A "racist," a "con man," and a "cheat" — those are just a few of the accusations Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former longtime attorney, leveled against his old boss during his seven hours of public testimony before Congress on Wednesday.
Cohen, 52, delivered a damning account of the president's business and campaign practices just hours after Trump opened the second nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Democrats mostly stuck to questioning Cohen about Trump's alleged criminal conduct, while Republican members on the committee largely sought to discredit Cohen's testimony by painting him as a liar and an profit-seeking opportunist whose word was not to be trusted, in part because he's on his way to prison. Cohen is due to report to prison in early May for a three-year sentence for a series of charges he pleaded guilty to last year, including eight felony counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations, as well as one count of making a false statement to Congress.
Here's a look at how the testimony unfolded.
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.”
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.
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."
'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.
Cohen dismisses anti-Trump conspiracies in testimony
Cohen dismissed a series of anti-Trump rumors during his testimony even as Republicans repeatedly pressed forward with the idea that nothing he said can be trusted.
First, Cohen said he knew nothing about any rumored or alleged physical violence committed by Trump, the president using any drugs, being delinquent on child care payments, or paying for any health care procedures for women not in his family, an apparent reference to abortion.
He shot down a rumored tape of Trump striking his wife, Melania Trump, in an elevator, saying, "It doesn't exist," and "Mr. Trump would never" hit her. He said "to the best of my knowledge," the president does not have a love child.
Cohen was also asked about "anything that the president has done at home or abroad" or "any videotapes" that could subject Trump to extortion or blackmail, an apparent reference to salacious, unverified allegations in former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele's dossier. Cohen answered, "I’ve heard about these tapes for a long time, had many people contact me over the years. I have no reason to believe that that tape exists."
On another item from Steele's dossier, a trip to Prague Cohen was alleged to have taken in the summer of 2016 to participate in secret meetings with Russians, Cohen said he had never been to the city or the Czech Republic.
The hearing has resumed for Round 2, with Cohen back in the hot seat to face questions from five more House Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Cohen's testimony has so far included withering descriptions of the president's character, as well as details about hush money payments and Trump's ambitions for a real estate deal in Moscow.
Florida Bar investigating Rep. Gaetz for ominous Cohen tweet
“The Florida Bar is aware of the comments made in a tweet yesterday by Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a Florida Bar member, and I can confirm we have opened an investigation,” Francine Andia Walker, the organization’s communications director, said in an email Wednesday.
Gaetz, a close ally of the president, had tweeted: “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot ... "
Gaetz offered no evidence for the claim, and was immediately accused of witness intimidation by ethics experts online. He defended himself in an interview with NBC News, saying: "This isn't witness tampering. This is witness testing."
After Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., put out a statement asking members "be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties," Gaetz tweeted an apology and said he was deleting the earlier tweet. He said it was "NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did."
During her questioning of Cohen, Del. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands said Gaetz should “at the very least” be referred to the House Ethics Committee, and could be referred for criminal prosecution.
Gaetz, who is not on the Oversight Committee, was seen standing with Republicans against the far wall of the hearing room for the beginning of Cohen’s testimony.
Sen. Warner says it's 'plausible' Stone told Trump about hacked emails in advance
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters earlier Wednesday that it's plausible that former Trump adviser Roger Stone told Trump in advance of hacked emails coming to light.
"To me it's very plausible that Roger Stone would relay that information to Donald Trump," Warner said, adding, "I think Mr. Cohen’s testimony is pretty compelling."
Warner said Cohen spoke before the Senate Intelligence Committee for nine and half hours yesterday and characterized the testimony as "very, very important." He added that some of yesterday's testimony has been repeated today.
WATCH: Cohen tries to inject a little levity with comebacks and quips
Legal analysis: Cohen acting like 'most cooperating witnesses'
Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official, says Cohen is acting like "most cooperating witnesses."
"There is an interesting point about how prosecutors make cases: Prosecutors drill in on details, members of Congress don't seem to do that quite as much," Rosenberg told MSNBC's Katy Tur.
"The details really matter," he said. "Cohen only has a small piece of it. He isn't overstating his case, he's not speculating, I'm not hearing conjecture from him," Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg says Cohen clearly knows the information he provides to Congress has to be corroborated, but added, "I just don't think Congress is doing a very good job at corroborating it. Mueller will."
Trump campaign responds to Cohen testimony
While President Trump is in Vietnam meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for Trump’s re-election bid, issued a statement after lawmakers recessed the hearing for votes. Here's the campaign's take on events so far:
Michael Cohen is a felon, a disbarred lawyer, and a convicted perjurer, who lied to both Congress and the Special Counsel in a ‘deliberate and premeditated’ fashion according to the Special Counsel’s Office. Now he offers what he says is evidence, but the only support for that is his own testimony, which has proven before to be worthless. As noted by the Southern District of New York, Cohen’s wide array of crimes were ‘marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life’ and his ‘instinct to blame others is strong.’ Prosecutors said his actions were to ensure that he would ‘profit personally, build his own power, and enhance his level of influence.’ This is the same Michael Cohen who has admitted that he lied to Congress previously. Why did they even bother to swear him in this time?
Legal analysis: Not all of Cohen's allegations amount to crimes, but many are 'extraordinary'
"Take a step back: We just saw something totally extraordinary," MSNBC's chief legal correspondent, Ari Melber, said about Wednesday's testimony.
"All the key insiders who have flipped, none of them have spoken under oath in public," Melber said. "This is literally the first time we have heard a Mueller witness under oath speak for an extended period of time addressed by members of both parties."
Melber said Cohen has laid out a series of "damning" allegations against Trump — "not all of them crimes, but many extraordinary in their own right."
"This is a Mueller witness, who Mueller said in court they found credible on the key points he testified to, speaking in public and describing a president who basically ran on a lark, used his company for personal enrichment," Melber said.
Trump Org's Weisselberg not cooperating with feds, sources say
Cohen brought up Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg several times when discussing the hush-money payments Cohen made to women who claim past affairs with Trump — affairs the president has repeatedly denied.
Weisselberg received immunity to testify before a federal grand jury in New York during the course of the investigation into the payments, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News and others reported last summer. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to tax and bank fraud as well as to campaign finance violations tied to those hush-money payments.
Some news outlets have suggested Weisselberg's testimony means he is cooperating with federal probes involving Cohen, the president and the Trump Organization. But three people with direct knowledge of the matter tell NBC News that Weisselberg is not cooperating, has never been a cooperating witness, and has provided limited details in the course of his testimony.
A person close to the Trump Organization tells NBC News that Weisselberg is still with the Trump Organization and defends Trump and the company.
Plaskett: 'Thank God the Democratic majority can walk and chew gum at the same'
Democratic Rep. Stacey Plaskett, the delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, used the top of her time to take aim at the GOP's argument that Cohen’s testimony was a waste of the country's time.
“I’ve got a lot to do as well,” Plaskett said. "I've got houses and schools to help rebuild in the Virgin Islands, expansion of voting rights, educational opportunities, criminal justice reform. Thank God the Democratic majority can walk and chew gum at the same. So we are here with you right now.”
Plaskett's comments came right after Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, used his five minutes of questioning time to call the hearing an “embarrassment for our country.” Roy lamented that his time was being wasted, stating “I have more important things to do” and added that “I can't help but think that's what the majority of the American people are thinking while watching this unbelievable circus.”
While we're on a break, some of the biggest takeaways
Michael Cohen has remained mostly composed during this portion of the hearing, but there were still fiery exchanges and pointed questions about Trump scandals and Cohen's past behavior from both sides of the aisle.
Cohen pleaded with the committee to ask more questions about Trump scandals. However, Republicans focused squarely on Cohen's credibility problem, hammering him point by point.
A significant moment came when Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., asked Cohen if prosecutors are looking into other illegal acts by the president that have not been made public.
"Yes, and again, those are part of the investigation currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York," Cohen answered.
Trump's former lawyer has so far answered questions about the president carefully. When he knew something, he stated what exactly he knew, but he also didn't hesitate to say when he didn't have an answer. He also disputed a pair of salacious rumors about Trump.
Cohen also shed some tears when a lawmaker asked him what he wants his children to know.
Cohen addressed several questions from GOP members about whether he would take a book or movie deal and profit from his story. Cohen said he had been approached, but made no plans to take a deal. However, he could not commit to giving any potential future profits to charity if he were to take a deal.
He pushed back against lines of questioning or statements he thought were unfair, and sought to deflate Republican accusations that his public appearance before Congress was intended to help reduce his prison sentence by assuring lawmakers that his testimony was not a factor. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers helped him kneecap the assertion that hearing Cohen's testimony was a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
"Our colleagues aren't upset because you lied to Congress for the president," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said. "They're upset because you've stopped lying to Congress for the president."
"Thank God the Democratic majority can walk and chew gum at the same. So we are here with you right now," Stacey Plaskett, the House delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, said.
Ranking member Jim Jordan, however, earned praise from those in Trump world for his tough questioning of Cohen. In a text message to NBC News, President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said: "Jordan is so far the best lawyer by far."
Cohen asked to explain why Trump is targeting his father-in-law
Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., asked Cohen why Trump would target his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman.
Cohen said he didn't understand the attacks — Trump has suggested investigators look into Cohen's relatives, including Shusterman, for unspecified criminal activity. Shusterman, Cohen said, was a great guy who had a lot of money invested in Trump properties.
Shusterman, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1975 from Ukraine, worked as a taxi driver. Years later, like his son-in-law, Shusterman built up a lucrative taxi medallion business. In 1993, he was convicted of tax evasion.
"Lying to reduce his jail time!" Trump tweeted about Cohen in January. "Watch father-in-law!"
Cohen delayed his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, which had been set to take place earlier this month, citing Trump's alleged threats against him and his relatives.
Stormy Daniels responds
Stormy Daniels said Wednesday that she was "proud" of Cohen for "finally beginning to tell the truth," and reminded him of his role in intimidating her after she alleged a past affair with the president, according to a statement provided to NBC News through her spokesperson.
She says, in full:
In his testimony today, Michael Cohen described serious crimes and we should stay focused on those. But I do want to make a brief statement to Mr. Cohen directly. Michael, I’m proud of you for finally beginning to tell the truth about what you did, and trying to repair some of the harm you have caused. I can hear the pain and regret you feel for betraying your family and your country. My heart goes out to you and your family.You spoke about how the president and his attorney put you and your family in danger by calling you a liar and a rat and disparaging you in public. I understand your fear, Michael. I have a family too. Do you believe now that when you and the president called me a liar, when you were his attorney and you insulted me, threatened to bankrupt me and worse, that you put me and my family in danger? I remember the fear you feel. I still feel it. Thank you for having the courage, at long last, to begin to tell the truth. I hope that someday soon your family and mine can both leave this nightmare behind.
Analysis: Cohen holding up under attack
Matt Miller, a former Justice Department spokesperson, said that in his view Cohen is doing well under fire.
"I think one of the biggest takeaways from today, apart from all these factual revelations, is Michael Cohen's demeanor and the way he has held up under questions from Republican members of Congress," Miller told MSNBC on Wednesday.
Miller noted that Republicans "have been pushing on him hard."
"Their attack on him is that he's a liar," Miller said, but "never being able to reconcile the fact that the reason he was lying was because he was covering up for Donald Trump, the president they are now trying to protect."
Sit back, relax and enjoy the fight
NBC News political reporter Vaughn Hillyard is airborne right now and notes that the Cohen hearings are on a lot of seat-back screens.
Time for a recess
Chairman Cummings recessed the hearing for votes at 2:32 p.m. ET, and said lawmakers would return about 35 minutes after the last vote is called. That makes for about an hour-long break, Cummings said.
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas was the final Republican member of the committee to go in this first round of questions. It's unclear at this point if there will be a second round.
There are at least five Democrats who have not had their first five-minute round for questions, ending with the trio of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
Midhearing, Meadows refers Cohen for criminal investigation
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., tweeted midhearing that he had entered a referral for criminal investigation of Cohen for what he says are violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The tweet came after a heated exchange during which Meadows accused Cohen of failing to properly disclose contracts with foreign companies.
Cohen defended himself, pointing out that his contracts were with privately owned companies and not government entities.
Cohen tears up when asked about his family
Cohen shed some tears when Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., asked him what he wants his children to know.
"That I'm sorry for everything and I'm sorry for the pain that I've caused them," he said. "And I wish I can go back in time."
Two Trump stories Cohen disputes: A love child and an elevator tape
In a line of questioning that sought to address his methods of protecting Trump over the years, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., asked Cohen about a pair of stories that Cohen reportedly had a hand in covering up.
Speier questioned Cohen about an alleged tape that is purported to show Trump striking his wife in an elevator, as well as rumors that Trump has a secret love child who was the product of an affair.
"There is an elevator tape that has been referenced as a catch and kill product. It was evidently of Mr. Trump and a woman, presumably Mrs. Trump? Is that correct?" Speier said.
Cohen confirmed that the rumor involved Trump and his wife, but he said he was certain the allegation was "not true."
"Well the story goes that he struck Melania while in that elevator, because there’s a camera inside, which, I’m not so sure. Actually I’m certain it’s not true," Cohen, noting that he was aware of rumors that a tape was being auctioned in 2016.
He then said that he did not believe the auction was real, and that he never saw any such tape.
"I don’t believe Mr. Trump ever struck Mrs. Trump, ever. I don’t believe it," he said.
She also asked Cohen about an alleged payoff in order to conceal a story about Trump having a "love child." He said he did pay $15,000 to keep such a story from surfacing, but said there is no illegitimate child, to his knowledge.
'Where it all started': ShouldTrumpRun.com
A now-defunct website created in 2011 to gauge public support for a Trump run for president resurfaced on Tuesday after Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked Cohen to clarify his role in starting Trump’s campaign.
“You started the campaign for president of the United States for Donald Trump?” Jordan asked.
“I certainly did, sir,” Cohen responded. “Shouldtrumprun.com.”
“2011. It was my idea. I saw a document in the newspaper that said, ‘Who would you vote for in 2012?’ Six percent of the people turned around and said they'd vote for Donald Trump. So I brought it into his office and I said, ‘Mr. Trump, take a look at this, wouldn't that be great?’ And with that is where it all started."
2020 hopeful Klobuchar is watching and tweeting
2020 contender Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tweeted several times about Cohen's testimony Wednesday. She touched on the Moscow Tower project, hush money scheme and WikiLeaks.
Klobuchar is one of the several White House hopefuls commenting on the developments of the hearing.
Amash has a softer touch questioning Cohen
Rep. Justin Amash's questioning of Cohen diverged from that of other GOP committee members.
The Michigan congressman asked Cohen open questions that elicited contrite responses from Cohen, as opposed to the hostile lines of inquiry of other GOP members.
For instance, Amash asked Cohen, "What is the truth (Trump) fears most?" to which Cohen responded, "It's tough to question, sir."
Amash, who has been critical of Trump in the past, then asked Cohen, "What principles have you chosen to follow in your life, and do you wish to follow different principles now?"
Cohen answered that he has "always tried to be a good person," and now he wants to "protect his wife and children."
Cohen also thanked the congressman for his question because he said it allowed him to talk about his redemption.
Cohen: This hearing isn't part of a strategy to reduce my prison sentence
In response to multiple accusations that he would attempt to use his public appearance before Congress as a way to reduce his prison sentence, Cohen said that while he is assisting with other "ongoing investigations" with the possibility of a reduction to his sentence, the hearing Wednesday alone will not afford him any such reduction.
"There are ongoing investigations that have nothing to do with this committee or Congress that I am assisting in and it is for the benefit of a Rule 35 motion," Cohen said.
Under current Rule 35(b), if the government believes that a sentenced defendant has provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person, it may move the court to reduce the original sentence; ordinarily, the motion must be filed within one year of sentencing.
"The rule 35 motion is in the complete hands of the southern district of New York," Cohen added.
"If those investigations are fruitful, then there is the possibility [of reduced time,]" he said. "This congressional hearing today is not going to be the basis of a rule 35 motion. I wish it was, but it's not."
Trump has repeatedly said Cohen is saying whatever is necessary in order to reduce his sentence. Some Republicans on the committee have asked Cohen whether he is appearing before Congress in hopes of reducing that sentence.
As NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah pointed out earlier, if Cohen does get a Rule 35 reduction, prosecutors may mention his testimony to Congress to a judge if it is in fact truthful in order to bolster his appeal for leniency.
Giuliani praises Jordan's tough questioning of Cohen
In a text message to NBC News, President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said he's been most impressed with Republican Jim Jordan's performance during the first stages of Michael Cohen's hearing.
"Jordan is so far the best lawyer by far," Giuliani said when asked for his thoughts on the performance of GOP House Oversight Committee members during Cohen's hearing.
Throughout the hearing, GOP members have deferred parts of their allotted questioning time to Jordan, the committee's ranking member. Jordan has sharply questioned Cohen on his credibility, hammering home the idea that what Cohen says about the president cannot and should not be trusted by the American people.
Asked if there was anything he'd like to see Republicans focus more on, Giuliani responded: "So far, so good."
Democrats react to Cohen testimony during first break
NBC News spoke to Democratic members of the Oversight Committee during the first break.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said that so far, “there’s enough here to cause more hearings” and expressed interest in probing deeper into Trump’s business ethics. “I don’t know if it all gets done today. There may be a second round of hearings,” Lynch added.
Del. Eleanor Norton, D-D.C., said she believed Cohen’s testimony, calling him a “good, tough witness.”
And Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., said she also believed Cohen, telling NBC that “I think we have to find corroborating evidence, but I tend to believe that there's earnestness there, and I want to see everything that he says. And then it's up to the American people.”
Cohen: Feds looking into other illegal acts by Trump
A big moment during the hearing came when Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., asked Cohen if prosecutors are looking into other illegal acts by the president that have not been made public.
Krishnamoorthi: "Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act...regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today?"
Cohen: "Yes, and again, those are part of the investigation currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York."
This answer from Cohen stood out because it appears that at least one of the investigations encircling the president is not close to wrapping up anytime soon, and its scope may be wider than previously known.
Waiting is the hardest part
A great photo from the committee chambers comes from Ryan Reilly, DOJ reporter for HuffPost, who captured freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., waiting for their turn to question Cohen.
Google Trends shows Cohen vastly overshadowing North Korea in public interest
Is the Cohen testimony overshadowing what should be a momentous Trump meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un? Well, yes. But by how much?
A hint comes from Google Trends, which shows that public search interest in "Michael Cohen" has drastically dwarfed that of "North Korea." Hat tip to Philip Bump, national correspondent for The Washington Post.
Google Trends "News Search" turns up a similarly lopsided graph.
Republicans want Cohen to disavow ever profiting off this chapter of his life. He refuses.
Cohen has faced persistent questions from GOP members about whether he would take a book or movie deal to profit from his story — once he's finished serving three years in prison, of course.
So far, he's refused to say he won't sell his story eventually.
Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas, questioned Cohen about using Trump over the years to "ingratiate himself," and claimed Cohen will emerge from lockup with a multimillion-dollar book deal.
Cohen told Cloud he could not commit to donating any profits from selling his story to charity.
Many people in and out of Trump's orbit have nabbed book deals since 2016, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Trump's use of NDAs comes up, hours in
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., appears to be the first member on the committee to bring up Trump's aggressive use of non-disclosure agreements among campaign staffers and even his White House staff, which has come under scrutiny for their legality since Trump took office.
Krishnamoorthi asked Cohen if Trump's use of NDAs has prevented other Trump officials from coming forward to corroborate Cohen's allegations against the president.
"I don't know the answer to that question," Cohen said.
This line of questioning is particularly interesting in light of several lawsuits challenging his campaign's practice or requiring NDAs.
Dem lawmaker: Republicans aren't upset Cohen lied to Congress for Trump, they're upset he stopped
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., opened his allotted time to question Cohen's response to a Republican line of attack on Cohen that has run throughout the day.
"Our colleagues aren't upset because you lied to Congress for the president," Raskin said. "They're upset because you've stopped lying to Congress for the president."
Republicans have repeatedly highlighted Cohen's past lying to Congress, which he has admitted and pleaded guilty to. Cohen says he lied to help Trump, but Republicans have questioned whether he lied to help himself.
Cohen, exasperated with GOP questions about his misdeeds, pleads for questions on Trump
After an exchange where Republican Jim Jordan pressed Cohen repeatedly over why he didn't have his attorney, Lanny Davis, deny the validity of a BuzzFeed story, a peeved Cohen asked why Republicans haven't asked him much of anything about Trump.
"I find it interesting that not one question from you today has been about Mr. Trump," Cohen said, adding, "That's why I thought I was coming today."
The exchange followed Jordan going back-and-forth over a disputed BuzzFeed story that reported Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Special counsel Robert Mueller's office issued a rare statement disputing parts of the story. In his testimony, Cohen said he believed Trump wanted him to lie to Congress about the negotiations.
On why he didn't have Davis shoot the story down entirely, Cohen said: "It wasn't our responsibility to be the fact-checker" for BuzzFeed.
The exchange marked the latest time during the testimony that a GOP member deferred a portion of their time back to Jordan so that he could continue his often contentious questioning of Cohen.
On ABC News, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a Trump ally — said: "There hasn't been one Republican yet who's tried to defend the president on the substance. I think that's something that should be concerning to the White House."
Mimi Rocah: Today's hearing could possibly help Cohen get a lighter sentence.
During the first break, Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York and an MSNBC legal analyst, said that today's hearing could possibly help Cohen get a lighter sentence.
Cohen has two incentives to tell the truth in today's hearing, Rocah said.
First, Rocah said that if Cohen says anything untruthful at today's hearing, "the special council's office would certainly know."
"They have more evidence than Cohen and they have more evidence than we do," Rocah said. If Cohen lies, the special counsel's office could "rip up" their agreement with him.
Cohen's other incentive to tell the truth involves the SDNY.
"It seems like he is continuing to work directly with the Southern District of New York," Rocah said. "I think he is trying to get what's called a Rule 35, a post-sentence reduction." To do that, Cohen has to provide actual assistance to SDNY in their investigations.
If Cohen does provides real assistance, the SDNY might then write a letter to the judge saying Cohen should get a reduced sentence. "The fact that he's also testified truthfully in front of Congress will also go into that letter," Rocah said.
"It's certainly something the judge will consider because they look at the person as a whole" she said.
"Standing alone, this testimony won't get him a reduction, but his incentive to tell the truth here is huge."
Cohen goes after GOP for blind loyalty to Trump
Before the brief break, Cohen took time to go after GOP members of Congress who have questioned his credibility. After Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., asked what Cohen's breaking point was to turn on Trump, Cohen cited Charlottesville and the press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others.
He then lectured GOP committee members for their blind loyalty to Trump and urged them to not go down the same path he did, calling it "unbecoming of Congress."
"I did the same thing for 10 years. I protected Trump for 10 years and that is the same thing you are doing right now," he said. "It puts you into the same position that I am in ... the more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences I am suffering."
We're on a break. Here's a few takeaways so far.
The break was requested by Cohen after several hours of testimony. It's likely just a quick one.
So far, Cohen has pushed back strongly against a united GOP front that came out swinging, lecturing them at every opportunity on their blind loyalty to the president. Republicans have sharply questioned his credibility and sought to reflect his claims about the president — that Trump is a liar and a cheat — back on him while arguing that Democrats orchestrated the hearing to distract from Trump's trip abroad.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a staunch ally of the president and the ranking member of the committee, caused Cohen to lose his cool at one point by saying he was not remorseful and was not really taking responsibility for his admitted crimes. Rep. Mark Meadows, meanwhile, caused a stir by inviting a current member of the Trump administration, Lynne Patton, to stand as he refuted Cohen's accusation that the president is a racist.
There were also clashes between members. Chairman Cummings and ranking member Jordan clashed over the rules established and even allowing Cohen to come back to testify after being convicted of lying. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., also lashed out at GOP members of the committee for attacking Cohen for being a liar and testifying today after being convicted for lying to Congress.
A standout moment came earlier, when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — the Democratic National Committee chairwoman in 2016 when the committee was hacked — had the chance to question Cohen, who said in his testimony that Trump and longtime associate Roger Stone had discussed the email dump before the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Cohen said Trump would want to "win at all costs" when asked by the Congresswoman if Trump colluded with Russia.
And on collusion, Cohen also noted that he could not state for sure if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, but said: "I have my suspicions."
Also, despite what we're seeing in the room, outside of the hearing people in Trump's orbit are watching. Trump's eldest sons attacked Cohen on Twitter, questioning his credibility.
...And now we're back to the hearing.
Cohen shoots back at GOP congressman who says he's a pathological liar
GOP Rep. Paul Gosar used his time to repeatedly blast Cohen as a liar. He called Cohen "a pathological liar" who knows nothing but lying. He even said "liar, liar, pants on fire" at one point.
"Are you talking about me or the president?" Cohen shot back.
The exchange was the latest between Cohen and Republicans that went hard after his admitted lies, but did not address elements of 20-page testimony.
"What stands out to me, is that to this point, Republicans on the Committee have done nothing to address the substance of Michael Cohen's testimony," former House Oversight Committee spokesman Kurt Bardella, who served under Republican leadership but has since disavowed the party, told NBC News. "By refusing to touch the very serious allegations that Cohen outlined in his opening statement, they are effectively conceding that the substance of his testimony is accurate. That will be a problem in the long run for Republicans."
Cohen says no one is paying Lanny Davis
Republican Jody Hice pressed Cohen on who was paying his attorney, Lanny Davis, to represent him.
Cohen said no one — Davis is working for free.
"So he's doing all this work for nothing?" Hice said.
"Yes sir, and I hope so," Cohen added.
"I kind of doubt it," Hice fired back.
The exchange was part of a broader play from Republicans to paint a picture that Davis, an old Clinton ally, had orchestrated the entire hearing with operatives like billionaire Democratic donor and impeachment activist Tom Steyer. Republicans have sought to push the idea that nefarious forces have led to Cohen's appearance before Congress.
Hice, prior to serving in Congress, was a right-wing radio host. Rudy Giuliani, a Trump lawyer, has said he is representing the president for free.
Lynch lashes out at GOP members: 'Your side ran away from the truth'
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., lashed out at GOP members of the committee for attacking Cohen for being a liar and testifying today after being convicted for lying to Congress.
"Your side ran away from the truth," Lynch shouted toward GOP Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia.
Before Lynch was recognized, Hice hammered Cohen for his past lies to Congress and questioned who he coordinated with to prepare to testify.
Lynch listed off the other Trump officials, such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who have been convicted or indicted in the Russia probe but were not called before Congress to be questioned, particularly when the GOP controlled Congress.
Mark Meadows trots out Lynne Patton to refute Trump racism accusations
In a highly unusual move, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., brought out Lynne Patton, a Trump campaign staffer turned HUD official, to refute Cohen's accusations of racism.
Patton stood but did not speak, while Meadows said that the administration official told him that Trump has never done anything racist. In private conversations, Meadows added, he never heard Trump say anything racist.
Cohen shot back, telling Meadows to ask Patton how many black people work at the Trump Organization.
"The answer is zero," Cohen said.
Fireworks go off during exchange between Cohen and Jim Jordan: 'Shame on you, Mr. Jordan'
One of the most heated exchanges so far today took place between Republican Jim Jordan, the ranking member, and Cohen, who seemed to temporarily lose his cool.
Jordan questioned whether Cohen was truly remorseful for his crimes and whether he took any responsibility for what he had done.
"Cohen’s consciousness of wrongdoing is fleeting, his remorse is minimal, his instinct to blame others is strong. There’s only one thing wrong with that statement. His remorse is nonexistent. He just debated a member of Congress saying, ‘I really didn’t do anything wrong with false bank things that I’m guilty of, I’m going to prison for," Jordan said.
Cohen was indignant, raising his voice to push back.
"Mr. Jordan, that’s not what I said. And you know that that’s not what I said. I said I plead guilty and I take responsibility for my actions," he said. "Shame on you, Mr. Jordan."
Comer: If Trump is a cheat, what are you? Cohen: A fool
James Comer, R-Ky., had a fiery exchange with Cohen over his bank loans and whether he committed bank fraud.
After several questions related to Cohen's admitted bank fraud, Comer asks: If Trump is a cheat, what are you?
"A fool," Cohen said.
Cohen in his opening testimony and thus far in the hearing has stated how remorseful he is for helping Trump, who he called a "con" and "racist," and vowed to Cummings that he would tell the truth today about his lies and crimes.
Trump's sons attack Cohen's credibility
Trump's sons Don Jr. and Eric Trump swiftly attacked Cohen's credibility when Trump's former longtime lawyer told the Oversight Committee that he had declined a White House role.
"Michael was lobbying EVERYONE to be “Chief of Staff.” It was the biggest joke in the campaign and around the office. Did he just perjure himself again?" Eric Trump tweeted.
Don Jr. then replied: "Nailed it. It really was the biggest joke of the entire transition. The beginning of his bitterness was when he realized that was never going to happen. #Delusional."
Cohen testified that Trump, who he said did not even expect to win the presidency, was fuming when Cohen did not join the White House. However, because Trump was a political neophyte, he had to tap many unknowns to step into White House roles. His longtime assistant Hope Hicks, for instance, became his campaign spokesperson and then became White House communications director before stepping down from that role.
2020 Democratic candidate weighs in on Cohen testimony
The first comments from a 2020 presidential candidate came from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., over an hour into the testimony.
“A campaign for President of the United States should never be in the business of scheming with foreign adversaries to tamper with our elections. I just thought that went without saying,” she wrote on Twitter.
GOP congressman asks Cohen if he has a book or movie deal in the works
GOP Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, the third-most junior member on the Republican side, just tried to nail Cohen down with a line of questioning about what his source of income will be going forward, as well as who paid for him to appear before the committee, by asking if he had a book deal or a movie appearance lined up.
Cohen answered in the negative. He said he wasn't planning on having any source of income while he serves a three-year federal prison sentence, and said he paid his own way to appear before the committee Wednesday.
Green then gave up the rest of his time and deferred to Jim Jordan, the ranking member, who questioned Cohen about his interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller. But Cohen was confused by the question. The questioning ended shortly after.
Former DNC chair Wasserman Schultz questions Cohen
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — the Democratic National Committee chairwoman in 2016 when the committee was hacked — had the chance to question Cohen, who said in his testimony that Trump and longtime associate Roger Stone had discussed the email dump before the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Cohen told Schultz -- who resigned as DNC chair in the wake of the hacked email dump -- that he believed Trump would have it in him to collude with a foreign power like Russia to win the election. Cohen said Trump would want to "win at all costs," although he could not independently confirm that any collusion actually took place.
As NBC News' Mike Memoli noted, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings let Wasserman Schultz speak out of turn, allowing the former DNC chairwoman to ask her questions earlier than more senior members of the panel.
Kurt Bardella, former spokesman for the House Oversight Committee under Republicans, told NBC News he thought Wasserman Schultz's line of questioning was "very precise and effective."
"It laid the groundwork to have Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric and Jared be a part of future hearings, depositions [and] investigations," said Bardella, who has since become a Democrat.
'Have fun in prison!' RNC releases attack video during Cohen testimony
As the Cohen's testimony is underway, the Republican National Committee released a new video targeting Cohen, titled "Have Fun in Prison!" The video features media clips of Cohen praising Trump and his presidency.
"He's going to bring success, he's going to make America great," Cohen said in one Fox News clip.
It's a stark contrast to what Cohen is currently saying about the president.
He's been called a liar and fraud, but today Cohen brought receipts
Cohen has been called a "rat" by President Trump and has been trashed by former allies over the past year, and even committee members today, as a liar and fraud.
However, in his testimony, Cohen came prepared to back up as many of his claims with evidence. In his opening statement, he noted over a dozen exhibits, including checks, news articles, financial statements and more.
In a heated exchange with Jordan about why he didn't go to the White House after Trump won if he was such a Trump loyalist, Cohen noted he was offered a job in the White House counsel's office and brought in a lawyer who produced a memo regarding the offer and why he should decline.
The mood in the overflow room: Try the veal!
While it's pretty serious in the House Oversight Committee hearing room right now, the overflow room is a bit more relaxed.
"Watching this in the overflow room is like being in a political comedy club," tweeted Jeremy Barr, who covers the intersection of media and politics for The Hollywood Reporter, including a video in which some in the room chuckled at Cohen's line about Trump Jr.'s judgement.
'TV lawyer': Cohen won't mention Rudy Giuliani by name
He identified "Individual-1” as Donald Trump, but wouldn’t deign to mention one of the president’s current attorneys by name.
In two clear references to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen referred to the former New York City mayor as Trump’s "TV lawyer."
"I never imagined that he (Trump) would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family – and unleash his TV lawyer to do the same,” Cohen told the House Oversight Committee. He also noted that Trump’s “TV lawyer” had acknowledged the president reimbursed Cohen for paying off adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.
Giuliani has called Cohen “pathetic” and a “serial liar,” and suggested his father-in-law had ties to organized crime.
Jordan reads off Cohen's past threats to journalists
Questioning Cohen, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan went through what will likely be the Republican strategy for much of the hearing: Bring up Cohen's wrongdoings that had nothing or little to do with the president.
That included listing off times he had threatened journalists and the litany of crimes he pleaded guilty to last year that did not have any direct connection to the president. He questioned whether Cohen was lying to protect the president — or protect himself.
Another point Jordan highlighted was the length of time Cohen worked for Trump, before pointing out that he did not eventually get a job in the White House. Jordan suggested that the reason Cohen is blasting Trump is because he was sad about not being hired in the president's administration.
Cohen vehemently denied that.
Cummings brings up check to question Trump's credibility
One of Cummings first questions went after a pair of reimbursement checks Cohen received for the $130,000 hush payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump — an affair Trump says did not happen.
Cummings' questions go at the heart of two things: Trump's claims he never had the affair and that he gave up overseeing his businesses to his sons.
However, an August 2017 check for $35,000 was signed by Trump, while a March 2017 check for the same amount was signed by both Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization Chief Operating Officer Allen Weisselberg.
It's also important for Cummings to get out on the table what he knows Republicans are going to harp on all day: That Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress. That helps explain why he sounds a little hostile to Cohen in his first question, putting some distance between himself and the witness. But he made a little slip-up, asking whether Cohen was a lawyer and truly understood the gravity of what he was saying. Cohen was forced to respond that he had been disbarred the day before, and was no longer a lawyer.
Cohen smiles when Jordan brings up the 'Women for Cohen' Twitter account
Cohen broke his somber demeanor briefly, smiling when Rep. Jim Jordan asked him about the "Women for Cohen" Twitter account that positioned him as a "sex symbol" — which was created and run by the tech firm he paid.
"It was for fun," Cohen said.
Inside the hearing room: Cohen's exhibits
As Cohen walks through each exhibit, they are being displayed on large flat-screen monitors on opposite ends of the room, to the left and right of dais.
Cohen: 'I do not' have direct evidence of collusion between Trump, Russia
Cohen addressed the question on everyone's mind: Was there collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia?
"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," Cohen said.
He went on to say that "something clicked in my mind" about the Trump Tower meeting when Donald Trump Jr. came into the room during the 2016 campaign and walked behind his father’s desk, which Cohen called unusual, and could be heard clearly saying to his father, “The meeting is all set.” I remember Mr. Trump saying, “OK, good … Let me know.”
Cohen: One of my 'biggest regrets' was lying to Melania Trump
Cohen said Trump asked him to lie to his wife, Melania, about the hush payment to Stormy Daniels.
"He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did," Cohen said. "Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly — and she did not deserve that."
Roger Stone disputes Cohen's claim that Trump learned of WikiLeaks dumps in advance from him
Responding to the draft of Cohen's testimony earlier Wednesday, Roger Stone told NBC News that "Mr. Cohen's statement is not true."
In his testimony, Cohen said that "Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on 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 slams Trump's character
Cohen, who has known Trump for decades, slammed Trump's character in his opening statement, saying "lying for Mr. Trump was normalized, and no one around him questioned it."
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history.” He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign – for him – was always a marketing opportunity.
Cohen: 'Individual #1 is Donald J. Trump'
"For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump," Cohen told Congress.
That is a reference to the first unnamed person listed in an information filed by federal prosecutors when Cohen first agreed to plead guilty to a series of federal felonies. "Individual #1" was listed in reference to the hush money payments that Cohen facilitated and later pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations related to those payments.
Cohen testifies about Trump Tower Moscow project
Cohen apologized to Congress for lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee and told the members of House Oversight why he was untruthful about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, which led to one of his convictions.
"Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates. 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. In his way, he was telling me to lie," Cohen said.
He added, "To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. "
Cohen delivers his opening statement
A somber Cohen delivered his prepared opening statement before the committee. Here's a snippet of the beginning:
I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee’s questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said “yes” to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.
Jordan comes out swinging against Cummings, Cohen in opening statement
Ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, came out swinging against Michael Cohen and Chairman Elijah Cummings in his opening statement.
First, he accused Cummings of being a "patsy" for Cohen, who he called a "fraudster" and "convicted felon." He also lashed out against Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis, who he called a "Clinton loyalist" and accused him of orchestrating this hearing to lead to Trump's impeachment.
Jordan also attacked Cummings for having Cohen as the committee’s first witness in this Congress — but that's not true. Here are records of two previous Oversight Committee hearings, first on prescription drugs and then on executive branch ethics. Multiple witnesses appeared at both.
Jordan and Cummings then clashed when Jordan attempted to make a motion after yielding back his time. Cummings refused.
Cummings: The days of this committee protecting the president at all costs are over
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the House Oversight Committee chairman, said in his opening remarks that Cohen's prepared testimony should be "deeply disturbing and troubling to all Americans."
"Ladies and gentlemen, the days of this committee protecting the president at all costs are over. They're over," Cummings said.
He added that Cohen's past lies still must be weighed by the committee and observers.
"Some will certainly ask if he was lying then, why should we believe him now," Cummings said, adding, "It's a legitimate question."
He said his committee is "in search of the truth."
"The American people have a right to hear the other side," he said of Cohen's testimony in comparison to Trump's words. "They can watch Mr. Cohen's testimony and can make their own judgment."
He said Cohen's testimony contains documents and other evidence to back up Cohen's statements, and they present "a host of troubling legal and ethics concerns about the president's actions in the White House and before."
Hearing gets underway, immediately interrupted by GOP
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., moves to postpone the hearing literally just as it begins, arguing that Cohen’s testimony and exhibits were not submitted 24 hours in advance as required.
“I’m not saying it’s intentional on your part, it’s intentional on his part,” Meadows said
Meadows, the Freedom Caucus chairman, is one of Trump's closest allies on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Democrats on the committee killed the Meadows motion to postpone the hearing, 24 to 17.
Cummings, the Oversight chairman, said, "You've made it clear that you don't want the American people to hear what Cohen has to say...so we're going to proceed."
Russia questions are now fair game, Dem says
Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, tells NBC News that asking Cohen about the Russia investigation is now on the table.
Since Cohen will bring up Russia in his opening statement, specifically Trump adviser Roger Stone, WikiLeaks and the infamous Trump Tower meeting, Connolly said he will ask him about those matters.
That's a change from the previous ground rules established earlier this week in which Russia content would be carved out for the Senate and House intelligence committees to discuss behind closed doors.
Legal analysis: Trump says Cohen is lying to reduce his prison sentence
In a tweet sent from Hanoi on Wednesday, Trump said that Cohen "did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time."
Since Cohen has already been sentenced to three years in prison, could his time be reduced at this point for any reason? Under current Rule 35(b), if the government believes that a sentenced defendant has provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person, it may move the court to reduce the original sentence; ordinarily, the motion must be filed within one year of sentencing.
However, based on the committee's parameters for the hearing, nothing Cohen is expected to say to lawmakers would reduce his sentence under federal law.
Flashback: Trump says Wikileaks more than 140 times in the month before 2016 election
With Cohen's prepared testimony offering new claims on Trump and WikiLeaks, here's a flashback to the president saying "WikiLeaks" more than 140 times in the final weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
Which lawmakers may provide the fireworks during Cohen's high-profile hearing
Perhaps no committee packs a fuller roster of fiery lawmakers than the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Those firebrand lawmakers will, on Wednesday, have the opportunity to grill Cohen in his much-anticipated public hearing.
In addition to Chairman Elijah Cummings, a veteran of the panel who will be running his first nationally televised hearing, a number of prominent Democrats will get to take turns questioning Cohen, a star witness to appear before the group.
Among those Democrats are freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — three rising figures in the party. For Ocasio-Cortez, who has proven to be a viral sensation since defeating incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley last year, the hearing will be her first nationally televised appearance as a member of the committee.
Other Democrats to watch include Reps. Jackie Speier, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Peter Welch, who also sit on the House Intelligence Committee — a panel Cohen has previously testified to and will again on Thursday in a closed session. Meanwhile, Rep. John Sarbanes, who chairs the Democracy Reform Task Force, is likely to pepper Cohen with questions on ethics and possible corruption.
For Republicans, the committee includes some of Trump's staunchest allies. Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee's ranking member, and Rep. Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus chairman, will likely question Cohen over his admitted lies and seek to drive home the idea that he cannot be trusted.
Republicans put up posters with anti-Cohen quotes in hearing room
Spotted in the hearing room — Republicans putting up posters with quotes critical of Cohen from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and Judge William Pauley, the U.S. District Court judge in the Southern District of New York who sentenced the former Trump lawyer.
1) “Mr Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass.” - Judge Pauley
2) “Cohen plead guilty to a verticals smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct ...”
3) “[Cohen] expected to be given a prominent role and title in the new administration ...”
Legal analysis: What the checks Cohen is proving Congress could mean
According to his prepared statement, Cohen is providing "a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account – after he became president - to reimburse [Cohen] for the hush money payments [Cohen] made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign."
While there's an argument that pre-office activity is not impeachable, the framers of the U.S. Constitution originally suggested that corruption of the electoral college process was an exception and an impeachable pre-office act. But, the case for impeachment becomes much easier if a president continued the criminal enterprise after he was in office.
What's a fixer do, anyway?: Inside Cohen's world
As Trump's fixer, Michael Cohen's job was to make difficulties disappear. Ed Hayes, a legendary New York fixer, describes how he makes problems go away.
Cohen will claim Trump frequently dissed Don Jr.
Cohen, in a draft of his opening statement opening statement, claimed his former boss didn't exactly hold his eldest son in the highest regard.
"Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world," Cohen will say, according in the prepared statement.
The remark comes in a section where Cohen discusses the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between high-ranking members of the Trump campaign, the president's inner circle and Russians. Trump Jr. helped arrange the meeting, where the Trump camp believed it would be getting damaging information on then-presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Cohen claims, according to the draft of his remarks, that Trump Jr. told his father about the meeting: "Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk – which in itself was unusual. People didn’t just walk behind Mr. Trump’s desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: 'The meeting is all set.' I remember Mr. Trump saying, 'Ok good...let me know.'"
Cohen said Trump Jr. "would never set up any meeting of any significance alone – and certainly not without checking with his father."
Trump Jr. responded in a Wednesday morning tweet, saying: "Only Democrats could hate someone so much that they would try to disrupt nuclear peace talks with testimony from a convicted felon."
Ari Melber: Cohen's evidence will push hearing beyond just a 'he said, he said' situation
MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber gives his legal perspective going into the hearing. With the documentation Cohen plans to provide Congress, Melber said, the hearing's end result "will not just be a 'he said, he said.'"
Melber also addressed a controversial tweet from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fl., Tuesday night targeting Cohen that some said amounted to witness tampering. Gaetz, who is not on the House Oversight Committee, has since deleted the tweet and apologized for it.
2013 Trump tweet resurfaces as result of Cohen draft testimony
A 2013 Trump tweet was unearthed Wednesday morning in response to a section of Cohen's prepared remarks to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In a draft of his prepared remarks obtained by NBC News, Cohen said he will provide the committee with a news article Trump wrote on and sent Cohen that reported on an auction of a portrait of Trump.
"Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event," Cohen wrote. "The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself."
Here's the tweet:
Trump and Cohen, a history
For more than a decade, Cohen worked for Trump as an attorney and top official at the Trump Organization. He could be seen by businessman's side on the 2016 campaign trail, serving as a surrogate on TV, and battling reporters who were readying unfavorable stories on the then-GOP candidate.
He pledged total loyalty and was hoping to get a job in the administration when Trump won. That did not pan out.
Instead, he stayed behind in New York as Trump went to Washington. Then, last January, The Wall Street Journal first reported on a hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen had provided weeks before the 2016 election in order to keep her quiet about her allegation of an affair more than a decade ago. The White House denied it.
Within months, federal agents conducted raids on Cohen's home, office, and hotel. Trump was furious, but the two stood by each other. That only lasted so long. Facing immense prison time and mounting legal costs, Cohen began cooperating with federal prosecutors.
After Cohen pleaded guilty to a litany of federal felonies in August — including two campaign-finance violations stemming from hush payments he facilitated to two women to silence their allegations of affairs with Trump prior to the 2016 presidential election and, Cohen claimed, boost Trump's candidacy, Trump went on the attack.
"If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!" Trump tweeted.
Trump and his legal team began slamming Cohen as a liar whose word couldn't be trusted. Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress — something that will be a focal point of his Wednesday hearing.
Here are the two $35,000 checks Cohen will provide Congress
Cohen, according to his prepared remarks, will provide the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform with a pair of $35,000 checks he received in 2017 that he says were reimbursements for the $130,000 hush money payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 election.
The payment was made to keep Daniels silent about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump, an affair the White House has vehemently denied.
Here are images of the two checks, one of which is signed by Trump. The other is signed by Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son, and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg:
Cohen arrives on Capitol Hill early
Cohen arrived over an hour early. The testimony is expected to begin at 10 a.m ET, and expected to last at least six hours. Cohen did not speak to reporters on his way into the hearing holding room.
What Cohen will say in his prepared remarks
NBC News obtained a draft of Cohen's opening remarks this morning. According to his prepared statement, he'll tell House Oversight members that Trump knew in advance that WikiLeaks was going to release hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign — among other things.
Cohen will also allege that the president not only lied about his ongoing efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the election but urged Cohen to lie about them without directly saying so, the draft says.
But it is Cohen's description of a conversation between Trump and longtime adviser Roger Stone days before WikiLeaks released a trove of DNC emails on the eve of the 2016 Democratic National Convention that represents the biggest new allegation.
How Republicans plan to question Cohen
Republicans will seek to make Cohen's hearing about one thing: Why the heck should this guy be trusted?
Though Republicans are in the minority on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, there are a few members who are among Trump's staunchest allies, including Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows.
Jordan, the committee's ranking member, said in a statement last week that he would "not stand by quietly while an admitted liar comes before the Committee."
"Our Members intend to question Mr. Cohen about the crimes he pleaded guilty to, other criminal activity he participated in but refused to disclose, his international financial dealings, and a long list of other probative activities," he said.
Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress — the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be exact — about negotiations surrounding the Trump Tower Moscow project. Cohen said he did this to align with Trump's narrative about Russian business dealings.
Cohen's rocky road to testifying
Cohen's road back to Capitol Hill — he spent hours in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday — has been marked by delays.
Here's a look back at the saga of getting a key witness in the investigations encircling Trump to testify publicly before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Jan. 8: The committee launches an investigation into Trump and his failure to report payments used to silence women, who had alleged affairs with Trump, during the 2016 campaign.
Jan. 10: Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., the chairman of the House oversight committee, announces that Cohen voluntarily agreed to testify before the committee on Feb. 7.
Jan. 12: Trump calls into Fox News' Justice with Jeanine Pirro and suggested without evidence that Cohen's father-in-law was involved in criminal activity.
Jan. 13: Cummings and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House intelligence committee, issue a joint statement condemning the president for attempting to "intimidate" Cohen not to testify.
Jan. 20: Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani also suggested without evidence in a CNN appearance that Cohen's father-in-law may have ties to "organized crime.”
Jan. 23: Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis releases a statement announcing Cohen would delay his planned Feb. 7 testimony before the committee, citing “threats against his family” from Trump and his supporters. That same day, Cummings agrees to postpone and, in a joint statement with Schiff, blasts Trump and Giuliani for using "textbook mob tactics" to "intimidate" Cohen.
Feb. 20: In a statement, Cummings announces that Cohen's testimony is back on for Feb. 27 "despite efforts by some to intimidate his family members and prevent him from appearing." Cummings said the scope of Cohen’s public testimony would be limited to Trump's “payoffs, financial disclosures, compliance with campaign finance laws, business practices, and other matters."
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