Cummings Presides Over Michael Cohen Circus
House Oversight and Reform Chair Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) presided over the hottest political spectacle on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
President Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, delivered scathing testimony to the packed hearing room, in which he called Trump a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat.”
Cohen, who’s facing a federal prison sentence for lying to Congress, assured skeptical lawmakers that his testimony Wednesday would be truthful, and that he was done lying to try to protect the president.
Among his most explosive accusations: Trump knew beforehand about the WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen also produced documents that he said back up claims that Trump, while president, reimbursed Cohen for “hush money” used to pay an adult film star with whom Trump had had an affair.
The hearing marked a pivotal moment for Cummings, who ascended to the chairmanship of the powerful oversight panel just last month. Cummings said Cohen’s testimony raises troubling new concerns about Trump’s actions in the White House.
Republicans, meanwhile, questioned the credibility of both Cohen and Cummings.
The hearing kicked off with Republicans demanding to postpone the proceedings, arguing that Cohen’s testimony hadn’t been provided far enough in advance. Democrats shot down that effort, allowing the hearing to go forward.
“I want everyone in this room to think about this, the first announced witness for the 116th Congress is a guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the committee.
“Mr. Chairman, your chairmanship will always be identified with this hearing,” Jordan told Cummings. “When we legitimize dishonesty, we delegitimize this institution. We’re supposed to pursue the truth, but you have stacked the deck against the truth.”
Cummings argued that Americans have the right to hear Cohen’s perspective.
“They can watch Mr. Cohen’s testimony and make their own judgment,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are in search of the truth.”
Robin Bravender is Washington bureau chief of States Newsroom.