President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer was scheduled to appear before a congressional committee looking into the president’s business dealings—a hearing that has the potential to be hugely embarrassing for Trump.
Michael Cohen’s February 27 appearance before the House Oversight and Reform Committee is one of three before congressional panels this week, but the only one that will be open to the public.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations that involved so-called “hush money” paid to two women who say they had affairs with Trump.
Under U.S. law, if Trump’s money was used to pay the women, or if he directed that happen during an election cycle, it could be considered a campaign contribution that must be disclosed. Not disclosing it would be a felony.
Cohen has also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in a separate case, where he revealed more extensive negotiations between the Trump organization and Russian developers, to build a skyscraper in Moscow, than had been previously thought.
Cohen worked for years as Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer,” and famously said once that he would "take a bullet" for Trump.
The February 27 hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee is expected to focus on Trump’s business practices and compliance with tax law. Trump has extensive real estate holdings, golf courses, and other investments in New York and around the world.
Trump’s ties to Russia—which is the focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation—will not be directly discussed.
In a statement issued February 26, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders repeated past statements accusing Cohen of being a liar.
It’s "laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies,” she said.
Russia is expected to be the focus of the House Intelligence hearing on February 28, as well as the Senate hearing that occurred February 26.
In a sign of the intense congressional interest in Cohen, several senators from the Senate Intelligence Committee attended the February 26 closed-door session. Typically, only staffers are in attendance for such events.
The House and Senate intelligence committee have been two of the leading congressional panels looking into Trump’s Russia ties. The House committee’s efforts have gained new momentum with the Democratic takeover of the House in last November’s elections.
Cohen is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence in May, based on his earlier guilty pleas.