Cohen’s explosive testimony limits damage for Trump

World Today

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, reads an opening statement as he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Donald Trump’s former lawyer has torn into the President on the most public stage in the United States. Michael Cohen’s testimony was electrifying.

But he offered no evidence against Trump over the most damaging allegation the U.S. president faces: collusion with Russia.

CGTN’s Owen Fairclough reports.

The man who once said he’d take a bullet for Donald Trump let his former client have it on the biggest public stage.

Cohen told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform: “I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.” 

A self-confessed liar, Cohen repeatedly accused Trump of spinning lie after lie and contradicted the President’s denials of prior knowledge about WikiLeaks’ plans to release emails damaging his election rival Hillary Clinton. 

See the documents Cohen brought to his hearing and read our notes about what they represent

“A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time,” Cohen read from his prepared testimony.

“The answer is yes.”This was a key moment because the U.S. suspects Russia hacked those emails to help Trump – it forms the basis of the Robert Mueller Russia collusion inquiry.

Cohen has been helping investigators in exchange for a reduced prison sentence for breaking campaign finance laws – allegedly at Trump’s direction – and for lying to Congress about Trump’s business interests in Russia. And armed with evidence, including check receipts, to support his allegations, Cohen insisted he was now motivated by civic duty.

“I have done some real soul-searching,” he said.”I see now that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with the bad decisions I made. To our nation, I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.”

But Trump loyalists suggested Cohen was merely a disgruntled employee.

Republican lawmaker Jim Jordan said: “I see a guy who worked for ten years and trashing the guy he worked for ten years. Didn’t get a job at the White House. And now you’re behaving just like everyone else who got fired or didn’t get the job they wanted.”

Trump may be on the other side of the world in Vietnam negotiating with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, but he still found time to defend himself, tweeting that Cohen “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

And during that hearing, Cohen was the number one worldwide trend on Twitter. But even with a global audience, the damage to Trump may be limited.

Cohen said he has no direct evidence of Trump or his campaign colluding with Russia to win the election— key testimony as the Mueller inquiry prepares to submit its report attempting to answer that explosive allegation.