By Samuel Chamberlain
Published January 10, 2019
Michael Cohen, President Trump's onetime personal attorney, is set to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7, almost exactly one month before he must report to prison to begin serving time for campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress about Trump’s past business dealings in Russia.
In a statement, Cohen said he accepted the invitation to appear from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee's chairman, "[i]n furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers."
Cohen added: "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."
Cummings said the committee was "in the process of consulting with Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller's office" to ensure that Cohen's scheduled testimony would not interfere with the ongoing investigation into interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he welcomed Cohen's agreement to testify, but added it would be "necessary ... 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."
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the ranking member of the oversight committee, dismissed Cohen's scheduled appearance as "political theater."
"The Democrats' star witness has admitted to providing intentionally false and misleading testimony to Congress. He is also a witness in ongoing law-enforcement matters, including Special Counsel Mueller's probe," said Jordan, adding "This makes clear that Chairman Cummings and the Democrats will do whatever it takes to attack this President."
A federal judge last month sentenced Cohen to three years in prison, following a dramatic hearing at which Cohen said he felt it was his duty to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds." Cohen was ordered to report to prison sometime before March 6.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign-finance laws by helping orchestrate payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who said they had sexual encounters with Trump while he was married. Prosecutors have said Cohen did so at Trump's direction. Cohen also acknowledged in the Mueller investigation that he lied to Congress by saying negotiations over a Trump Tower in Moscow had ended in January 2016 when he actually pursued the project into that June, well into Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen's lawyers had requested a lighter sentence, citing their client's cooperation with the special counsel and prosecutors looking into campaign finance violations in New York. But federal prosecutors recommended a “substantial term of imprisonment" for Cohen, saying he "repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends" and claiming that his cooperation with Mueller was "overstated."
Trump has lashed out at Cohen over his cooperation with prosecutors, recently saying Cohen “lied” and deserved to “serve a full and complete sentence.” Trump told reporters in McAllen, Texas, on Thursday that he was "not worried" about Cohen's testimony "at all."
Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani described Cohen to Fox News as "a thoroughly discredited liar," and said he could not imagine why Cummings would want to hear from Cohen. Giuliani added that while he expected House Democrats to call Cohen to testify, he thought they would wait until Mueller had completed his report.
When asked about the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Giuliani told Fox News that "Cohen doesn't know a damn thing about collusion" and added there was "no evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors" in anything that Mueller has made public so far.
Cohen testified before the House intelligence panel in 2017, before his role in the federal investigations was fully known and when Republicans controlled the panel. The GOP-led committee later ended its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, saying there was no evidence of collusion or conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said Cohen "has had in his possession for months a request to return to the Senate Intelligence Committee for additional closed-door testimony, made all the more necessary by Mr. Cohen's indictment and guilty plea for making false statements to Committee investigators.
"The request still stands," Burr added, "regardless of any public testimony Mr. Cohen may give on other issues."
Fox News' Alex Pappas, John Roberts, Jason Donner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.