WASHINGTON — All eyes will be on Michael Cohen Wednesday when he testifies publicly before a House panel, where Democrats will prod him to reveal all about any President Donald Trump misdeeds and Republicans will attack Cohen’s credibility.
Even Trump, in Vietnam to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is expected to stay up all night to watch what the lengthy, contentious and potentially explosive televised appearance of the Long Island-born lawyer before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Cohen, 52, the former longtime fixer for Trump, will describe what he views as Trump’s lies about his personal finances, his racist language and his cheating in business, and possibly even criminal conduct, several news outlets reported, citing a person familiar with his plans.
Among the hottest topics Cohen will discuss will be his $130,000 payment days before the 2016 election to porn actress Stormy Daniels to silence her claim of an affair with Trump, and how long Trump pursued a Trump Tower project in Moscow as he ran for president.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chairman, said the panel will be looking at Trump’s finances relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election, compliance with financial disclosure laws, conflicts of interests, business practices and his hotel in Washington.
But the scope for the hearing does not include the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia, which is being pursued by the intelligence committees and a special counsel.
Cohen, who will report May 6 to prison for lying to Congress and making the hush payment to the porn actress, must overcome wary lawmakers’ suspicion, if not outright skepticism, about his ability to tell the truth.
“It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement Tuesday.
Congress has keen interest in what Cohen has to say, however, scheduling three hearings with him this week. The Senate Intelligence Committee grilled Cohen behind closed doors Tuesday, and the House Intelligence Committee will hold a closed session with him Thursday.
The Democratic-led committee is eager to usher Cohen onto an international stage to allow him to go into granular detail about crimes he has admitted committing for the benefit of Trump, and Cohen is expected to come prepared with documents and financial statements.
He’ll be asked about the planning, payment and reimbursement of hush money to Daniels at the direction of what federal prosecutors describe as “Individual 1,” an implication of Trump.
He also will be pressed on Trump’s involvement in plans for a Trump Tower project in Moscow after he won the Iowa caucuses in February 2016. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress when he told lawmakers the project ended in January 2016.
Other topics will include Cohen’s claim that Trump frequently used racist language and that he inflated or devalued his net worth as needed for his business.
The hearing is primed for fireworks before a committee that includes firebrands from the right and left among the its 42 members.
A small flare burst Tuesday when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is not on the panel, asked Cohen in a tweet Tuesday if his wife and father-in-law know about his “girlfriends.”
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of several conservative Freedom Caucus members on the committee, promised tough questions for Cohen.
“Time and time again he’s not told the truth,” Meadows said on Fox News. “There’s a number of questions that still remain in terms of potential criminal offenses that Michael Cohen may have committed that I believe will come out tomorrow.”
But Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), among the left-leaning committee members that include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Brooklyn), said in a phone interview that Cohen should have a chance to tell his story.
For Republicans, Raskin said, “The problem with Michael Cohen is not that he’s lying — it’s that he’s stopped lying.”