Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen will testify publicly to House Oversight Committee before entering prison

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen will testify at the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7.
  • Cohen is due to begin a three-year prison term in March for a range of crimes, including those related to Trump.
  • Cohen admitted facilitating payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, in exchange for their silence about alleged affairs with Trump.
  • He also admitted lying to Congress about the extent of Trump's involvement in an aborted plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, exits federal court, November 29, 2018 in New York City. 
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Donald Trump, has agreed to testify publicly before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February — a month before he will begin to serve a three-year prison sentence for a range of crimes, including those related to Trump.

Cohen said his planned Feb. 7 appearance in an open session of the House committee is voluntary.

The testimony will give him the opportunity "to give a full and credible account of the events that have transpired," Cohen said.

When asked about Cohen's planned testimony, Trump said, "I'm not worried about it at all."

The hearing will come 2½ months after Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about details of an aborted Trump real estate project in Moscow.

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sentenced for Stormy Daniels case, Russia project and other crimes
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sentenced for Stormy Daniels case, Russia project and other crimes

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the Oversight Committee's chairman, announced Cohen would testify. Later, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that "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 last week came under the control of the new Democratic majority, which has vowed to use its power to investigate a range of controversies involving Trump and his administration.

Cohen's decision to testify before the Oversight Committee is the latest example of his radical transformation from a hardcore Trump loyalist who once said he would be willing to "take a bullet" for the president to a harsh critic of and significant legal threat to Trump.

Cohen, 52, had worked as Trump's lawyer for years when the president was a real estate developer in New York and star of "The Apprentice" reality television show.

His association with Trump began unraveling last April, when FBI agents raided his office and residences in Manhattan, seizing evidence that led to his guilty pleas to a raft of federal crimes months later.

In his full statement released Thursday by his attorney Lanny Davis, Cohen said: "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."

"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 said.

Cummings said, "I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily."

Trump underreported payments to Cohen in disclosures, a potential violation
Trump underreported payments to Cohen in disclosures, a potential violation

"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 [Robert] Mueller's office," Cummings added. "The Committee will announce additional information in the coming weeks."

Cummings said he sent letters to the White House and the Trump Organization earlier this week to renew his request of four months ago for documents related to "Trump's apparent failure to report debts and payments to Mr. Cohen to silence women alleging extramarital affairs with the President before the election."

"Those documents are now due on January 22, 2019," Cummings said.

Cummings said last month he wanted Cohen to testify, predicting that if Cohen did so it would be a "watershed moment" akin to the 1973 testimony by White House counsel John Dean at Watergate hearings that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Cohen has met with investigators from Mueller's office since August.

Mueller is investigating possible collusion by Trump's campaign with Russians who interfered in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by the president. Trump denies any wrongdoing by him or his campaign.

Mueller has said that Cohen gave the special counsel's team "information about attempts by other Russian nationals to reach" Trump's presidential campaign as far back as November 2015.

Cohen also has met with other authorities investigating the president, the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation charity.

When he was sentenced in December, Cohen said his "own weakness and a blind loyalty to" Trump had "led me to choose a path of darkness over light."

"Time and again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds," Cohen said in federal court in Manhattan, where he was ordered to begin serving his three-year prison stint on March 6.

He remains free on bail.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight charges lodged by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, including tax crimes, lying to banks and violating campaign finance laws.

The campaign crimes related to hush-money payments Cohen facilitated for two women — porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — shortly before the 2016 presidential election to keep them from publicizing their claims of having had affairs with Trump a decade earlier. The White House has denied he had sex with either woman.

Cohen said that Trump directed him to have the payments made to Daniels, who was paid by Cohen, and to McDougal, who was paid by the Trump-friendly publisher of The National Enquirer.

The financial crimes related to Cohen's taxi medallions business, consulting work and residential mortgages.

In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to a charge brought by Mueller of lying to Congress in written statements about an unsuccessful effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Cohen had falsely claimed that the Moscow project died in early 2016, when in fact the effort was continuing until at least June 2016 — when Trump was about to lock up the Republican nomination for president.

Trump's current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said the effort may have actually continued until November 2016 — the month of the election.

Trump claimed last November that Cohen was "lying" about him in an effort to "get a reduced sentence."

"He's a weak person and not a very smart person," Trump said.

Former FBI Director James Comey slams Republicans
Former FBI Director James Comey slams Republicans

Earlier this week, criminal defense lawyers for Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort accidentally disclosed in a court document that Mueller has claimed Manafort lied to the special counsel's office about having shared campaign polling data with an accused Russian spy in 2016.

At the time that purported sharing occurred, Russia was allegedly engaged in a wide-ranging effort to bolster Trump's candidacy, including the use of bogus social media accounts.

Manafort also had met with that spy in Madrid and discussed a possible peace plan for Ukraine with him, according to Manafort's lawyers.

The alleged spy, Konstantin Kilimnik, had worked for Manafort for years.

Manafort pleaded guilty last year to crimes related to his work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

His plea deal in that case required him to cooperate with Mueller's inquiry, and to not lie.

Mueller accused Manafort last fall of violating the deal by misleading the special counsel's team.

Manafort is being held in jail without bail awaiting sentencing.

Correction: This story was revised to delete an incorrect reference to when Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.