While President Trump was in Vietnam with Kim Jong Un, his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made several allegations during his testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Cohen, who will start a three-year prison term on March 6th, had plenty to say about his former boss while he was on the stand. On Tuesday night, Cohen’s 20-page opening statement was released before the big show on Wednesday. Before he testified on Capitol Hill, he testified during a closed hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
While Cohen was the center of everyone’s attention, he made several allegations against Trump, including that he had overheard Roger Stone tell Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign that he spoke to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, about the drop of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee. “A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes,” said Cohen before the hearing.
Cohen has testified that in July 2016, he was in Donald Trump’s office when Roger Stone was patched in through the speakerphone. “Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” Cohen’s testimony reads. Cohen continued by saying “Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’” Roger Stone has continuously denied speaking with Julian Assange or having any advance knowledge of the DNC emails. He’s also continuously claimed that he never spoke with President Trump about WikiLeaks in general.
Despite the fact that Cohen will provide testimony against Donald Trump, he has admitted that he doesn’t have any “direct evidence” that Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government. He will also testify that Trump didn’t directly instruct him to lie to Congress about the negotiations for building a Trump Tower in Moscow. “Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear. But, I have my suspicions,” said Cohen.
These new allegations would undermine the allegations that were made against Cohen in the Steele dossier, which claimed that Cohen visited Prague in August of 2016 to pay off the Russian hackers who stole the DNC and Clinton campaign emails. Cohen has consistently denied these allegations, regardless of the fact the McClatchy reported that Cohen’s cell phone pinged off of a cell tower in Prague around the time that the dossier claims that he was there.
Cohen claims to have witnessed collusion involving a meeting that was held between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June of 2016. Cohen believes but doesn’t have any concrete proof, that Donald Trump Jr. told his father about the meeting before it happened. Cohen claims that he was in the room with Trump in early June of 2016 when Trump Jr. walked into the room and said: “The meeting is all set.” Cohen claims that he understood what the topic of Trump Jr.’s statement meant a year later because Trump Jr. “would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father.”
Cohen also speaks about the allegations against him saying that Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about building the Trump Tower in Moscow. On November 29th, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress by stating that the negotiations to build the tower ended in January of 2016, when in fact, Cohen worked on the deal until June of 2016. BuzzFeed News reported in January that Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen told the special counsel that he did so. Buzzfeed’s report proved to be controversial once the office of the special counsel released a statement claiming that the story wasn’t true.
Cohen stands by his statement that President Trump didn’t “directly” tell him to lie to Congress. “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” read the opening statement. “In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing,” said Cohen. “In his way, he was telling me to lie.” He also stated that “(y)ou need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.”
While Cohen was on the stand, Trump was in Vietnam meeting with Kim Jong Un at the summit. He was not happy that Cohen was making these allegations while he was out of the country. “I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is a really terrible thing,” Trump said during a press conference after the meeting in Vietnam was cut short. “They could have made it two days later, or next week, and it would have been even better,” said Trump in reference to the Democrats.
President Trump said that he watched as much of the hearing as he could, even though it was taking place at night because of the 12 hour time difference in Vietnam. “They could have made it two days later, or next week, and it would have been even better,” Trump said, referring to Democrats. Trump has said that Cohen lied about 95% of what he said, but that he was “impressed” that he didn’t lie about the Russian investigation. “We’ll see what happens, but it was pretty shameful I think,” Trump said.