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Michael Cohen's Stunning Testimony Released. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired February 27, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COHEN: If those investigations become fruitful, then there is a possibility for a Rule 35 motion, and I don't know what the benefit in terms of time would be. But this congressional hearing today is not going to be the basis of a Rule 35 motion. I wish it was, but it's not.
GROTHMAN: I'd like to yield some time to Congressman Jordan.
JORDAN: I yield to the gentleman from North Carolina.
MEADOWS: Mr. Cohen, I'm going to come back to the question I asked before with regards to your false statement that you submitted to Congress. On here it was very clear that it asked for contracts with foreign entities over the last two years. Have you had nay foreign contract with foreign entities whether it's Novartis or the Korean airline or Kazakhstan BTA Bank? Your testimony earlier said that you had contracts with them. In fact, you went into detail about those contracts (ph)...
COHEN: It talks -- sir, I believe it talks about lobbying. I did no lobbying. On top of that, they are not government...
MEADOWS: In your testimony -- I'm not asking about lobbying, Mr. Cohen. I said...
COHEN: They are not government agencies. They are private...
MEADOWS: ... do you have foreign contracts?
COHEN: ... or publicly traded companies.
MEADOWS: Do you have foreign contracts?
COHEN: I currently have no foreign contracts.
MEADOWS: Did you have foreign contracts over the last two years?
COHEN: Foreign contracts?
MEADOWS: Contacts with foreign entities, did you have contracts?
MEADOWS: Why didn't you put them on the form. It says it's a criminal offense to not put them on this form for the last two years. Why did you not do that?
COHEN: Because those foreign companies that you're referring to are not government companies.
MEADOWS: It says non-governmental, Mr. Cohen. You signed it.
COHEN: They told on me (ph) as being non-governmental.
MEADOWS: In -- it says foreign agency -- it says foreign contracts. Do you want us to read it to you?
COHEN: I read it and it was reviewed by my counsel. And I am a non- government employee, it was not lobbying, and they are not foreign contracts.
MEADOWS: It has nothing to do with lobbying. It says it's a criminal offense to not list all your foreign contracts. That's what it says.
COHEN: Well then I'm going to take a look at it before I leave...
MEADOWS: No, you've heard...
COHEN: ... and hopefully I will amend it prior to leaving because that's not the way I read your document.
MEADOWS: You know, it's just one more example, Mr. Cohen, of you skirting the truth. OK, I want to ask one other question.
COHEN: Sir, sir...
MEADOWS: One other question, Mr. Cohen, it's my time, not yours. Were you advised or was your counsel advised to withhold your written testimony to the latest possible date as John Dean said last night on CNN?
COHEN: Was it my what?
MEADOWS: Were you advised or was your counsel advised to withhold your written testimony to this Committee at the latest possible date to get it to this Committee at the latest possible date as John Dean said that he advised you? Yes or no?
COHEN: We were -- no. We were working...
MEADOWS: He never advised you?
COHEN: John Dean? I've never spoken with John Dean.
MEADOWS: Has he spoken to your attorney?
COHEN: I don't -- I've never spoken to John Dean.
MEADOWS: Well ask your attorney. He's right there behind you.
COHEN: We were working last night until 11, 12 o'clock at night...
MEADOWS: You know that you've been coming for some time. I...
COHEN: We were working till 11, 12 o'clock last night to finish everything.
MEADOWS: So you were writing it last night, Mr. Cohen?
COHEN: We were making edits.
MEADOWS: Don't give me that bull.
COHEN: We were making edits all the way through the night.
CUMMINGS: Recognize Mr. Rouda.
COHEN: I'm sorry.
ROUDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Cohen, in November 2013, President Donald Trump testified under oath in a lawsuit related to the failed real estate project Trump International Hotel and Tower in Fort Lauderdale. During the deposition, President Trump was asked about his knowledge of Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer and convicted member of the Russian mafia, who, according to press reports, pled guilty for his role in a $40 million stock manipulation scheme. And it's worth noting, as well publicized, the direct relationship between the Russian mafia and Kremlin.
Over the years President Trump was asked how many times he interacted with convicted Russian mobster Felix Sater. In 2013 President Trump testified that, quote, "Not many. If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like." Unquote.
Mr. Cohen, as you previously testified, isn't it true that President Trump knew convicted Russian mobster Felix Sater in 2013 when he made that statement?
ROUDA: Isn't it true that because of Mr. Sater's relationship to the Trump organization, that he had an office in the Trump Tower?
COHEN: And on the 26th floor.
ROUDA: And the 26th floor is important, why?
COHEN: Because it's Mr. Trump's floor.
ROUDA: So, he had an office on the same floor as President Trump?
[13:05:00] COHEN: In fact, his office, when he left, became my office.
ROUDA: And isn't it also true that convicted Russian mobster, Sater, even had business cards indicating that he was a Senior Adviser to Donald Trump, as reported by the "Washington Post?"
ROUDA: Did convicted Russian mobster, Sater, pay rent for his office?
COHEN: No, he did not.
ROUDA: So, based on those facts, isn't it true that President Trump mislead, at best or worse, lied under oath?
ROUDA: In December 2015 President Trump was asked again about his relationship to convicted Russian mobster, Mr. Sater, by a reporter for the Associated Press. He stated, quote, "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it." Unquote. He added, quote, "I'm not that familiar with him." Unquote.
Mr. Cohen, where would we find business records that explain the president's relationship to the convicted Russian mobster Felix Sater? Would those be in the Trump Organization's files?
COHEN: They'd be in the Trump Organization's files, there would be cc's to Bayrock, which was the name of Mr. Sater's company, I suspect on Mr. Sater's e-mail address possibly hard files in position of Mr. Sater.
ROUDA: And when you say in position of the Trump Organization, where?
COHEN: It depends upon who the attorney was that was working on it. Now it would probably be in a box off-site. They have a storage facility that they put old files.
ROUDA: Okay, in addition to convicted Russian mobster Sater, do you know of any other ties to convicted or alleged mobsters President Trump may have?
COHEN: I am not aware.
ROUDA: Is it true that many people with ties to Russia ultimately bought condos in Trump properties, usually for cash? And if so, how many are we talking? Ten, 20, 50?
COHEN: I'm not -- honestly sir, I'm not aware of any. The statement that was -- you're referring to, I believe, was made by either Eric and Don, and I don't agree with it.
ROUDA: So, are you aware of any cash purchases by Russian oligarchs and family members of Trump Properties?
COHEN: I'm not aware of that. I can tell -- when you say cash, if you mean walking in with a satchel of rubles, the answer is, I've never seen that happen, I've never heard of it. I will tell you, when we sold Mr. Trump's property in Palm Beach, the home for $95 million, it came in by wire and that came from Mr. Rybolovlev's bank account.
ROUDA: One other question, you also talked about President Trump doing negotiations throughout the campaign regarding the Trump Tower in Moscow. Was he directly involved in this negotiations, and if so, how do you know?
COHEN: Well, the answer is, yes, and as it relates to negotiations, it was merely follow-ups as to what's currently happening? What's happening with Russia? Meaning he wanted me to give him a status report. The problem with this is that the project never advanced because there were unable, Mr. Sater, was unable to provide me with proof that somebody owned or controlled the piece of property that we can actually build on.
CUMMINGS: The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Amash.
AMASH: Mr. Cohen, why did Mr. Trump choose to hire you and why did he trust you with the various tasks that you performed for him?
COHEN: I don't know sir, you would have to ask him that question.
AMASH: Well, we've heard here that you have bad character, you've admitted to that, over the years. You have no idea why he chose to hire you?
COHEN: In 2006 I was asked by Don Junior to come meet with his father, I did, he then followed up by asking if I would take a look at an issue that was occurring at Trump World Tower with the board.
I went ahead and I looked into it and I found that the statements that were -- that the board were making about Mr. Trump were inaccurate and the reason Don came to me is because I had an apartment there for investment, my parents had an apartment there, my in-laws lived there. Friends of mine, we all bought it as a big block from a brokerage company, we got a good price on each unit.
And we ultimately turned over the board and I became, actually, the treasurer of the board because the out-of-control spending was going to put the building into bankruptcy and I was proud to say that with a year we had plus $1 million versus minus one three.
[13:10:00] The end of the day Mr. Trump appreciated that and he tasked me with something else. It was to handle a problem that Don Junior had created, in terms of a business, on a license deal, and we resolved that.
And then on top of that, the third time, Mr. Trump had asked me to take a look at the third Trump Entertainment Resort chapter 11 reorganization, because he had a series of questions that he wanted answered. And I read these two stacked books, gave him the answers that he needed and with that he -- the next time I was sitting in his office and he asked me if I was happy at the sleepy old firm that I was with. I said, yes. He said, would you rather work for me? And I asked him, are you offering me a job? And he said, yeah. And then we negotiated and I actually never went back to my office.
AMASH: All right, but you suggested that the president sometimes communicates his wished indirectly. For example you said, quote, "Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress, that's not how he operates." End quote. Can you explain how he does this?
COHEN: Sure. It would be no different if I said, that's the nicest looking tie I've ever seen, isn't it? What are you going do? Are you going fight with him? The answer is no. So, you say, yes, it's the nicest looking tie I've ever seen. That's how he speaks. He doesn't give you questions, he doesn't give you orders. He speaks in a code and I understand the code, because I've been around him for a decade.
AMASH: And it's your impression that others who work for him understand the code as well?
COHEN: Most people, yes.
AMASH: Mr. Cohen, I don't whether we should believe you today, but I'm going to ask you this one last question. What is the truth that you know President Trump fears most?
COHEN: That is a tough question, sir. I don't - I don't - I don't have an answer for that one. What does he fear most?
AMASH: What's the truth that he fears most? From your perspective, and again, I don't know whether we should believe you here today but...
COHEN: It's - it's a tough question, sir. I don't know how to answer that question.
AMASH: Let me ask you this, what principles have you chosen to follow in your life and do you wish to follow different principles now?
COHEN: I've always tried to be a good person. I've tried to be a great friend. There were many - I think over 40 statements written in my support to the sentencing judge. I have friends who I treat incredibly well that I've known for over 40 years and I treat people after 40 minutes the same exact way.
Did I - am I perfect? No. Do I make mistakes? Yes. Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. I'm going to pay the consequences for it but all I would like to do is be able to get my life back to protect my wife and my children, support and grow old. That's pretty much where I'd like to be.
AMASH: And you feel you're following a different set of principles now than you followed throughout your life?
COHEN: I - I do and I'm trying. I'm trying very hard and I thank you for your questions and some of the others really make it difficult to try to show some redemption. But I am - I am trying. I am trying.
AMASH: Thank you.
COHEN: Thank you. CUMMINGS: Ms. Hill. Ms. Hill.
HILL: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I want to mention really quick a clarification on the Truth in Testimony form. The - the mention was around whether it talks about foreign entities at all and the question is, in fact, whether witnesses have any contracts or payments originating with a foreign government. It does not cover all foreign entities, just foreign government entities. So Mr. Cohen what I would like you - to ask you to do is review this issue over lunch with your attorneys and if you need to amend your form, we ask that you do that before the conclusion of today's hearing.
Also, I represent a purple district. I did not come here for partisan bickering. In fact, I actively wanted to avoid it. So when I ask these questions today, it is not as someone who has a vendetta against the president. It's as someone who comes from generations of service members who swore an oath to obey the orders of the President of the United States and who along with myself and every single other person up here, swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.
My forefathers served their country. They served their Commander in Chief and they served the idea that America is free and just and that the law of the land rules us all, especially those in the highest levels of our government.
So I ask these questions to help determine whether our very own president committed felony crimes while serving in the Oval Office including efforts to conceal payments that were intended to mislead the public and influence the outcome of an election.
I hope to God that is not the case. So Mr. Cohen, on January 22, 2018, just days after "The Wall Street Journal" broke the story that Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford to silence her during the 2016 presidential campaign, a nonprofit watchdog called Common Cause to file a complaint with the - the Common Cause filed a complaint with the Department of Justice and FEC alleging the payment to Ms. Clifford may have represented an illegal in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign.
I ask that their complaint be entered into the record. On February 13, 2018, Mr. Cohen, you sent a statement to the reporters that said quote, "I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford and neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford and neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly." Was this statement false?
COHEN: The statement is not false. I purposefully left out Mr. Trump individually from that statement.
HILL: OK, why did you say it that way?
COHEN: Because that's what was discussed to do between myself, Mr. Trump, and Allen Weisselberg.
HILL: So it was carefully worded?
COHEN: Yes ma'am.
HILL: Great. Mr. Cohen, a reporter for the magazine, "Vanity Fair," has reported that she interviewed you the very next day on February 14, 2018, about the payment and reimbursement. And she wrote quote, "Last February 14 I interviewed Cohen in his office about the statement he gave the FEC in which he said Trump didn't know about the Stormy payment or reimburse him for it." Do you recall this meeting with the reporter?
COHEN: I do.
HILL: The reporter also wrote, "Trump called while I was there. I couldn't hear much but he wanted to go over what the public messaging would be." Is that accurate?
COHEN: It is.
HILL: Did the president call you while you were having a meeting with the reporter?
HILL: Did the president call you to coordinate on public messaging about the payments to Ms. Clifford in or around February 2018?
HILL: What did the president ask or suggest that you say about the payments or reimbursements?
COHEN: He was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements and he wasn't knowledgeable of my actions.
HILL: He asked you to say that?
COHEN: Yes ma'am.
HILL: Great. And in addition to the personal check for $35,000 on July 2017, is there additional corroborating evidence that Mr. Trump, while a sitting President of the United States, directly reimbursed you hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws?
COHEN: There are 11 checks that I received for the year. The reason why 11 was as I stated before, 1 had 2 checks.
HILL: And you have copies of all of those.
COHEN: I can get copies. I would have to go to the bank.
HILL: So we will be able to get copies of all 11 checks that Mr. Trump provided to you as part of this criminal scheme? COHEN: It's either from his personal account as what was demonstrated in the exhibit or it would come from the Donald J. Trump account - the trust account.
HILL: Thank you Mr. Cohen. I yield back the remainder of my time.
CUMMINGS: Mr. Gibbs.
GIBBS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. You know I've just been sitting here, I'm new to the committee. I'm not an attorney. Sometimes with some of your answers, either you're a competent(ph) or are a liar. I think you (inaudible) attorney, I don't know.
I was looking through this, you come in here and you rail on the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief while he's over across the Pacific Ocean trying to negotiate a deal to make this world safer and Mr. Chairman, just having this committee at this time when the Commander of Chief is out of the country, is just - is just I think a new precedent. But you call him a racist, a cheat, an you know you're attacking his character. And I've been with the president a little bit and I didn't see that in the president.
I see a president who is very sincere. He's trying to make this country better for every American and for you to come in there and do that is - is just a repentance on your part. It's really unbelievable. Real repentance would be go serve your time and - and - and don't come back here and make allegations towards a man you can't substantiate.
Now I'm looking here from the remarks from the prosecutor of the Southern District of New York, false statements to Bank 3(ph) which Cohen pleaded guilty was far - was far isolated event. It was one of a long series of self-serving lies Cohen told to numerous financial institutions. Earlier in your testimony, I think I heard you say only it was a home equity loan but apparently the prosecutors in New York think that there were other financial things that you did.
You know also they said, managed to commit a series of crimes, all withholding (ph) himself out as a licensed attorney, an upstanding member of the bar.
Also, the Southern District prosecutor said that - wrote that your consciousness of wrongdoing is fleeting, that your remorse is minimal, and that your instinct to blame others is strong. So I'm, kind of, left here, why you worked for the president for 10 years before he was president. If you have any sense of integrity, that you're trying to tell us now, and it was that bad. Why didn't you leave? You weren't - you weren't stuck there because of your financial reasons
You had ways to leave. You're an attorney. And so, that just, kind of, you know, the president is working tirelessly, and you come and make these allegations. And you could've left any time you want. And it looks like, to me, you're trying to save face. And - and with the other questions that came out here was it looks like, to me, you're going to have a - a very lucrative deal at some point in your life, but you don't like you're close to retirement. But you're going to have some type of lucrative deal.
And so, one of my questions is - and it's come up a little bit, talks with you and your attorney, and there's been talks about members of Congress, and staff, and - and you said there was some discussions. Was any of those discussions that you or your attorneys had with members of Congress, or staff, or prosecutors to (ph) considerations to favor, or other considerations to you or your family in the future?
COHEN: No. The conversations were about the topics. And - because there were things that, originally, we could not speak about at the request of, whether it was the Special Counsel's Office, the Southern District, or any of the other agencies, including the House Select Intel, or the Senate Select Intel. Sir, just for your personal avocation (ph) here, I was asked to come here. Your chairman sent a letter to Mr. Davis. And I accepted. So I'm here voluntarily.
GIBBS: Oh, I - I understand that. But ...
COHEN: And if you believe that I'm here ...
GIBBS: ... you're (ph) wasting my time (ph). I understand that. And I think this is a political theater.
COHEN: Sir, if you believe - it's not political theater for me. And I take no pleasure in saying anything negative about Mr. Trump. You've met him for a short period of time. I've been with him for over a decade. I've traveled with him internationally. I've spent dinners with him. It doesn't make me feel good about what's going on here. And as far as saving face, I'm not sure how being in front the world, being called (inaudible) ...
GIBBS: Well, this - this world today, with these lucrative book deals and movies that come about. I think you - you'll be pretty good in about five years. I yield the rest of my time to the chair - ranking member.
JORDAN: I - I thank the gentleman for yielding. Earlier you said you started the campaign?
COHEN: That's correct, in 2011.
JORDAN: You started the campaign for President of the United States for Donald Trump?
COHEN: I certainly did, sir.
JORDAN: Now that's news.
COHEN: 2011. It was my idea. I saw a document in a newspaper that said who would you vote for in 2012. Six percent of the people said ...
JORDAN: Michael Cohen - Michael Cohen.
COHEN: ... six percent of the people turned around ...
JORDAN: Michael Cohen (inaudible).
COHEN: ... and said they'd vote for Donald Trump.
JORDAN: The reason Donald Trump is president is because Michael Cohen started it (ph).
COHEN: So I brought it into this office, and I said to him, "Mr. Trump, take a look at this." And he goes, "Wow, wouldn't that be great?" And with that is where it all started.
JORDAN: Yes. OK. Like - I'm sure - I'm sure he had never thought of anything like that until you came (inaudible).
COHEN: No I didn't say that (inaudible).
JORDAN: Let me ask you one question - one - because I've got eight seconds - I've got eight seconds. What did you talk to Mr. Schiff about?
COHEN: I spoke to Mr. Schiff about topics that were going to be raised at the upcoming hearing.
JORDAN: Wow. Not just what time to show up?
CUMMINGS: The gentleman's time ...
JORDAN: Actually what you're going to talk about?
CUMMINGS: ... the gentleman's time has expired.
CUMMINGS: Mr. Sarbanes - Mr. Sarbanes.
SARBANES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Cohen. I know the other side is suggesting that you are a incorrigible liar, and that you're lying here today. I can't think of anything you have to gain, at this point, from lying. I mean, they talk about book deals, and other things that you want to do.
But I see a lot more that you could lose by telling the truth today, given the threats and other things that have been made against you and your family. So that's how interpreting it. And of course, you brought documents with you, as well, to bolster the credibility of your testimony. I did want to go back to an earlier line of questioning regarding the preparation of your testimony before you came before the Intelligence Committee.
[13:20:00] You've talked about a meeting at the White House, where the testimony was being reviewed. And I think you said that there was at least one White House attorney, Jay Sekulow, who was there, and you acknowledge that there was some edits that were made to your testimony. So on that topic, who - who at the White House reviewed your testimony?
COHEN: I don't - I don't know the answer to that. The document was originally created by myself, along with my attorney at the time from McDermott Will & Emery. And there was a joint defense agreement. So the document circulated around. I believe it was also reviewed by Abbe Lowell, who represents Ivanka and Jared Kushner.
SARBANES: Why did you provide the testimony to the White House?
COHEN: It was pursuant to the joint defense agreement that we were all operating under.
SARBANES: Yes. What were the edits that came back, substantively, on (ph) the testimony?
COHEN: I'm - I'm sorry. I - I don't know, sir. I'd have to take a look at the document.
SARBANES: Yes. Did you have a - do you have a reaction to why there might not have been, in the sense of protest to what was going to be false testimony that was going to be provided?
COHEN: No sir, because the goal was to stay on message, which is limit the relationship, whatsoever, with Russia. It was short. There's no Russian contact, there's no Russian collusion, there's no Russian deals. That's - that's the message. That's the same message that existed well before my need to come and testify.
SARBANES: So it's an example of - of where this idea - this - this mentality of you tow the line, whatever the storyline, or the narrative of the day, or the month, or the year is going to be. You tow that line, whether it results in false testimony or not.
COHEN: I towed the party line. And I'm not suffering. And I'm going to continue to suffer for a while, along with my family, as a result of it, so yes.
SARBANES: Let me switch gears, quickly, before my time expires. And you may not have direct knowledge of some of these things, but you're offering us some very helpful perspective on how the Trump world operates.
And frankly, another reason I find your testimony fairly compelling and credible is because a lot of the things you're describing - a lot of the hate (ph) you're describing is very consistent with what we all see every single day. So it's not - it's not a leap for us to arrive in the same place and (ph) perspective that you presented. I'm interested in - in some of the activities around the inaugural committee, the inauguration of the president. There was a article that appeared in ProPublica, the watchdog group about some negotiation on pricing and things at the Trump Hotel, where it looks like the rental that was being quoted was substantially even double what you would expect to pay according to what the market should bear, and so in a sense that the Trump Hotel was up charging for the inaugural...
COHEN: Even I could not afford to stay there.
SARBANES: And so I'm just curious, do you have a sense of whether that kind of a practice is something that is consistent or inconsistent? Is it possible that I kind of -- of charging could be done inside of a Trump operation?
COHEN: It did -- it did happen.
CUMMINGS: The gentleman's time is expired.
COHEN: But what I can say to you is I was not part of the inaugural committee. I raised a lot of money for the inauguration, but I was not part of it and there was a lot of things and that actually -- that -- issues something that is also obviously, we read about the paper, being investigated at the current moment.
SARBANES: Thank you.
CUMMINGS: Mr. Higgins. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Cohen, it's on my heart (ph) to tell you sir, that I'm dory for what your family is going through. I feel for your family. The word tells us clearly that a man's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. And I see you, a man trapped in that.
However, I must tell you that I have arrested several thousand men, in your mind (ph) and many of them was that immediately become humble and remorseful at the time they actually booked and while they are incarcerated, (inaudible) and then return to their former selves when they're back on the street. So I'm respectful to your family and what they're going through. I owe you the honesty to tell you that that's my sense of you, good sir. [13:30:00]