WAS IT “COLLUSION?”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Feb. 27, 2019) — During questioning from Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA10) in front of the House Oversight & Reform Committee, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen admitted to having spoken with members of “the Democrat Party” as well as Democrat committee members prior to his testimony Wednesday.
Hice asked the question specifically in regard to any “preparation” in which Cohen participated.
At first, Cohen said he conferred with his attorney, Lanny Davis, a longtime Clinton supporter, and an individual identified only as “Michael Monaco.” When Hice asked Cohen if he spoke with “the Democrat Party,” Cohen answered in the affirmative.
Cohen’s responses were interspersed with the claim that he did not “understand the question.”
Further, he said he spoke with committee Chairman Elijah Cummings and other Democrats on the Oversight Committee.
The exchange occurred at approximately 11:56 a.m. EST.
Cohen said he “voluntarily” agreed to testify after having already admitted last summer to providing false testimony to Congress previously.
The hearing, which began at 10:00 a.m., is reportedly an attempt to find “the truth” about Donald Trump’s dealings as a presidential candidate, businessman, and President of the United States.
Cohen claimed that Trump signed “hush money” payments out of Trump’s personal account to reimburse Cohen for a fee paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. At Cohen’s sentencing last year, he said he made the payments on behalf of “Individual #1” in violation of federal campaign-finance laws.
It is unclear whether or not the payments violated campaign-finance law if they were made out of Trumps personal account rather than campaign funds.
Earlier, Cohen read a lengthy statement reporting that he lied to Congress previously to “protect Mr. Trump.” Cohen claimed that even though he is going to prison for having pleaded “guilty” to eight federal crimes, including tax evasion and lying on a bank-loan application, he undertook actions on Trump’s behalf, as his personal attorney, which he now regrets.
Committee Democrats largely appeared to find Cohen credible, while Republicans attacked Cohen’s credibility. Rep. Mark Meadows recommended a criminal referral for Cohen after he testified that he received $1.2 million from the drug company Novartis in exchange for his alleged knowledge of Trump’s thinking and access to the administration and allegedly did not register as a lobbyist.
Cohen claimed that he “crossed out” the paragraphs in Novartis’s contract which asked him to “lobby.”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R) subsequently asked Cohen if he is in contact with the Southern District of New York, which prosecuted Cohen last year, to which Cohen answered he is “in constant contact” that office.
Thus far, there have been several questions which Cohen did not answer.
Shortly before a break was called at approximately 12:18 PM EST, Cohen claimed to be testifying voluntarily because of what he sees as a breakdown in “civility” since Trump took office and his perception that he is responsible, at least in part, for Trump selection. He also invoked “Charlottesville” as an example of his dissatisfaction with the state of the country.
Prior to the hearing, Cummings issued a memo directing committee members not to question Cohen about Russia “collusion,” one of the two major issues Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating. However, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked extensive questions, some speculative, about whether or not Trump would have acted in concert with Russians to win the 2016 election.