Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen back in Congress for third day of testimony

Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, arrives for a closed hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen was testifying in Congress again on Thursday, one day after a dramatic appearance during which he accused his longtime boss of being a racist, conman and cheat.

Unlike Wednesday’s nationally televised testimony, Cohen’s appearance on Thursday before the House Intelligence Committee is being held behind closed doors.

It is the third straight day before a congressional committee for the 52-year-old New Yorker, who first addressed a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

During five hours of gruelling testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee the following day, Cohen painted a damning picture of Trump as an inveterate liar who engaged in possibly illegal conduct while in office.

Cohen, who is to report to prison on May 6 to begin serving a three-year sentence for fraud, tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress, expressed regret for his years of devoted service to Trump.

Cohen said Trump directed him to lie about hush payments made to a porn actress to silence her claims of a 2006 affair with the real estate tycoon.

He said Trump knew in advance in mid-2016 that WikiLeaks would publish emails stolen from rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign by the Russians.

And Cohen asserted that lawyers for Trump and his family reviewed and edited his written testimony to Congress in 2017 in which he lied about a Moscow real estate deal that was negotiated through the 2016 presidential election.

But Cohen’s testimony produced no fresh evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia during the election, the subject of an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Cohen had “provided the American public with a first-hand account of serious misconduct by Trump & those around him.”

Schiff said Thursday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing will “examine in depth many of those topics” including plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow, WikiLeaks and “any (White House) role in Cohen’s false statements to Congress.”

Speaking in Vietnam after a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump sought to discredit Cohen, saying his former lawyer and fixer had “lied a lot” – although not about “one thing.”

“He said, no collusion with the Russian hoax,” Trump said. “And I said, I wonder why he didn’t lie about that, too, like everything else.”

The president did not address any of Cohen’s specific, explosive allegations about his decade of working with Trump.

On Thursday two Republicans on the House Oversight Committee said they had petitioned the Justice Department to investigate Cohen for perjury.

They alleged that he lied in Wednesday’s testimony about a Twitter account set up for him two years ago, about his alleged desire to get a job in the Trump White House, and about whether he had committed bank fraud in the past.

In a statement, Trump’s lawyer Lanny Davis rejected their claims.

“Mr. Cohen testified truthfully before the House Oversight Committee…. He also backed up much of his testimony with documents,” Davis said, calling the complaint “baseless.”