Analysis: Cohen came off as 'credible,' testimony will shape committee's next step
After Cohen's hearing came to a close, legal experts — as well as a former adviser to Trump's campaign — said they found Cohen a "credible" witness despite his own admitted lies and crimes.
"I think Cohen came across as very credible," Mimi Rocah, a former prosecutor for the Southern District of New York and an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst, said on "Meet the Press Daily."
Rocah emphasized that Cohen didn't "go too far" in his testimony. "He tells us when he knows something and he doesn't try to implicate people in something that he can't," she said.
Sam Nunberg, a former adviser to Trump's 2016 campaign, agreed, and added he thinks Trump "hated today more than losing the shutdown."
Ben Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare and a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, said his big takeaway is that Cohen's testimony will now aid in "creating an agenda" for the next Oversight hearing.
"The committee is getting a huge number of tips and leads of who else they should be talking to," Wittes said. "They emerged from this with a giant witness list."
Thank you, and good night.
We're closing down our live blog for the evening. Thanks for staying with us today. If you missed any part of the action, catch up by scrolling down through the blog for key moments, fiery exchanges and real-time analysis.
Watch the highlights below, or check out the best lines from the hearing here. See you all next time.
Which 2020 Democratic candidates weighed in?
A round-up of who in the 2020 Democratic presidential field chimed in, what they said, and who stayed quiet:
Kirsten Gillibrand: The New York senator wrote on Twitter that a presidential campaign “should never be in the business of scheming with foreign adversaries to tamper with our elections. I just thought that went without saying.”
She also tweeted screenshots of two articles, one of which was titled “Michael Cohen To Face Tough Questioning From House Oversight Committee.” Gillibrand added her own take: “Elections matter.”
Amy Klobuchar: Of the 2020 candidates, the Minnesota senator offered the most direct comments on the hearing, highlighting several articles on Cohen's testimony on Twitter: “This is a big deal: Michael Cohen says President Trump was involved in a hush money scheme. … This is even a bigger deal: Cohen has alleged that Trump knew in advance that the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks planned to publish hacked Democratic National Committee emails.” She also tweeted about Cohen acknowledging he "lied under oath to Congress" about talks on a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow.
Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator did not address Cohen directly, but she did author a blog post on Medium as the hearing was underway in which she vowed, "If I’m elected President of the United States, there will be no pardons for anyone implicated in these investigations."
Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders were all active on Twitter, but they stayed quiet about Cohen's testimony.
'Completely false': Trump attorney Jay Sekulow disputes point in Cohen testimony
Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump's legal team, pushed back on a part of Cohen's testimony after the hearing wrapped.
"Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the president edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false," Sekulow said in a statement.
During Wednesday's public hearing, Cohen testified that Sekulow was among the lawyers who reviewed his previous prepared remarks to Congress regarding the Trump Organization's negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and made changes and additions. Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about those negotiations, saying he did so to align with Trump's preferred narrative.
"You said you lied to Congress about Trump's negotiations to build his Moscow Tower because he made it clear to you that he wanted you to lie," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said. "One of the reasons you knew this was because 'Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.'"
"So this is a pretty breathtaking claim and I just want to get to the facts here," Raskin continued. "Which specific lawyers reviewed and edited your statement to Congress on the Moscow Tower negotiations and did they make any changes to your statement?"
"There were changes made, additions," Cohen responded. "Jay Sekulow for one."
Cohen added that "several changes" were made, "including how we were going to handle that message, which was — the message of course being the length of time that the Trump Tower Moscow project stayed and remained alive."
7 hours later, the hearing is over. Watch the 3-minute recap.
Cohen made a brief statement to the assembled media on Capitol Hill after the hearing adjourned but did not take questions.
"Thank you all for being here today. I am humbled, I'm thankful to Chairman Cummings for giving me the opportunity today to tell my truth and I hope that as Chairman Cummings said, it helps in order to heal America," Cohen said.
Get caught up on seven hours of testimony in three minutes by watching the video below.
Cummings closes with a bang: 'We have got to get back to normal'
In a heated closing statement, Chairman Cummings made a sweeping call for normalcy and protecting America's democracy after a fiery hours-long hearing marked by partisan clashes and pointed attacks on Cohen's credibility.
“You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen, and you've admitted that. And you know what is the saddest part of this whole thing is? That some very innocent people are hurting too and you acknowledge that and that's your family,” Cummings said. "And you know if we as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they made mistakes to change their lives a whole lot of people would not do very well."
He added, "I want to say thank you. I know that this can be hard. I know that you are facing a lot. I know that you are worried about your family but this is part of destiny and, hopefully, this portion of your destiny will lead to a better Micheal Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America and a better world."
He took a parting shot at Republican members of the committee who falsely claimed that this is the first hearing House Oversight has held since Democrats reclaimed the majority in the chamber. The first was one on prescription drug costs, he said, mentioning a person who died because she was unable to afford insulin. He noted his committee has also had hearings on a number of topics, including voting rights, before hearing from Cohen on Wednesday.
"We can do more than one thing," he said. "And we have got to get back to normal."
Cohen, in closing statement, lists everything he says is wrong with Trump
Cohen delivered a brief but emotional statement at the end of his public testimony, in which he summed up his objections to the president and his fears for the future.
"I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power," he said of Trump.
He then addressed the president directly, at times looking squarely into the TV cameras.
"We honor our veterans — even in the rain," Cohen said referring to a trip to France where Trump opted against attending a World War 1 memorial event. "You tell the truth, even when it doesn't aggrandize you."
"You don't attack the media and those who question what you don't like or what you don't want them to say and you take responsibility for your own dirty deeds. You don't use your power of your bully pulpit to destroy the credibility of those who speak out against you. You don't separate families from one another or demonize those looking to America for a better life. You don't vilify people based on the god they pray to and you don't cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies. Finally, you don't shut down the government before Christmas and New Year's just to simply appease your base. This behavior is churlish, it denigrates the office of the president and it's simply un-American. And it's not you," he said.
"So to those who support the president and his rhetoric as I once did, I pray the country doesn't make the same mistakes that I have made or pay the heavy price that my family and I are paying."
Cohen then thanked Chairman Cummings for his time.
Tlaib ignites racial dispute in final moments of hearing
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., prompted a fiery exchange when she objected to the appearance of HUD official Lynne Patton in the audience earlier Wednesday.
"Just to make a note, Mr. Chairman, just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them, doesn’t mean they aren't racist. And it is insensitive that some would even say — the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself," Tlaib said.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who had invited Patton to stand as he defended Trump against Cohen's charge that the president is a racist, erupted in anger, asking for the statement to be stricken from the record.
"I am not calling the gentleman, Mr. Meadows, a racist for doing so. I’m saying that in itself, it is a racist act," Tlaib responded.
Meadows asked Chairman Elijah Cummings to vouch for him as not being racist. The pair noted that they have a close relationship.
Tlaib ultimately apologized to Meadows, saying that she did not intend for him to feel that she was attacking him personally as a racist.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., also referred to Meadows' bringing Patton out to rebut allegations of racism against Trump.
Ocasio-Cortez presses Cohen on whether Trump, his associates committed fraud
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., pressed Cohen on whether Trump committed bank, tax and insurance fraud during brief questioning Wednesday afternoon.
"To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.
"Yes," Cohen replied.
"Who else knows that the president did this?" Ocasio-Cortez responded.
Cohen named several Trump Organization executives, including chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
"Do you think we need to review financial statements and tax returns in order to compare them?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.
"Yes," Cohen said.
Ocasio-Cortez wrapped up her questioning under her allotted time.
Cohen says he hasn't seen proof Trump's tax returns are under audit
Cohen said that he didn't actually think Trump's tax returns were under audit during the 2016 election, contrary to what Trump has long claimed.
"I asked for a copy of the audit so that I could use it in terms of my statements to the press. And I was never able to obtain one," he said in answer to a question about whether Trump's tax returns were, in fact, under audit by the IRS.
Trump refused to release his tax returns while running for office because he said they were under audit. He has never released them.
Trump is the only major party nominee of the past 40 years to not release his tax returns.
Programming note: Cohen will take questions from reporters following testimony
Cohen’s testimony may soon be coming to an end, but not his grilling. Cohen is planning to take questions from reporters after he’s done testifying under oath, according to his lawyer, Lanny Davis.
Cohen is facing questions from several more lawmakers before ending his day of testimony. Stay tuned.