Trump Business Aides Under Microscope After Cohen Names Names

Oscar Cross
March 1, 2019

President Donald Trump's former lawyer returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday for hours of closed-door questioning after publicly branding his former boss a racist and a con man who lied about business dealings in Russian Federation and directed him to hide extramarital relationships.

Committee chairman Elijah Cummings, a Democrat, said his panel would further investigate issues raised by Cohen's testimony and may try to get the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., and his former accountant, Allen Weisselberg, to testify.

At a news conference following the conclusion of a summit in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - which produced no agreement on denuclearization - Trump said Cohen "lied a lot" in the congressional hearing.

Cohen, who will soon go to prison for the lies he told lawmakers in 2017 to protect Trump, has been pulling no punches this week as he offers scathing anecdotes, insight and a paper trail that he thinks shows Trump to be a "con man", a "racist" and a "cheat".

The president complained that the testimony took place during the summit with Kim.

"He lied about so many different things, I was actually impressed he didn't say, 'I think there was collusion'".

In addition, Cohen said he believed Trump knew in advance about the June 9, 2016 meeting between campaign chiefs and a Russian lawyer touting dirt on Clinton. Cohen said he could not discuss that conversation, the last contact he said he has had with the president or anyone acting on his behalf, because it remains under investigation.

Cohen told the committee: "Mr Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event". Trump would direct Cohen to call small business owners to whom Trump owed money and tell them they would receive no payment or a reduced payment.

The 52-year-old was convicted last year by NY federal prosecutors of campaign finance violations and tax evasion and by special counsel Robert Mueller of lying to Congress about Trump Organization plans in Moscow.

On Wednesday, he said Weisselberg decided that reimbursement payments to Cohen should be spread over 12 months so they would look like a retainer agreement, rather than a one-time payment.

Donald Trump's ex-lawyer has claimed Mr Trump wanted him to lie about a property deal in Moscow amid his election campaign.

"This weekend I will be studying the transcripts, but we have now got a number of avenues we will be going down", Cummings said. Cohen said it was one of 11 checks Trump wrote to repay Cohen for the cash paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair.

Cohen is due to begin serving a three-year prison sentence for lying to Congress about the Moscow tower project, along with other charges.

But now, Democrats control the House of Representatives, and Cohen is the first witness they have called to testify to the criminality of the Trump White House.

Cohen spent almost six hours telling the House committee about his decade as Trump's personal attorney.

Stone disputed that account Wednesday, and Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, said Stone and Assange did not have the telephone call that Cohen described. According to prosecutors from the SDNY, Cohen's payment-made on behalf of "Individual 1" (aka Trump)-amounted to a crime under the federal campaign finance laws.

As Republicans blasted him as a convicted liar, a mostly unrattled Cohen sought to blunt the attacks by repeatedly acknowledging his own failings.

Pressed on Wednesday to explain why the misleading testimony wouldn't raise a protest among those lawyers, Cohen said the edits were in keeping with a "party line".

He also said Trump quizzed him on a proposed Trump Moscow tower project worth hundreds of millions of dollars, even as Trump denied any business in Russian Federation.

The messages - which USA authorities say were hacked by Russian intelligence - caused a damaging rift among Democrats by exposing how party officials preferred Mrs Clinton over her challenger for the presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders.

"I wouldn't use the word 'colluding.' Was there something odd about the back-and-forth praise with President Putin?"

Cohen pleaded guilty past year to lying to Congress about the Moscow project, but Schiff said he answered all of the panel's questions.

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