Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member, questions Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, as he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Feb. 27, 2019. (Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times)
Photo: SARAH SILBIGER
Photo: SARAH SILBIGER

Local Congressman Jim Jordan, ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen spar at hearing

Cohen calls president a ‘racist and a ‘conman.’ Jordan calls Cohen a ‘felon’ and a ‘cheat.’

Jordan, the newly–minted ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee tasked with providing oversight to the Trump administration, teamed up with fellow conservative Mark Meadows of North Carolina to dominate Republican questioning of Cohen, formerly Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer who has pleaded guilty to financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. Cohen is heading to prison in May.

“This might be the first time someone convicted of lying to Congress has appeared again so quickly in front of the Congress,” Jordan said during a contentious, hours-long hearing. “Surely, it’s the first time a convicted perjurer was brought back to be a star witness in a hearing.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s Democratic chairman, sternly reminded Cohen of his past lies and warned him at the outset: “We will not tolerate lying to this Congress.”

Republican after Republican ceded the time they’d been given to question Cohen to Jordan, a seven-term congressman from Urbana whose district includes Champaign, Shelby, Logan, Auglaize and part of Mercer counties.

Jordan, in turn, grilled Cohen at length, lambasted Democrats and called Cohen the Democrats’ “patsy,” saying “they’ve got to find somebody somewhere to say something so they can try to remove the president from office.”

His attacks delved in the deeply personal. At one point, he called Cohen “a fraudster, a cheat, a convicted felon and in two months, a federal inmate.”

PAST STORY: Does Paul Ryan’s retirement help Jim Jordan?

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s Democratic chairman, sternly reminded Cohen of his past lies and warned him at the outset: “We will not tolerate lying to this Congress.”

Republican after Republican ceded the time they’d been given to question Cohen to Jordan, a seven-term congressman from Urbana whose district includes Champaign, Shelby, Logan, Auglaize and part of Mercer counties.

Jordan, in turn, grilled Cohen at length, lambasted Democrats and called Cohen the Democrats’ “patsy,” saying “they’ve got to find somebody somewhere to say something so they can try to remove the president from office.”

His attacks delved in the deeply personal. At one point, he called Cohen “a fraudster, a cheat, a convicted felon and in two months, a federal inmate.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), left, and Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) talk at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee where Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, gave testimony, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 27, 2019. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Photo: ERIN SCHAFF/NYT

By mid-afternoon, Jordan had basically gone viral, with his name third behind “Michael Cohen” and “Republicans” on Twitter. Much of the traffic reflected how the public views Jordan: They either love him or hate him, but he rarely draws ambivalence.

“Jim Jordan is trying to be who Michael Cohen used to be,” left-leaning MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted. “Trump’s fixer.”

“Thank goodness for people like Rep Jim Jordan who made a brilliant speech,” tweeted one Jordan supporter.

At one point, Jordan and Cohen exchanged in a heated exchange about whether Cohen had ever expressed remorse about the crimes he pleaded guilty to.

Russia, hush money, lies: Takeaways from Cohen’s testimony

When Jordan claimed Cohen’s “remorse is non-existent,” Cohen snapped, “Shame on you, Mr. Jordan. That’s not what I said and you know that that’s not what I said. I pled guilty and I take responsibility for my actions. Shame on you.”

Jordan also accused Cohen of “trashing” Trump because he was not offered a White House job.

“Here’s what I see,” he said. “I see a guy who worked for 10 years in here trashing the guy he worked for … didn’t get a job in the White House and now you’re behaving just like everyone else who has got fired or didn’t get the job they wanted … same kind of selfish motivation after you don’t get the things you want.”

Cohen denied it, saying all he “wanted was what I got – to be personal attorney to the president.”

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump arrives to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The efforts by Jordan and other committee Republicans to attack Cohen’s credibility prompted Cohen to say he found “it interesting” that “not one question” from GOP lawmakers “has been asked about Mr. Trump.”

“That’s actually why I thought I came here today,” Cohen said. “Not to confess what I did. I’ve already done that.”

But Cohen said Americans want to “know what it is I know about Mr. Trump.”

Cohen assails Trump before Congress

In a damning depiction of President Trump, Cohen cast him as a racist and conman who used his inner circle to cover up allegations about sex and lied about his business interests in Russia throughout the campaign that sent him to the White House.

Cohen testified that Trump had advance knowledge and embraced the news that emails damaging to Hillary Clinton would be released. But he also said he has no “direct evidence” that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia.

Shaking off incessant criticism from Republicans anxious to paint him as a felon and liar, Cohen became the first Trump insider to pull back the curtain on his version of the inner workings of Trump’s political and business operations. He likened the president to a “mobster” who demands blind loyalty from underlings and expects them to lie on his behalf to conceal information and protect him — even if it means breaking the law.

“I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore,” he declared.

In one revelation, Cohen said that prosecutors in New York are investigating conversations Trump or his advisers had with him after his hotel room was raided for documents by the FBI last April.

He was asked by a Democratic congressman about the last contact he had had with Trump or any agent representing the president.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, waits to hear testimony from Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Cohen said that happened about two months after his hotel room was raided by the FBI. But he declined to provide more specific details on grounds that the matter was under current investigation by federal prosecutors.

His appearance marked the latest step in Cohen’s evolution from legal fixer for the president — he once boasted he’d “take a bullet” for Trump — to a foe who has implicated him in federal campaign finance violations.

Cohen will soon report to prison for a three-year sentence. At the same time, he is seen as a vital witness for federal prosecutors because of his proximity to the president during key episodes under investigation.

He is the first of six Trump aides charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation to testify publicly about crimes committed during the 2016 campaign and in the months that followed.

Cohen gave lawmakers his first-person account of how he arranged hush money payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who said they had sex with the president. He testified that he was present for conversations in which Trump denigrated blacks as “too stupid” to vote for him. And he said he overheard Trump confidant Roger Stone telling the candidate that WikiLeaks would dump damaging information about Clinton.

“I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty, of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him,” Cohen said. “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.”

Cohen’s claims that Trump had advance knowledge of the emails contradict the president’s assertions that he was in the dark, but it is not clear how legally problematic that could be for Trump. Special counsel Mueller has not suggested that mere awareness of WikiLeaks’ plans, as Trump confidant Roger Stone is purported to have had, is by itself a crime.

Cohen also suggested that Trump implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow real estate project. Cohen has admitted lying about the project, which he says Trump knew about as Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the 2016 campaign. Cohen said Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but “he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing.”

Cohen said he does not have direct evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government during the election, but that he has “suspicions.”

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘colluding.’ Was there something odd about the back-and-forth praise with President Putin?” Cohen said. “Yes, but I’m not really sure I can answer the question about collusion.”

Concerning a meeting in Trump Tower between campaign advisers, including Trump’s oldest son, and a Russian lawyer, Cohen said that Trump had frequently told him that Donald Trump Jr. “had the worst judgment of anyone in the world” and he “would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father.”

Federal prosecutors in New York have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Cohen has said he acted out of “blind loyalty.”

He said he was presenting the committee with a copy of the check Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse Cohen for the hush money payments. He claimed he had other exhibits as well, including some financial statements.

Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker and Michael Sisak of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump is sworn in before testifying before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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