the president inflated assets, Cohen listed three Trump confidants, Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari.
“Where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and tax returns in order to compare them?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.
“Yes,” Cohen said. “And you would find it at the Trump Org.”
She also asked whether Trump had artificially deflated his assets to dodge taxes (Cohen said the president had), and whether Trump had also deflated his parents’ assets to dodge taxes. Cohen said he believed he had.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)
Krishnamoorthi, for his part, made some interesting — if vague — news when he asked Cohen when the last time he had communicated with Trump or someone representing Trump.
“What did he or his agent communicate to you?” Krishnamoorthi asked.
“Unfortunately,” Cohen responded, “this topic is actually something that’s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss and not to talk about these issues.”
“Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven’t yet discussed today?” Krishnamoorthi asked.
“Yes,” Cohen responded. “And again, those are part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Speier pressed Cohen on how many times Trump asked Cohen to threaten people on his behalf. “And when you say threaten I’m talking with litigation or an argument with a nasty reporter that is writing an article,” Cohen said.
After a prolonged back and forth, Cohen settled on “probably” 500 times over the last 10 years.
Rep. Speier: How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?
Cohen: Quite a few times.
Cohen: Probably, over the 10 years. pic.twitter.com/hDnfJ07ID9
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 27, 2019
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC)
While most of his Republican colleagues used their time to try and undermine Cohen’s credibility Wednesday, during his time, Norman asked one question that was on everyone’s mind: “Have you ever been to Prague?”
The question is a reference to the now-infamous dossier released in January 2017 which alleged — among other claims — that Cohen traveled to Prague to collude with Russians in an effort to elect Trump. Cohen denied Wednesday ever having been to the country.
“Never have?” Norman asked.
“I’ve never been to the Czech Republic,” Cohen responded.