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Michael Cohen Testifies Before House Oversight Committee. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 27, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] COMER: I -- I don't believe that Michael Cohen is capable of telling the truth. And I would hope that, as this committee moves forward, that when we have the opportunity to subpoena witnesses, we subpoena witnesses that are not recently disbarred, are not a convicted felon, and witnesses that haven't committed bank fraud, and tax fraud. That is how we're going to determine the truth. So, Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time to the Ranking Member.

JORDAN: I thank the gentlemen for yielding. I would just make one point, we just had a -- a five minute debate where Mr. Cohen disputes what the Southern District of New York found -- what the judge found, that he was actually guilty of committing bank fraud. If -- if this statement back here doesn't say it all.

"Cohen's consciousness of wrongdoing is fleeting, his remorse is minimal. His instinct is to blame others is -- to blame others is strong." There's only thing one wrong with that statement, his remorse is nonexistent. He just debated a member of Congress, saying I really didn't do anything wrong with the false bank things that -- that I'm guilty of and going to prison for.

COHEN: Mr. Jordan, that's not...

(CROSSTALK)

JORDAN: That underscores...

COHEN: ... that's not what I said.

JORDAN: ... why this is wrong (ph).

COHEN: And you that that's not what I said.

JORDAN: That's exactly what...

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN): Will the gentleman yield?

COHEN: I said I plead guilty, and I take responsibility for my actions.

CUMMINGS: The gentleman's time has expired. You (ph) may answer the question (ph). COHEN: Shame on you, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Mr. Chair.

COHEN: That's not what I said, shame on you.

(CROSSTALK)

JORDAN: Mr. -- Mr. -- Mr. Chairman.

COHEN: That's not what I said. What I said is I took responsibility, and I take responsibility. What I was doing is explaining to the gentleman that his facts are inaccurate. I still -- I take responsibility for my mistakes, all right? I am remorseful. And I am going to prison. I will be away from my wife and family for years. So before you turn around...

(CROSSTALK)

JORDAN: I understand that.

COHEN: ... and you cast more dispersion, please understand...

JORDAN: I understand that.

COHEN: ... there are people watching you today that know me a whole lot better. I made mistakes. I own them. And I didn't fight with the Southern District of New York. I didn't put the system through an entire scenario, but what I did do is I plead guilty and I am going to be, again, going to prison.

CUMMINGS: Ms. Norton.

NORTON: Mr. Cohen, at the center of the reasons you're going to prison is conviction for campaign finance of violations and they center around some salacious revelation. The Washington Post reported or aired a Access Hollywood video. It set a record for the number of people who watched, crashed the newspaper's server, but this happened in early October.

On the cusp of the election, what was Mr. Trump's reaction to the video becoming public at that time and was he concerned about the impact of that video on the election?

COHEN: The answer is yes. As I stated before, I was in London at the time visiting my daughter who is studying there for Washington (ph) semester abroad, and I received a phone call during the dinner from Hope Hicks stating that she'd just spoken to Mr. Trump and we need you to start making phone calls to the various different news outlets that you have relationships with and we need to spin this. What we want to do is just to claim that this was men locker room talk.

NORTON: Was the concern about the election in particular?

COHEN: The answer is yes. Then couple that with Karen McDougal which then came out around the same time and then on top of that the Stormy Daniels matter.

NORTON: Yes, and these things happened in the month before the election and almost one after the other. The Stormy Daniels revelation where prosecutors and officials of the prosecutors learned of that -- that matter. And prosecutors stated that the officials at the magazine contacted you about the story, and the magazine, of course, is The National Inquiry. Is that correct? They did...

COHEN: Yes, ma'am.

[11:35:00] NORTON: ... come to you (ph)? Were you concerned about this new story becoming public right after the Access Hollywood study in terms of impact on the election?

COHEN: I was concerned about it, but more importantly Mr. Trump was concerned about it.

NORTON: Well that was my next question. What was the president's concern about these matters becoming public in October as we were about to go into an election?

COHEN: I don't think anybody would dispute this belief that after the wildfire that encompassed the Billy Bush tape that a second follow up to it would have been pleasant, and he was concerned with the effect that it had had on the campaign on how women were seeing him and ultimately whether or not he would have shot in the general election.

NORTON: And so, you negotiated the $130,000 payment?

COHEN: The $130,000 number was not a number that as actually negotiated. It was told to me by Keith Davidson that this is a number that Ms. Clifford wanted.

NORTON: When you finally -- you'd finally completed that deal as it were on October the 25th...

COHEN: 28th.

NORTON: ... days before the election, what happened in the interim?

COHEN: Contemplated whether or not to do it, wasn't sure if she was really going to go public, again, some communications back and forth between myself and Keith Davidson, and ultimately it came to either do it or don't. At which time, again, I had gone into Mr. Trump's office as I did after each and every conversation, and he had told me that he had spoken to a couple friends and it's $130,000. It's not a lot of money, and we should just do it. So go ahead and do it.

And I was at the time with Allen Wiesselburg where he directed us to go back to Mr. Wiesselburg's office and figure this all out.

NORTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CUMMINGS: Mr. Meadows.

MEADOWS: Mr. Cohen, do you know Lynne Patton? I'm right here. COHEN: Oh, yes, sir.

MEADOWS: Do you know Lynne Patton?

COHEN: Yes, I do.

MEADOWS: I asked Lynne to come today in her personal capacity to actually shed some light. How long have you known Ms. Patton?

COHEN: I'm responsible for Lynne Patton joining the Trump organization and the job that she currently holds.

MEADOWS: Well, that's -- I'm glad you acknowledged that because you made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn't agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racist.

She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama that there is no way that she work for an individual who was racist. How do you reconcile the two of those...

COHEN: As neither should I as the son of a Holocaust survivor.

MEADOWS: But Mr. Cohen, I guess what I'm saying is I've talked to the president over 300 times. I've not heard one time a racist comment out of his mouth in private. So how do you reconcile it? Do you have proof of those conversations?

COHEN: I would ask you to ask...

MEADOWS: Do you have tape recordings of those conversations?

COHEN: No, sir.

MEADOWS: Well, you've taped everybody else. Why wouldn't you have a tape...

COHEN: That's also not true, sir. That's not true.

MEADOWS: You haven't taped anybody?

COHEN: I have taped individuals...

MEADOWS: How many times have you taped individuals?

COHEN: Maybe 100 times over 10 years.

MEADOWS: Is that a low estimate because I've heard it's over 200 times?

COHEN: No, I don't think. I think it's approximately 100 from what I recall, but I would ask you...

MEADOWS: So why...

COHEN: You asked me question, sir...

MEADOWS: Do you have proof? Do you have proof, yes or no?

COHEN: I do. I do.

MEADOWS: Where's the proof?

COHEN: Ask Ms. Patton how many people who are black are executives at the Trump organization and the answer is zero.

MEADOWS: Mr. Cohen, Mr. Cohen, we can go through this. Here's -- I would ask...

COHEN: You asked...

MEADOWS: ... unanimous consent that her entire statement be put in the record.

CUMMINGS: Without objection.

MEADOWS: All right, let me go on a little bit further. Did you collect $1.2 million or so from Novartis...

COHEN: I did.

MEADOWS: ... for access to the Trump administration?

COHEN: No, sir.

MEADOWS: Why did you collect it?

COHEN: Because they came to me based upon my knowledge of the enigma Donald Trump, what he thinks, how he...

MEADOWS: So they paid you...

COHEN: Sir, please let me finish.

MEADOWS: No. Did they pay you $1.2 million...

COHEN: We've already said this, yes.

MEADOWS: ... to give them advice?

OHEN: Yes, they did. They -- a multibillion dollar conglomerate came to me looking for information -- not something that's unusual here in D.C. -- looking for information -- not something that's unusual here in D.C. -- looking for information and they believed that I had a value and --

(CROSSTALK)

MEADOWS: So how many times did you meet with them.

COHEN: -- value was the insight that I was capable of offering them and --

MEADOWS: How many times -- COHEN: -- they were willing to pay --

[11:40:00] MEADOWS: How many times did you meet with them? For $1.2 million, how many times did you meet with them?

COHEN: I provided them with both in person as well as telephone access whenever they needed.

MEADOWS: How many times -- that's a question, Mr. Cohen.

COHEN: I don't recall, sir.

MEADOWS: So did you ever talk to them?

COHEN: I spoke to them on several occasions, yes.

MEADOWS: How many?

COHEN: Six times.

MEADOWS: Six times. Wow. $200,000 a call.

COHEN: Sir, I also would like to -- I also would like to bring to your attention, Mr. Congressman (ph) --

MEADOWS: Hold on, I -- this is my five minutes, Mr. Cohen, not yours. Did you get money from the Bank of Kazakhstan?

COHEN: It's not a Bank of Kazakhstan, it's called BTA.

MEADOWS: BTA bank, Kazakhstan BTA bank, did you get money from them?

COHEN: I did.

MEADOWS: For what purpose?

COHEN: The purpose was because the former CEO of that bank had absconded with over -- it was between $4 billion to $6 billion and some of that money was here in the United States and they sought my assistance in terms of finding, locating that money and helping them to recollect it.

MEADOWS: So are you saying that all the reports that you were paid in some estimates over $4 million to have access and understanding of the Trump administration, you're saying that all of that was paid to you just because you're a nice guy.

COHEN: Well I am a nice guy but more importantly --

MEADOWS: I would beg to differ --

(CROSSTALK)

MEADOWS: -- the record reflects that you're not a nice guy.

COHEN: Sir, each and every contract contained the clause in my contracts that said I will not lobby and I do not do government relations work. In fact -- in fact, Novartis sent me their contract which stated specifically that they wanted to be to lobby, that they wanted to me to provide access to government including the president. That information -- that paragraph was crossed out by me, initialed and written in my own handwriting, says I will not lobby or do government relations work.

MEADOWS: So Novartis representatives say that it was like they were hiring a nonregistered lobbyist, so you disagree with that?

COHEN: I don't know what they said, sir, but the contract speaks for itself.

MEADOWS: Have you ever contacted anybody in the administration?

COHEN: Yes.

MEADOWS: To -- to advocate on behalf of -- of any aspect of any of your contracts? I ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman -- I ask -- I ask unanimous consent --

CUMMINGS: The gentleman's time is expired. You may answer the question.

COHEN: I don't know what you're referring to, sir.

MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman --

CUMMINGS: Mr. Clay.

MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman.

CLAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Cohen, I'm pleased you agreed to testify today voluntarily. In my view, we are all here for just one reason and that's the American people are tired of being lied to. They have been lied to by President Trump, they've been lied to by the president's children, they have been lied to by the president's legal representative. And it pains me to say that they have been even lied to by his Congressional enablers who are still devoted to perpetuating and protecting this giant con game on the American people. Now Mr. Cohen, I'd like to talk to you about the president's assets since by law these must be reported accurately on his federal financial disclosure and when he submits them for a bank loan.

Mr. Cohen, you served for nearly a decade as then businessman Trump's personal attorney and so-called fixer. Did you -- did you also have an understanding on the president's assets and how he valued those items?

COHEN: Yes.

CLAY: In November of 2017, Crain's New York Business reported that the Trump organization provided, quote, flagrantly untrue revenue figures going back to at least 2010 to influence Crain's ranking of the largest private companies in New York. According to the report, while the Trump organization reported nearly $9.5 billion in revenues in 2016, public filings suggested revenues were actually less than 1/10 of that. To your knowledge did the president or his company ever inflate assets or revenues?

COHEN: Yes.

CLAY: And was that done with the president's knowledge or direction?

COHEN: Everything was done with the knowledge and at the direction of Mr. Trump.

CLAY: Tell us why he would do that and what purpose did it serve.

[11:45:00] COHEN: It depends upon the situation. There were times that I was asked, again with Allen Weisselberg, the CFO, to go back and to speak with an individual from Forbes because Mr. Trump wanted each year to have his net worth rise on the Forbes wealthiest individuals list. And so what you do is you look at the assets and you try to find an asset that has -- say for example, 40 Wall Street, which is about 1.2 million square feet. Find an asset that is comparable, find the highest price per square foot that's achieved in the area and apply it to that building. Or if you're going off of your rent roll, you go by the gross rent roll times a multiple and you make up the multiple, which is something that he had talked about and is based upon what he wanted to value the asset at.

CLAY: You know, you -- you have provided this committee with copies of the president's financial statements or parts of them from 2011, 2012 and '13. And Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit those for the record. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to submit the statements to the record.

CUMMINGS: Without objection, so ordered.

CLAY: Thank you. Can you explain why you have these financial statements and what you use them for?

COHEN: So these financial statements were used by me for two purposes. One was discussing with media, whether it was Forbes or other magazines, to demonstrate Mr. Trump's significant net worth. That was one function. Another was when we were dealing, later on, with insurance companies, we would provide them with these copies so that they would understand that the premium, which is based sometimes upon the individual's capabilities to pay, would be reduced.

CLAY: And all of this was done at the president's direction and with his knowledge?

COHEN: Yes, because whatever the numbers would come back to be, we would immediately report it back.

CLAY: And did this information provided to us inflate the president's assets?

COHEN: I believe these numbers are inflated.

CLAY: And of course inviting -- inflating assets to win a newspaper poll to boost your ego is not a crime but to your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to a bank in order to help them of obtain a loan? CUMMINGS: The gentlemen's time has expired, but you may answer that question.

COHEN: These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one occasion when I was with him in our attempt to obtain money so that we can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills.

CLAY: Thank you for your answer.

CUMMINGS: Mr. Hice in Georgia.

HICE: I'd like to yield a second to the gentlemen from North Carolina.

MEADOWS: I thank the gentleman for yielding. I want to ask unanimous consent to put into the record an article from STAT which indicates that, "Mr. Cohen's promised access, not just Trump but also the circle around him who was almost as if we were hiring a lobbyist," closed quote. I ask unanimous consent.

CUMMINGS: Without objection.

MEADOWS: I ask unanimous consent that we put into the record a criminal referral for violating Section 22 USC of that statute number 6-11. I ask unanimous consent that my letter referring Mr. Cohen for violating FARA for illegal lobbying activity be entered into the record?

CUMMINGS: Without objection, so ordered.

MEADOWS: I ask unanimous consent that the first order of business for this Committee is for us to look in a bipartisan way at criminal referrals at the next business meeting.

CUMMINGS: These are not documents. They're objections. They're objections.

MEADOWS: So we're objection to a unanimous consent request? Is that what, Mr. Chairman.

CUMMINGS: I'll take care of Hice, don't worry. Yes?

MEADOWS: I will yield back.

CUMMINGS: All right, let me be clear. Mr. Hice, I'm going to give you your whole five minutes, all right?

HICE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CUMMINGS: In fairness of yield (ph), all right?

HICE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[11:50:00] CUMMINGS: Mr. Meadows, the Chairman made me - the Ranking Member made we aware that I had given a little more time to Ms. Wasserman Schultz. I was going to let you do that anyway, but I just want the Committee to know that because there's (inaudible) going be stricter on this five minutes, all right? All right, thank you very much. Mr. Hice, you have five minutes.

HICE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Cohen, you claim that you've lied, but you're not a liar. Just to set the record straight, if you lied, you are a liar by definition. You also said a moment ago that the facts are inaccurate. If they are facts, they are accurate, and that would make you inaccurate.

But I'd like to take a moment to - I'd like to know who you consulted with to prepare for today's hearing. Lanny Davis and who else?

COHEN: I consulted with my counsel, Lanny Davis, as well as Michael Monaco.

HICE: All right, did you or Michael of Lanny Davis or anyone else cooperate with the Democratic Majority to prepare for this hearing?

COHEN: I'm sorry. Say that again, please.

HICE: Did anyone - did you or anyone else on your team cooperate with the Democrat party in preparing for this hearing?

COHEN: We've spoken to the party.

HICE: OK, did you prepare with Chairman Cummings or anyone on your team?

COHEN: I'm sorry. What do you mean by prepare?

HICE: Prepare for this hearing.

COHEN: Prepare? I prepared with my counsel. I spoke...

HICE: Did you prepare with the Democrat Majority or Chairman Cummings?

COHEN: We spoke with Chairman Cummings and the party.

HICE: With Chairman Schiff?

COHEN: Spoke with Chairman Schiff and his people as well.

HICE: Were there any other individuals acting as a liaise for you with the majority party?

COHEN: I'm sorry, sir. What are you saying?

HICE: Did you have a liaison other than these that you've mentioned who were working with the majority to prepare for this hearing?

COHEN: Yes, we spoke with various individuals that you've just raised, yes.

HICE: Tom Steyer, regarding him or any of his representatives, anyone associated with him, is he or any of them paying Lanny Davis to represent you?

COHEN: Not that I'm aware of. HICE: Who is paying Lanny Davis?

COHEN: At the present moment, no one.

HICE: So he's doing all this work for nothing?

COHEN: Yes, sir.

HICE: OK.

COHEN: And I hope so.

HICE: I kind of doubt it, but how did Lanny Davis come to represent you? Did he approach you or did you approach him?

COHEN: I reached out to Lanny Davis at the recommendation of my former counsel over at McDermott Will & Emery who knew Mr. Davis and...

HICE: So you reached out to Mr. Davis?

COHEN: I did, yes, initially.

HICE: OK. So did you want to testify before Congress or did he urge you to testify here?

COHEN: I was asked to come here and I am here, sir, voluntarily because it's my decision...

HICE: You were asked by who? My question, did he ask you to come here?

COHEN: No, sir.

HICE: OK, because he says that he did ask you to come here and that he convinced you and also that he did the same with Chairman Cummings as well. So your testimony here is that you approached Lanny Davis to represent you and to come here. He did not persuade you to come here?

COHEN: He did not persuade me. Actually Chairman Cummings - which is part of the conversations that we engaged in with his people as well as Chairman Schiff and others - we spoke in order to ask me to come here voluntarily.

HICE: I find the connecting of the dots here with Mr. Davis and you and, frankly, the Chairman and perhaps others to be rather stunning that there is an agenda for all this happening here today, and I believe frankly that that's to bring the president down, to impugn the president.

You made an oath last time you were here, and that oath meant nothing to you then. We had an oath here in this very room about a month ago and it was, quote, "be clear that I will seek the truth, nothing but the truth so help me god," end quote. That sounds like an oath to me. The Chairman made that statement in this very room last month, but here we are today, our first (inaudible) hearing with as you, and we all know, a convicted liar, lying to Congress, a criminal, and I believe this witness is totally incompatible with the stated goal of having to seek the truth in this hearing.

This is the first time in the history of Congress we have someone testifying here who has already been convicted of lying to Congress, and congratulations to being the first in Congress to do that and...

COHEN: Thank you.

[11:55:00] HICE: ... Mr. Cummings as well. I can't believe we're coming - we have brought this Committee to its knees in terms of losing its credibility, and it's a shameful mockery of what our purpose is. I yield back.

CUMMINGS: Gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Lynch.

LYNCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me just pick up on those last comments. I want to talk about a low point. How about Mr. Papadopoulos plead guilty, Mr. Manafort convicted, plead guilty to two other charges, Mr. Gates plead guilty, Mr. Flynn plead guilty, Mr. Pinedo plead guilty, Mr. Vanders (ph) plead guilty, Mr. Kilimnik indicted for obstruction of justice.

LYNCH: And for two years you want to talk about an agenda, my friends on the other side of the aisle refuse to bring any of these people up before the Committee. For today for the first day, we have one witness who voluntarily is coming forward to testify. Your side ran away from the truth and we're trying to bring it to the American people. So, Mr. Cohen...

COHEN: Yes sir.

LYNCH: ... first of all, thank you for voluntarily coming before the committee to testify. I want to ask you about your statements regarding Trump Tower and Moscow and I want to drill down some the facts and details. Now you may not be aware of it but this goes back a ways, back in 1987, Mr. Trump wrote that he had had ongoing discussions with Soviet officials, back then, to build a luxury -- large luxury hotel across from the Kremlin, now in partnership with the Soviet Union.

At that time it was the Soviet Union. I want to ask you, in your filing with the Special Counsel Mueller's office, the prosecutors wrote and I quote, "Mr. Cohen discussed the status and progress of the Moscow project with Individual One. On more than the three occasions Mr. Cohen claimed to the committee and he briefed family members of Individual One with the company about the project. I know this is redundant but Mr. Cohen, who are we referring to here when we refer to "Individual One?"

COHEN: Donald J. Trump.

LYNCH: OK, and the company?

COHEN: The Trump Organization.

LYNCH: OK. And who...

COHEN: Through a - through a subsidiary.

LYNCH: OK. And who are the family members that you briefed on the Trump Tower Moscow Project?

COHEN: Don Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

LYNCH: OK. Now were these in the regular course of business or did the president or family request the briefings?

COHEN: This is the regular course of business.

LYNCH: Do you recall, there's a question on the number of briefings. Do you recall how many there might have been?

COHEN: I'm sorry, sir.

LYNCH: Do you recall how many of these briefings there might have been?

COHEN: Approximately 10 in total.

LYNCH: All right. In your written remarks you also wrote and I quote, "there were at least a half dozen times between the Iowa caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when Mr. Trump would ask me, 'How's it going in Russia,' referring to the Russia Moscow Tower Project." Now how did the president communicate those questions to you? Was it verbally or over the phone?

COHEN: Verbally most of the time -- virtually all of the time. It would -- he would say to me, "Michael come walk with me." He was heading say to a rally or to a car and as I would walk him to the elevator he would ask me questions quickly regarding a series of ...

LYNCH: Could there be any doubt about what he was referring to in terms of the project in Russia?

COHEN: No, this would be it.

LYNCH: OK.

COHEN: Otherwise there would have been no reason to ask it of me.

LYNCH: Right. Right. You also wrote and I quote, "To be clear, Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it," close quote. How did - how did the president actually direct the negotiations? What - what details did he direct?

COHEN: Well after each communication that I had I would report back to him and our goal was to get this project. We were interested in building what would have been the largest building in all of Europe.

Sir, if I can just say one last thing...

LYNCH: Please go ahead. COHEN: ... in regard to the gentleman's statements since this is on topic. The lies that I told to Congress in fairness benefited Mr. Trump. It was in furtherance of my protection of Mr. Trump which I stated in my testimony and I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore. So while I truly appreciate taking some of your time (inaudible), to attack me every single time about taxes, I have no credibility. It's for exactly that reason that I spent the last week searching boxes in order to find the information that I did so that you don't have to take my word for it.

I don't want you to. I want you to look at the documents.

LYNCH: Mr. Cohen...

COHEN: I want you to make your own decision.

LYNCH: I need my last...

COHEN: Sorry, sir.

[12:00:00]