Michael Cohen's highly anticipated hearing opened with fireworks as lawmakers argued over whether President Trump's "fixer" and former personal lawyer's testimony should be postponed. After several heated discussions — and a committee vote — the hearing continued.
During his opening statement Wednesday morning, Cohen claimed the president was a "conman" and said he regretted his "blind loyalty" to Trump over the past decade. Cohen has since turned on his former boss and apologized to U.S. citizens, saying in a courtroom in December that they "deserve to know the truth."
"Mr. Trump called me a 'rat' for choosing to tell the truth, much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government," Cohen said Wednesday, adding that Trump has also "attacked" him on Twitter.
Cohen agreed to take a plea deal to avoid what could have been a lengthy prison sentence, pleading guilty to charges of tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution and making an excessive campaign contribution. He also was ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution and a $50,000 fine, and forfeit $500,000. He was stripped of his law license in New York as he headed to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress on Feb. 27.
When Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., asked Cohen how many times Trump asked him to threaten others on his behalf, the disgraced ex-lawyer said "quite a few."
Over a period of 10 years, Cohen then claimed Trump asked him at least 500 times or so.
“And when you say threaten, I’m talking about litigation or an argument with a nasty reporter that is writing an article," he then clarified.
"Me or the president?"
"You're a pathological liar!" Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. , declared during the hours-long hearing. "You don't know truth from falsehood."
Cohen then interrupted, "Sir, I'm sorry, are you referring to me or the president?"
"Are you referring to me or the president?" he repeated with a large grin, as Gosar scolded that it was "[his] time."
"Shame on you"
Cohen and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-O.H., the ranking Republican on the committee, clashed several times throughout the hearing.
During his allotted time, Jordan accused Cohen of not taking responsibility for committing bank fraud and said his remorse is "nonexistent" as he read part of the federal prosecutors' sentencing memo.
"Mr. Jordan, that's not what I said. And you know that that's not what I said," Cohen then argued. "I said that I pled guilty and I take responsibility for my actions ... Shame on you, Mr. Jordan. That's not what I said. Shame on you."
Cohen then said he "takes responsibility" for his "mistakes."
"Before you turn around and cast more dispersion, please understand, there are people watching today that know me a whole lot better," he continued.
A book deal?
Since Cohen was recently disbarred, Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., asked the former lawyer where his next source of income would come from.
"I don't expect I'm going to have a source of income when I'm in federal penitentiary," replied Cohen.
"Is there a book deal coming or anything like that?" Green asked.
Cohen then confirmed there isn't a book deal in the works, though he admits he's been approached by TV and film producers.
"I have been contacted by many ... if you want to tell me who you'd like to play you I'm more than happy to write the name down," Cohen responded in a serious tone.
According to The Daily Beast, Cohen met with a handful of publishers last spring with a book proposal detailing his experience serving under Trump, particularly during the 2016 presidential election. But sources later told The Daily Beast that the deal fell through.
Later in the hearing, Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., pushed Cohen on whether or not he would ever pursue a book or movie deal.
"Can you commit, under oath, that you have not and will not pursue a book or movie deal based on your experiences working for the president?" Foxx asked.
"No," Cohen replied, later clarifying that he has discussed a potential book deal in the past.
"I said can you commit under oath that you ... will not pursue a book deal?" Foxx then asked.
"I would not do that, no," Cohen said, though he said he couldn't promise he wouldn't pursue opportunities to provide commentary to a major news network or a potential policial run in New York.
Cohen claims Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
In prepared testimony submitted to the committee, Cohen alleges he was in Trump's office in July 2016 when longtime adviser Roger Stone called the president. Trump then put Stone on speakerphone and Stone told him he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that "within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage" Clinton's campaign, Cohen said.
"Wouldn't that be great," replied Trump, according to Cohen.
"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 ... The answer is yes."
That month, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee's server.
"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 said in the prepared testimony. "The answer is yes."
Stone has been indicted on charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. He has not been charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks and he vehemently denies he had any communication with Assange before the email dump.
“There is no such evidence,” Stone told Fox News in a text message on Feb.15. Again, on Feb. 27, Stone said Cohen's claims were "not true."
A call to postpone
As the House hearing was underway, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows slammed Cohen for a clear "violation of the rules" since the testimony wasn't turned in to lawmakers until the night before.
"If it was not intentional I would not have a problem," Meadows argued, saying it was "evident" Cohen was advised to withhold his statement.
"It was advice that our witness got for this particular body ... we should not stand for it as a body," he added.
Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, agreed the evidence wasn't provided in time.
“CNN had it before we did—they had the exhibits before we did,” Jordan said, adding "this is the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness in a hearing."
Meadows then made a motion to postpone the hearing. Lawmakers, in a recorded vote, agreed to reject the motion and the hearing resumed.
This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.
Fox News' Alex Pappas, Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.