House Republicans launched a short-lived attempt Wednesday to delay Michael Cohen’s public hearing before the House Oversight Committee, over the late release of testimony and evidence.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., led the bid to delay Cohen’s testimony, saying President Trump’s former lawyer and his legal team ignored rules calling for documents and records to be available at least 24 hours in advance.
Cohen's testimony was turned over the night before the hearing, while documents were made available the morning of the hearing.
"Committee rules require witnesses to provide their testimony to Congress 24 hours in advance of a hearing. We know that rule was intentionally violated, as an adviser of Mr. Cohen's felt the need to go on CNN last night and explicitly state his suggestion that Mr. Cohen 'hold his statement' as long as possible 'so the other side can't chew it up,'" Meadows said. "Lo and behold, we didn't get Mr. Cohen's statement till 11:00 p.m. last night and didn't receive any of the 'evidence' until this morning."
He added: "Today's hearing is in explicit violation of the rules. It should be postponed immediately."
Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also argued that the evidence and exhibits were not given to the minority staff at a reasonable time.
“CNN had it before we did—they had the exhibits before we did,” Jordan said, later adding that "this is the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness in a hearing."
Cohen provided his prepared opening statement late Tuesday night to the committee’s majority staff, according to Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who said he shared it with the committee Republicans.
After a recorded vote, the motion failed, and the hearing proceeded.
Cohen went on to testify that Trump is a "racist, a con man, and a cheat." Cohen also is testifying that Trump knew that adviser Roger Stone was reaching out to WikiLeaks concerning the publication of stolen Democratic National Committee emails but apparently will not claim Trump directed those communications. Cohen also is expected to say that he lacks direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—a significant admission, given Cohen’s longtime status as the president’s former top lawyer and fixer.
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about a Trump real estate project in Russia as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates.
The guilty plea was related directly to his August 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, giving lawmakers a “false” description of the Moscow Project. Cohen also testified, at the time, that all communications with Russia regarding the project ended in January 2016, prior to the Iowa Caucuses—the first contest in the presidential race—but later admitted communications continued through June 2016 when Trump became the Republican nominee.
Cohen is slated to report to prison in May to serve three years time.
Cohen has been under criminal investigation as part of a grand jury probe into his personal business dealings, including his tax business and bank fraud, since April, when the FBI raided his home, office, and hotel room to seize a collection of documents as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s criminal probe.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution. The excessive campaign contribution was regarding the $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged one-time sexual encounter with Trump.
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and Gregg Re contributed to this report.