On Thursday, Jan. 10, The New York Times reported that Michael Cohen is going to testify to Congress. Cohen, President Donald Trump's ex-attorney and longtime confidant, has been cooperating with federal prosecutors for some time. Per the Times, Cohen has now agreed to appear before the House Oversight Committee and provide lawmakers there with "a full and credible account" about his time working for the president. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment about Cohen's agreeing to give testimony as of publication.
"In furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers, I have accepted the invitation by Chairman Elijah Cummings to appear publicly on February 7th before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform," said Cohen in a statement provided to Elite Daily by his spokesperson. "I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired."
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations for making two payments to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, leading up to the 2016 presidential election in exchange for their silence about affairs they alleged having with Trump in the past. Trump and the White House have repeatedly denied that the affairs took place, though he has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payments.
It's not clear exactly what Cohen will testify about, but he may be asked to address critical points leading up to and including Trump's time in office that have become sticking points in multiple investigations and legal cases. Cohen has been working extensively with federal prosecutors, including those in the Southern District of New York as well as with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who's overseeing the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump 2016 campaign. But per The Times, Cummings, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has said that their questions won't interrupt or jeopardize Mueller's work.
"Much to ask [Cohen] beyond hush-money payments/campaign finance crime," Mother Jones' David Corn wrote on Twitter in response to the news. "Cohen can discuss Trump dealings in Russia & reaching out to Putin's office. And so much more. Buckle up."
"This will be something else," Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey chimed in. Whatever the questions are about, as Lawfare executive editor Susan Hennessey theorizes, Cohen's agreement itself may signal that Mueller's investigation is coming to a close.
Rep. Adam Schiff also weighed in on Cohen's anticipated appearance. "Mr. Cohen has expressed an interest in telling his personal story in open session, and we welcome his testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Reform," Schiff said per NPR. "It will be necessary, however, for Mr. Cohen to answer questions pertaining to the Russia investigation, and we hope to schedule a closed session before our committee in the near future."
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is the top dog in the chamber when it comes to investigative power. "It has authority to investigate the subjects within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction as well as 'any matter' within the jurisdiction of the other standing House Committees," reads a description on the committee website. Now, with Democrats back in power in the House, the committee is gearing up for a full schedule of hearings as it embarks on a heavy agenda in the new year.
In a statement released Thursday, Rep. Cummings thanked Cohen for his willingness to testify, and added:
I want to make clear that we have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller's office. The Committee will announce additional information in the coming weeks.
At this point, it's unknown whether Cohen will make any other congressional appearance before his Feb. 7th date, but as the Times notes, the scheduled testimony is likely to be one of many that concern the president and his inner circle.