When Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen appeared before Congress on Wednesday, Republicans were quick to paint him as a disgruntled employee, a liar, a bad lawyer, and an obvious attention-seeker trying to smear his old boss for personal gain.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to a litany of financial crimes — as well as lying to Congress about the timeline of a Trump Tower project in Moscow — and will begin serving a three-year prison sentence in May. The Democrat-led House Oversight Committee, however, called him in Wednesday to face questions about the president’s attempts to conceal his own financial and personal matters from the public.
During testimony, Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, repeatedly highlighted Cohen’s history of lying and scheming for his own personal financial gain, asking if he had a book or movie deal, in a series of tense exchanges.
“This might be the first time someone convicted of lying to Congress has appeared so quickly again in front of Congress,” Jordan said in his opening statements Wednesday.
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who chairs the committee, also mentioned that Cohen has repeatedly lied in the past and noted it’s important to weigh his credibility. But a humbled Cohen explained that he essentially had nothing to lose — he’d already admitted to lying to Congress and heads to prison in a matter of months.
Cohen also brought documents to back up several of his allegations against the president, including a check signed by Donald Trump Jr. to reimburse Cohen for the hush money he paid to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who claimed to have had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006.
“Today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me,” Cohen told the committee in his prepared remarks. “I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.”
Here are some of the more notable arguments Republicans attempted to use to discredit Cohen:
The next chapter
Republicans repeatedly questioned whether Cohen was speaking out publicly to redeem his image and achieve a lucrative book or movie deal once he leaves prison. Cohen confirmed he’s been approached about doing a book but nothing’s been finalized yet.
Rep. Carol Miller, a Republican of West Virginia, said the “new angle” of a supposed Cohen-authored book could “please new fans,” since he’s now speaking out against Trump.
“It pains me that we are sitting here adding another chapter to his book,” Miller said.
Rep. Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican, also questioned Cohen about a book or movie deal. When Cohen said he didn't have one, Green wouldn't give up.
"How are you going to make money?" Green asked Cohen.
Cohen responded: "I won't be making money. I'll be in federal prison."
Republicans also hammered on the fact that Cohen has pleaded guilty to financial crimes and had financial relationships with companies like the drugmaker Novartis. Cohen made a $1.2 million deal consulting deal with drugmaker shortly after Trump was inaugurated. Novartis, however, said Cohen wasn’t able to provide access to the administration, particularly regarding how the Trump administration might approach reforming the Affordable Care Act.
Meadows also criticized Cohen for saying on a disclosure form ahead of the hearing that he didn’t have any relationships with foreign entities, when Novartis is a Switzerland-based company.
“I currently have no foreign contracts,” Cohen said.
Jordan accused Cohen of being upset because he wasn’t employed in the White House after the election and noted that prosecutors with Southern District of New York also characterized Cohen that way.
“How long did you work in the White House?” Jordan asked Cohen.
“I never worked in the White House” Cohen responded.
“And that’s the point, isn’t it?”
“No sir,” Cohen said, as their voices grew louder.
“Yes it is,” Jordan countered.
“You wanted to work in the White House, but you didn’t get brought to the dance.”
Cohen responded that he never wanted a job in the White House, despite being offered a position. But several outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal, have reported that Cohen had wanted to be Trump’s chief of staff.
“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, Donald Trump’s son, wrote in a tweet Wednesday.
“Liar, liar pants on fire”
About an hour into Cohen’s testimony, Republicans brought out a poster calling the disbarred attorney a “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
“No one should ever listen to you,” Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, told Cohen, referencing the poster. Gosar also accused Cohen of violating attorney-client privilege with Trump. When Cohen tried to interject, Gosar yelled at him: “Hey! This is my time.”
Cohen countered that Gosar and other Republicans were being overly partisan.
“It’s that sort of behavior that I’m responsible for. I’m responsible for your silliness,” Cohen said.
But Gosar wasn’t the only Republican who called Cohen a liar to his face.
“Everything has been made of your lies in the past. I’m concerned about your lies today,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina.
Cover image: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, center, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform talks with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., right, during testimony by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)