By Alex Pappas
Published February 26, 2019
The Republican National Committee is telling Michael Cohen, its former deputy finance director who has turned on President Trump, to “have fun in prison” as part of a coordinated war room effort to push back against his expected anti-Trump public testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Fox News was given an exclusive look at the RNC’s planned efforts to fight back against Cohen, who is expected to testify against Trump, his former longtime boss, during a much-anticipated House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday. Cohen is testifying on Capitol Hill for three days this week, though Wednesday’s hearing is the only one that it is public.
Part of the effort is distributing a video titled “Have Fun in Prison!” that includes clips of Cohen previously vouching for Trump during the presidential campaign. Cohen has since pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. Cohen, sentenced to three years, is expected to report to prison in May.
“Convicted felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying, including lies he told under oath to Congress,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News. “This whole charade is not about truth, it is a last ditch effort to save face and cast blame on everyone but himself for his crimes.”
According to a game plan for Cohen’s testimony reviewed by Fox News, the RNC is preparing a war room similar to what the party did when former FBI Director Jim Comey testified against the president on Capitol Hill last year. Ahead of the hearing, the RNC is booking surrogates on television and blasting emails to reporters about Cohen.
Among the talking points being used by the RNC: “Cohen is going to prison for lying under oath to Congress and no one should believe a word he says in his testimony this week.”
“It’s unfortunate Democrats are wasting the public’s time with this established liar in an effort to distract from the historic progress President Trump is making overseas with North Korea,” McDaniel told Fox News.
Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, told the New York Times on Tuesday that Cohen will answer questions about his truthfulness by saying, “I take full responsibility, I lied in the past; now you have to decide if I’m telling the truth.” Davis added that Cohen “worked very hard on this moment to not only tell the truth, but to back it up with documents.”
The national party and Cohen are no strangers: Cohen, after it was revealed he was under criminal investigation, resigned his top fundraising role with the RNC last year. Before Trump was elected president, Cohen worked as Trump’s personal lawyer and counselor and was seen as a loyal soldier to him.
According to a recent memo sent out by committee staff, Cohen's appearance before the House oversight panel will concern various financial issues related to the 2016 presidential campaign, including payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal that federal prosecutors in New York say were directed by Trump. A person with knowledge of Cohen’s planned testimony before the House Oversight Committee told the Wall Street Journal that Cohen will publicly accuse Trump of criminal conduct in relation to the hush-money payments.
The hearing will also examine whether Trump has complied with campaign finance and tax laws, his ties to the Trump International Hotel in Washington and "potential and actual conflicts of interest."
As he entered a hearing room on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Cohen did not answer questions from reporters about why he should be trusted. But after pleading guilty last year, Cohen expressed regret for his work under Trump and said “blind loyalty” to Trump led him “to take a path of darkness instead of light.”
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.