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CNN RIGHT NOW
Michael Cohen's Stunning Testimony Released. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired February 27, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] HIGGINS: 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.
I'm going to give you another opportunity to respond to what you brushed off earlier regarding your own statement during this testimony from C-SPAN notation at two hours and 50 seconds in. You stated regarding your credibility, that you're being accused of having no credibility; that is exactly for that reason, I spent the last week searching boxes to find the information that I did, so that you don't have to take my word for it. I want you to look at the documents and make your own decisions. Now the documents you're referring to, Mr. Cohen, are the documents that you submitted in your -- with your testimony today, is that correct?
COHEN: That is correct.
HIGGINS: You believe they to be -- those documents to be worthy of evidence for this oversight hearing today?
COHEN: I leave that to you to decide.
HIGGINS: And I ask again, sir, and please do not be incredulous, this is a serious question. Where all those boxes that contains documents worthy of evidence to be presented to Congress and why have they not been turned over to the investigating authorities looking into some of the many criminal activities that you're allegedly cooperating in? Where are these boxes? Who knows -- where is this treasure of evidence?
COHEN: The boxes that I am referring to, the boxes that were in my law office when the FBI entered and seized documents.
HIGGINS: Mr. Chairman...
HIGGINS: ...investigating authorities have noted what the gentleman had just stated, and that actions be taken for those boxes to be seized, the reviews based upon proper warrants signed by a sitting judge. You noted earlier today, Mr. Cohen, quite incredulity (ph),one of my colleagues ask you regarding the television deal. You expressed wonderment that your predicament could possibly get you on television. It certainly got you on television today, has it not, sir?
COHEN: Sir, I was on television, representing Mr. Trump going back into 2011.
HIGGINS: Well, I didn't know who you were until today really, until -- until the FBI raided your home, most of America didn't know you were. How many attorneys do you think Mr. Trump has had in the course of his career? Quite a few, I'd imagine. You're just one that's in the trap right now. And I understand you're trying to get out of it. You're in a bind. But I ask you, good sir, have you discussed film and book deals with -- with your -- your stated guard attorney Mr. Davis, Lanny Davis?
COHEN: With Mr. Davis, no. But I have been approached by many people who are looking to do book deals, movie deals and so on.
HIGGINS: You get your ride as an American , but it -- it leads me back to my instinct that compares you to many of the men that I've arrested during the course of my career. Mr. Chairman...
COHEN: With all due respect sir...
HIGGINS: I'm glad that our -- that our -- that our primary hearing to introduce the oversight committee, the 116 Congress of the American people, as manifested in the way that it obviously is. This is an attempt to drop(ph) president and lay some sort of soft cornerstone for future impeachment proceedings. This is the full intent of the majority. I yield my remaining 30 seconds to the ranking member.
JORDAN: Mr. Cohen, earlier you said the United States Southern District of New York, is not accurate in that statement.
COHEN: I am sorry, say that again?
JORDAN: Earlier you said that the United States Southern District of New York attorney's office, that statement is not accurate. You said it's not a lie, you said it's not accurate. Do you stand by that?
COHEN: Yes, I did not want a role in the new administration.
JORDAN: The court's wrong?
COHEN: Can I -- can I finish?
COHEN: I got exactly the role that I wanted . There is no shame in being personal attorney to the president. I got exactly what I wanted. I asked Mr. Trump for that job and he gave it to me.
JORDAN: All I'm asking -- and I appreciate it, Mr. Chairman -- you're saying that statement from the Southern District New York attorney's is wrong?
COHEN: I'm saying I didn't write it and it's not accurate.
JORDAN: All right, thank you.
CUNNINGS: Mr. Welch. WELCH: Thank you. One of the most significant events in the last presidential campaign, of course, was the dump of email stolen from the Democratic National Committee, dumped by WikiLeaks. Mr. Cohen, during your opening statement which was, at the height of the election you testified you are actually meeting with Donald Trump in July 2016, when Roger Stone happened to call and tell Mr. Trump that he had just spoken to Julian Assange. Is that correct?
COHEN: That is correct.
WELCH: You said that Mr. Assange told Mr. Trump about an upcoming -- quoting your opening statement, quote, "massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign." So I want to ask you about Roger Stone's phone call to the president. First of all, was that on speakerphone? Is that what you indicated?
COHEN: Yes. So Mr. Trump has a black speakerphone that sits on his desk. He uses it quite often because of all the number of phone calls he gets.
WELCH: Now in January of this year, 2019, the New York Times asked President Trump if he ever spoke to Roger Stone about the stolen emails and President Trump answered, and I quote," no I didn't. I never did." Was that statement by President Trump true?
COHEN: No, it's not accurate.
WELCH: And can you please describe for us, to the best of your recollection, your present -- exactly what Mr. Stone said to Mr. Trump?
COHEN: It was a short conversation and he said, "Mr. Trump I just want to let you know that I just got off the phone with Julian Assange and in a couple of days there's going to be a massive dump of e-mails that's going to severely hurt the Clinton campaign."
WELCH: And was Mr. Trump and Mr. Stone aware of where those e-mails came from?
COHEN: That I'm not aware of.
WELCH: Did Mr. Trump ever suggest then or later, to call the FBI to report this breach?
COHEN: He never expressed that to me.
WELCH: Did the president at that time, or ever since in your knowledge indicate an awareness that this conduct was wrong?
WELCH: The reason I ask, is because on July 22 -- on the eve of the Democratic Convention, WikiLeaks published as you know the 20,000 leaked internal DNC e-mails. Could your meeting with Mr. Trump have been before that date?
WELCH: So Mr. Trump was aware of the upcoming dump before it actually happened?
WELCH: And is there any record...
COHEN: No sir, I don't know whether he knew or not, and I don't believe he did -- what the -- some substance of the dump was going to be only that there was going to be a dump of e-mails.
WELCH: And he was aware of that before the dump occurred?
COHEN: Yes, sir.
WELCH: All right, and are there any records that would corroborate the day of this meeting, calendars perhaps?
COHEN: I'm not in possession, but I believe again -- this is part of the Special Counsel and they -- probably best suited to corroborate that information.
WELCH: Was anyone else present in the room during the call?
COHEN: I don't recall for this one, no sir.
WELCH: Is there anyone else the committee should talk to about the president's knowledge of the WikiLeaks e-mail dump?
COHEN: Again, when he called Ronograph (ph) yelled out to Mr. Trump, "Roger's on line one." Which was regular practice...
WELCH: And that's his assistant?
COHEN: That's his -- yes.
WELCH: All right. And during a news conference on July 27, 2016 -- then candidate Trump publically appealed to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails and make them public. He stated, "Russia if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing." Now going back to Mr. Stone's phone call to the president, do you recall if Mr. Trump had knowledge of the WikiLeaks dump at the time of his direct appeal to Russia?
COHEN: I am not.
WELCH: But the call with Mr. Stone you believe was before...
WELCH: This 22nd...
COHEN: Yes -- I'm sorry. I thought you were talking about a different set of documents that got dumped. So I was in Mr. Trump's office, was either July 18 or 19, and yes he went ahead. I don't know if the 35,000 or 30,000 e-mails was what he was referring to but he certainly had knowledge.
WELCH: All right, thank you.
WELCH: Just one last question, Mr. Raskin has been asking you some questions and one of the things in your answer was that Mr. Pecker expended other monies to protect Mr. Trump. Can you elaborate on what some of those other activities were?
COHEN: Sure, there was the story about Mr. Trump having a lovechild with an employee -- with an employee and actually the husband of that employee works for the company as well.
And there was a elevator operator who claims that he overheard the conversation taking place between one of Mr. Trump's other executives and somebody -- and he ended up paying like $15,000 in order to buy that story, to find out whether it was true or not. And that's just one example of things that David had done over the years (ph).
It was the reason why in the recording, when David was looking to become the CEO of "Time" magazine, we were concerned about, we'll call it the treasure trove of documents that had been created over the years that if he left, somebody could open up the key to a drawer and find all this information. So we were going to look to buy all of those life rights (ph), and so on.
CUMMINGS: Gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Norman.
NORMAN: Mr. Cohen, thank you for testifying. I join Mr. Congressman Higgins in feeling for your family they had no part in this. And I've heard all the testimony and I'm trying to decide what Clay's (ph) trying to decide, are you really sorry for what you did, or you just got caught. And the thing that amazed me, is that in your opening statement which let me quote, "last fall I plead guilty in Federal Court to felonies for the benefit of -- at the direction of -- and in coordination with Individual One," is that the president? (ph)
COHEN: Yes, sir.
NORMAN: OK, your crimes were of your own to benefit yourself...
COHEN: Some of them, yes.
NORMAN: Go through -- what you -- no, go through all the ones with the real estate, with the banks. On your HELOC loan, you failed to disclose more than $20 million in debt. You failed to disclose $70,000 in monthly payments. On your $14 million line of credit, you failed to disclose that you had drawn on that. So this was all for yourself, this wasn't for the benefit of President Trump. This was to benefit Michael Cohen, so that's my question -- did you
just get caught? And you worked for this man for 10 years, Mr. Cohen. You came in here with these -- with these, he's a conman, he's a cheat. This is the very man, that didn't you wiretap him illegally? Did you not wiretap President Trump without his knowledge?
COHEN: I did record Mr. Trump in a conversation, yes.
NORMAN: Is that lawyer-client privilege? Is that something that an honest guy would do -- an honest lawyer?
COHEN: I actually never thought that this was going to be happening and that that recording even existed, I had forgotten.
NORMAN: But you did it?
COHEN: Yes, I did.
NORMAN: Have you ever...
COHEN: I had a reason for doing it.
NORMAN: What was your reason?
COHEN: Because I knew he wasn't going to pay that money, and David Pecker had already chewed me out on multiple occasions regarding other monies that he expended.
NORMAN: But this is a man that you trusted, you'd take a bullet for -- you secretly recorded. Let me ask you this, Mr. Cohen, have you done -- have you legally, or illegally recorded other clients?
COHEN: I have recordings of people, yes.
NORMAN: Legally, or illegally?
COHEN: I believe that they're legal.
NORMAN: Did you tell them?
COHEN: In New York state you don't have to do that.
NORMAN: So you didn't tell them?
COHEN: No, I did not. Sometimes I also use the recordings for contemporary news note taking instead of writing it down. I find it easier.
NORMAN: If the shoe were reversed, would you like a -- your trusted lawyer recording you?
COHEN: I probably would not, no.
NORMAN: No sir. It's untrustworthy, it's something people just would not do. Now your bank loans that I just ran down, did you have a default on any of these loans? COHEN: No sir.
NORMAN: So the bank didn't take any loss?
COHEN: No -- no bank has -- I am not in default, I have never filed (ph) the bankruptcy. The HELOC you're referring to -- I replaced that from a different HELOC. Paid it off, there is -- I owe no banks any money.
NORMAN: How about your medallion taxicab? Did they - did you have to sell that?
COHEN: I'm still - well, the ones in Chicago, yes, I do have to sell. However, New York, the answer is no. I don't. And there are - the industry is going through a major, major correction because of ride sharing. It's changed a lot of things.
NORMAN: The value of it has.
COHEN: Yes, sir.
NORMAN: Right. Has the - so no back - would the banks make you a loan again based on your record?
COHEN: Actually they did. They did post it, yes. The bank actually redid and they refinanced the entire package...
COHEN: ... post this (ph), yes.
NORMAN: OK, and they never had to do a loan loss reserve for the projected losses?
COHEN: I don't know what they did, but it's still the same amount.
NORMAN: But that's...
COHEN: I didn't get the benefit of it, no, sir.
NORMAN: Most likely they did. I was on an audit committee. They...
COHEN: They may have done that, sir, but that's for their own banking, not for me. My note...
NORMAN: No, it's by law. They have - if they suspect you of lying, which you admitted to, if they suspect you of maybe not being able to make your loan payment they have to have a loan loss reserve that's 125 percent of what you - there's $20 million they have to post in their account - $20 million plus.
[13:45:00] So they get no interest on it. And you know who pays for that? The American public who deals with that bank.
COHEN: Yes, but sir, I'm not in default and I'm current on each and every one of those medallion loans, and I've never owed any money to First Republic Bank. In fact, at the time that I HELOC, I had more cash sitting in that same bank than...
NORMAN: OK, last question. I'm running...
COHEN: ... the HELOC and my mortgage combined.
NORMAN: ... time. Have you every been to Prague?
COHEN: I've never been to Prauge.
NORMAN: Never have?
COHEN: I've never been to the Czech Republic.
NORMAN: I yield my balance of my time.
CUMMINGS: Ms. Speier.
SPEIER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Cohen. On Page 5 of your statement, you said, and I quote, "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." Who were those attorneys?
COHEN: Jay - from the White House?
COHEN: Jay Sekulow, I believe Abbe Lowell as well.
SPEIER: And you have a copy of your original statement that you can provide to the Committee?
COHEN: I can try to get that for you.
SPEIER: All right, if you would do that. The letter of intent for the Moscow Tower was in the fall of 2015, correct?
SPEIER: Was there an expiration date on that letter of intent?
COHEN: There was no expiration date.
SPEIER: So it could technically still be in effect today?
COHEN: No, it's been terminated.
SPEIER: It has been terminated?
COHEN: Yes, ma'am.
SPEIER: OK. Did Mr. Trump tell you to offer Vladimir Putin a free penthouse?
COHEN: No, ma'am.
SPEIER: So where does that come...
COHEN: That was Felix Sater. It was a marketing stunt that he spoke about.
SPEIER: So Felix Sater had suggested to you that Mr. Trump offer a penthouse to Mr. Putin?
COHEN: Yes, because it would certainly drive up the price per square foot, no different than in any condo where they start listing celebrities that live in the property.
SPEIER: In 2016, did you travel to Europe?
SPEIER: Did you meet with persons associated with the Moscow Tower project?
SPEIER: It was for personal...
COHEN: Personal. My daughter was studying at Queen Mary in London.
SPEIER: So you did not meet with any Russians?
SPEIER: There is an elevator tape that has been referenced as a catch and kill product. It was evidently of Mr. Trump and a woman, presumably Mrs. Trump. Is that correct?
COHEN: Or we talking about in Moscow or the Trump Tower elevator tape?
SPEIER: There's an elevator tape that went up for auction...
SPEIER: ... accessibly in 2016.
SPEIER: Is that correct?
COHEN: Yes, I've heard about this.
SPEIER: And who is on that tape?
COHEN: It's Mr. Trump with Melania?
SPEIER: And what happened in that tape?
COHEN: The story goes that he struck Melania while in that elevator because there's a camera inside which I'm no so sure. Actually I'm certain it's not true. I've heard about that tape for years. I've known four or five different people including folks from AMI who have acclaimed (ph)...
SPEIER: So - but there was some tape that went up for auction, correct?
COHEN: I don't believe that auction was real and I don't believe anybody - I don't believe Mr. Trump ever struck Mrs. Trump ever. I don't believe.
SPEIER: And are you aware of anyone purchasing that tape then?
COHEN: I don't believe it was every purchased.
SPEIER: So you never saw this tape?
COHEN: No, ma'am, and I know several people who went to go try to purchase it for catch and kill purpose. It doesn't exist. Mr. Trump would never. In my opinion, that's not something that he would do.
SPEIER: Good to know. Good to know. Is there a love child?
COHEN: There is not to my - to the best of my knowledge.
SPEIER: So you would pay off someone to...
COHEN: It wasn't me, ma'am. It was AMI. It was David Pecker.
SPEIER: So he paid off someone about a love child that doesn't exist?
COHEN: Correct. It was about $15,000.
SPEIER: OK. How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten and individual or entity on his behalf?
COHEN: Quite a few times.
SPEIER: 50 times?
SPEIER: 100 times?
SPEIER: 200 times?
SPEIER: 500 times?
COHEN: Probably over the 10 years.
SPEIER: Over the 10 years, he asked you...
COHEN: And when you say threaten, I'm talking with litigation or an argument with...
COHEN: ... a nasty reporter that has - is writing and article.
SPEIER: What do you know about - let's go to your tape. You said there's probably 100 tapes?
COHEN: Voice recordings.
SPEIER: Voice recordings. And will you make them available to the Committee?
COHEN: If you would really like them.
SPEIER: Did Mr. Trump...
COHEN: Do you have to - don't you have to gavel that, sir?
CUMMINGS: We would.
SPEIER: Mr. Trump - did Mr. Trump tape any conversations?
[13:50:00] COHEN: Not that I'm aware of, no.
SPEIER: Were you involved in the $25 million settlement to Trump University?
COHEN: I had a role in that, yes.
SPEIER: Who paid the settlement?
COHEN: I believe it was Mr. Trump. I don't know the answer to that.
SPEIER: You don't know the answer, but you were involved in the...
COHEN: Yes, in a different aspect.
SPEIER: There's some reference to a businessman in Kansas being involved in that. Are you familiar with that?
COHEN: I'm not familiar with that, no.
SPEIER: All right. Finally in your - my 13 seconds left, what do you want your children to know?
COHEN: That I'm sorry for everything and I'm sorry for the pain that I've caused them. And I wish I can go back in time.
SPEIER: Thank you. I yield back.
CUMMINGS: Gentlelady's time has expired. To the members of the Committee before we go to Mrs. Miller, for your - so that you can properly plan, there's a vote apparently coming up in about 10 to 20 minutes. And what we will do is we will recess and we will come back - listen up - 30 minutes after the last vote begins. Got that? Not it ends. 30 minutes after it begins and we'll do that promptly. All right? All right, Mrs. Miller.
MILLER: I am very disappointed to have you in front of this Committee today. Quite frankly, this isn't the reason the people of West Virginia sent me to Congress. I find this hearing not in the best interest of the American people. This is another political game with the sole purpose of discrediting the president. If it was not already obvious, there are members here with a singular goal in Congress, to impeach President Trump.
To achieve this goal, they will waste not only precious taxpayer dollars, but also time in this committee and Congress has a whole. In fact, they will go so far as to bring a convicted felon in front of our committee.
We are supposed to take what you say, Mr. Cohen, at this time, about President Trump as the truth. But you're about to go to prison for lying. How can we believe anything you say? The answer is we can't. This begs the question. Why are those in the majority holding this hearing?
I am appalled. We could be focused on actual issues that are facing America, like border security, neonatal abstinence syndrome or improving our nation's infrastructure. Instead, the Democrats are trying to grasp at straws.
Let's talk about this witness. From his sentencing hearing in the southern district of New York, Judge Pauley stated Mr. Cohen plead guilty to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct, willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions and making false statements to Congress.
Each of the crimes involved deception, and each appears to have been motivated by personal greed and ambition. This is who we have in front of us today in our committee, someone who is about to be sent to prison for three years for evading his taxes, deceiving a financial institution, lying to Congress, among other counts.
One of the most appalling facts about this hearing is that Mr. Cohen has used his experiences with President Trump both before and after he was elected for his own greed and profit. I'd like some yes or no answers. Isn't it true you tried to sell a book about your time with President Trump, entitled "Trump Revolution, From the Tower to the White House, Understanding Donald J. Trump."
COHEN: Yes, that - that had been early on when I was still even part, I believe, of the RNC.
MILLER: And this book deal, which you had with Hachette Books, was worth around $500,000. Isn't that correct?
COHEN: No, more ma'am.
MILLER: How much more?
COHEN: I think it was about $750,000.
MILLER: Wow. Mr. Cohen ...
COHEN: I did turn it down.
MILLER: Given that you continued to profit from publically discussing your time with Mr. Trump, I worry that this committee hearing the majority has given you will only serve as a platform for you to continue to lie and sensationalize and exaggerate wherever it suits you. Do you plan to pursue another book deal about your experiences?
MILLER: I would presume this book would be a little different than your latest pitch. But your new angle might please some new fans - anything to sell books. Mr. Chairman, we've canceled hearings on child separation and on other issues that are close to my heart for this media circus.
What a waste of time and money for a man who has gladly exploited the name of the president to promote his own name and fill his own pockets. It pains me that we are setting here adding another chapter to his book. Thank you. And I yield the reminder of my time to Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: I thank the gentlelady for yielding earlier. Mr. Cohen, the gentlelady from California talked about this - this tape.
COHEN: I'm - I'm - I'm sorry, sir. I can't hear you.
JORDAN: Earlier, the gentlelady from California talked about this tape, this elevator tape, that you said does not exist?
COHEN: That's correct. I do not believe it exists.
JORDAN: But isn't it also your testimony that the Trump team was willing to pay to make sure a story about a non-existent tape never became public?
COHEN: No, sir. That's not what - that's not what I said.
JORDAN: They were willing to stop a false tape?
COHEN: We learned that this tape was potentially on the market and that it existing. And so, what we did is exactly what we did with all the other catch and kill, we looked for it. And if in fact that it did exist, we would have tried to stop it. That's what I would have done.
JORDAN: But it's a false tape (ph). It's not ...
COHEN: But it's falsely - I've never ...
JORDAN: Got it.
COHEN: ... heard it. And I can assure you one thing about Mr. Trump, with many things, he would never ever do something like that. I don't see it.
CUMMINGS: Ms. Kelly.
KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Cohen, I'd like to ask you more about the details of the $130,000 payment you made to Stephanie Clifford, the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, in order to purchase her silence shortly before the 2016 elections. First, according to documents filed by federal prosecutors in New York, you created a shell company called Essential Consultants, LLC. Is that correct?
COHEN: It's correct.
KELLY: And you created this company for the purpose of making the payment to Ms. Clifford. Is that correct?
COHEN: Amongst other things, yes.
KELLY: You then used a home equity line of credit to fund the account in the name of Essential Consultants, LLC. Is that correct?
COHEN: That's correct.
KELLY: You then wired $130,000 to the attorney, representing Ms. Clifford at that time, and write in the memo field for the why - or the word (ph), quote, "retainer." Is that correct?
KELLY: Can you tell us why you decided to use this complicated process to make this payment?
COHEN: Well, starting an LLC is not a sophisticated means. LLC, you call up a company, you pay for it, and then open it for you. And the reason that I used the home equity line of credit, as opposed to cash that I had in the same exact bank, was that I didn't want my wife to know about it, because she handles all of the banking. And I didn't want her coming to me and asking me, "What was the $130,000 for?"
And then I was going to be able to move money from one account to the other and to pay it off, because I didn't want to have to explain to her what that payment was about. I sent it to the ILOA account, the Interest on a Lawyer's Account," to keep Davidson in California and Ms. Daniels attorney. And he would hold it in escrow until such time as I received the executed NDA, non-disclosure agreement.
KELLY: Did Mr. Trump know you were going through this process to hide the payment?
KELLY: Why not just use Mr. Trump's personal or company bank account to make the payment? Why was a distraction so important, beside you not wanting your wife to know?
COHEN: What is concern was, was that there would be a check that has his very distinct signature onto. And even after she cashed the check, all you need to do is make a photo copy of it, and it's kind of proof positive on exactly what to place. So here he - the goal was to keep him far away from it as possible.
KELLY: Can anyone corroborate what you have shared with us?
KELLY: And that is?
COHEN: Keith Davidson, Allen Weisselberg, President Trump.
KELLY: OK. Now let's talk about the reimbursement. According to federal prosecutors, and I quote, "After the election, Cohen sought reimbursement for elected-related expenses, including the $130,000 payment." Prosecutors stated that you, and I quote, "presented an executive - an executive of the company with a copy of a bank statement reflecting the $130,000 wire transfer." Is that accurate?
COHEN: That is accurate.
KELLY: Do you still have a copy of that bank statement?
COHEN: Yes, it's actually made part of the exhibit.
KELLY: OK. So you will provide it to the committee.
COHEN: Yes ma'am.
KELLY: According to federal prosecutors, executives at the company then, and I quote, agreed to reimburse Cohen by adding $130,000 and $50,000 grossing -