Michael Cohen's closed-door testimony was just unsealed: Here are 6 stunning moments from the hearings

Michael Cohen's closed-door testimony was just unsealed: Here are 6 stunning moments from the hearings
PBS Newshour
News & Politics

In addition to testifying in public, President Donald Trump's former and fixer lawyer Michael Cohen has testified extensively behind closed doors to congressional committees. On Monday, two of the transcripts from those sealed hearings were released.

They revealed some new bombshell claims, such as Cohen's accusation that one of Trump's lawyers directly instructed him to lie to Congress, as well as some elaboration on previously known claims.

Here are six of the stunning moments contained in the transcripts:

1. Cohen says Trump encouraged him to do three of the crimes he's going to prison for.

MR. RATCLIFFE: So we've identified two crimes that you say you believe Donald Trump in some way directed you to take the actions for which you have pled guilty.

MR. COHEN: No, sir. Three.

MR. RATCLIFFE: Okay. What is the third?

MR. COHEN: The third one is the misstatement to Congress.

MR. RATCLIFFE: Yeah. So I got that.

MR. COHEN: Two for campaign finance violation and one for misrepresentation -- well, for lying to Congress.

MR. RATCLIFFE: All right.

MR. COHEN: I mean, you don't think that l just decided to pay Stormy Daniels money on my behalf, right?

2. He described how it was customary for Trump to screw over business partners.

Q: Well, did he ever ask you to renege on contracts that The Trump Organization had?

COHEN: Some of the things that I did was reach out to individuals, whether it's law firms or small businesses, and renegotiate contracts after the job was already done, or basically tell them that we just weren't paying at all, or make them offers of, say, 20 cents on the dollar.

Q: Did you do things at his direction that, as you sit here today, you know were wrong?

COHEN: Well, of course, it's wrong. I mean, somebody does a job and they put in a bill - many of these folks, you know, lost everything. One gentleman yesterday saw me on television, and he wrote to me in a text message. I could send it to you. And I think he was from Ohio. And he said, you know, I remember for Trump University that I had done -- I think it was printing work. I can send it to you. But he had done some work printing for Trump University, and we ended up paying them only 20 cents on the dollar because Trump University had its own issues, and he ended up losing the company.

Q: And in that example, were you involved in doing that?

COHEN: I handled all of that.

Q: Did Donald Trump tell you, go pay 20 cents on the dollar?


Q: He said to you, pay specifically 20 cents on the dollar?

COHEN: Yeah, because there was X amount of dollars that was in the bank, and what we did is divided it by the amount of money that was outstanding and owed, and it came out to approximately 20 cents on the dollar.

3. He says Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told him specifically to lie to Congress. 


THE CHAIRMAN: And just to be perfectly clear about this, the statement about the Trump Tower negotiations ending in January that was part of your original draft was false, and Mr. Sekulow knew that it was false?

MR. COHEN: Yes, sir.

THE CHAIRMAN: Was part of the intention in releasing this statement publicly when your testimony would be private and doing so well in advance of your testimony, to telegraph to others what the party line should be in particular about the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations?

MR. COHEN: I wouldn't say that it was to telegraph the message. Everybody knew the message. lt was just reinforcement of the message.

4. He described Trump coaching him on multiple occasions about the false Russia narrative.

Q: That May - did you have any conversations with the President other than that May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office about your testimony?

COHEN: I spoke with the President on several occasions on the phone. O And what - how many times do you think you spoke to him?

COHEN I don't -- I don't recall.

Q: You said several times, though?


Q: And what did he say to you about your upcoming testimony?

COHEN: I don't recall specifically, but it's all .. the message that he would constantly relay had to do with it's all -- it's not -- this investigation is not going anywhere, just -- there's no Russia. I mean, I don't know how many times he said to me: There's just no Russia. This whole thing is a giant witch hunt. lt's a witch hunt. And, again, I knew exactly what he meant, but he doesn't have to -- for me, he didn't have to say it more than once. I got it the first time, you know, what we were all in agreement on.

Q Would this be a good example of what you called code?


5. Cohen reminded Republicans he used to be a big fundraiser for them before his crimes were exposed.

Republicans like to pretend Cohen is just a nobody who turned against Trump, rather than a deputy finance chair of the RNC:

MR. RATCLIFFE: Okay. I want to ask you about that. Are you done?

MR. COHEN: I am.

MR. RATCLIFFE: Okay. So --

MR. COHEN: You don't seem to like me very much.

MR. RATCLIFFE: I like everybody.

MR. COHEN: I actually am a pretty nice guy.


MR. COHEN: You know, I'm sorry, just one more. You guys really did love me when I raised about $140 million with Steve Wynn (ph) for the year, right?

(It should be noted, however, that despite Cohen's claims to be a good guy, he has a long history of threatening people.)

6. Sekulow also dangled a pardon to Cohen to "shut down" the Russia investigation.

Q: Now, having had the opportunity to think about this for almost a week, do you have any better recollection as to the nature and substance of any conversations you had with Jay Sekulow about pardons?

COHEN: Nothing greater than what I had already stated to the committee.

Q: Okay. You testified last time about the notion of a pre-pardon, and that you had a conversation with him about that?

COHEN: Correct.

Q: And that that might relate - that might be conferred upon individuals other than you as well?

COHEN: Yes. And that pre-pardon wouldn't work, again, because then you waive your Fifth Amendment rights since you now have immunity, so the concept disappeared rather quickly.

Q: Can you state again what Sekulow said about the reason why at least he was considering giving pardons to you and perhaps others?

COHEN lt was to shut down the inquiries and to shut the investigation down.

Q: And do you know whether - did he relay to you any conversations he had had with the President, who he referred to as the client, in that: on that topic?

COHEN: Virtually all my conversations were -- referred back to the client. Jay wasn't going to speak on behalf of the President, he was relaying messages back and forth, and as well giving me legal advice in certain respects.

Q So is it your testimony that whatever discussions that Jay Sekulow had regarding pardons was done with the knowledge and authority of the President?

COHEN: I believe so.

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