By lunchtime in Washington, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley had yet to hear “one word” of televised testimony from Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney who on Wednesday publicly accused the president of being a “racist,” a “conman" and a "cheat."
Even so, the Iowa Republican cast doubt over what Cohen was telling the House Oversight Committee, saying “he’s lied to Congress before.”
“If there’s some sort of evidence of any sort of wrongdoing … he ought to turn it over to the Congress — and if he did that, I’d be interested in reviewing it,” Grassley said Wednesday afternoon as the hearing was still underway. “But I happen to be very skeptical that there’s much of substance or else I think that he would’ve received a better plea agreement than he did from the prosecutors and wouldn’t have been going to jail.”
The senator’s comments came amid a dramatic day of testimony before the U.S. House Oversight Committee, where a panel of lawmakers grilled Cohen about his assertion that the president had knowledge of a conspiracy to release internal Democratic National Committee emails and a slew of other accusations.
Cohen has pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to members Congress about a potential development deal in Russia and, separately, for violating campaign finance laws among other financial crimes. He appeared before Wednesday’s House panel “to correct the record,” saying at several points that he was ashamed of having lied for and worked alongside Trump.
“I hope my appearance here today, my guilty plea, and my work with law enforcement agencies are steps along a path of redemption that will restore faith in me and help this country understand our president better,” Cohen said from prepared remarks.
Democrats on the committee largely homed in on Cohen’s accusations over a Russia skyscraper deal and the DNC email leak. They also underlined hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels for a cover-up of an alleged extra-marital affair.
Meanwhile, Republicans sought to paint Cohen as untrustworthy, pointing to his recent financial problems, earlier false testimony before Congress and questions about whether Cohen was seeking to profit off a book deal.
“He’s a fake witness and his presence here is a travesty,” said Rep. Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican.
Republican Rep. Carol Miller of West Virginia called the hearing a “political game” led by Democrats “with the sole purpose” of discrediting the president, saying it was not in the best interest of the American people.
“How can we believe anything you say?” Miller asked Cohen. “The answer is, we can’t.”