Cohen, ex-Trump lawyer, to testify publicly before Congress

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify publicly before a House committee next month in a hearing that could serve as the opening salvo of a promised Democratic effort to scrutinize Trump, his conflicts of interest and his ties to Russia.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Thursday that Cohen will appear before that panel Feb. 7, a little more than a month after the Democrats took the House majority.

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The hearing marks the latest step in Cohen’s transformation from a trusted legal adviser to the president to a public antagonist who has cooperated extensively against him. Although Democrats say the questioning will be limited to avoid interfering with open investigations, the hearing is still likely to pull back the curtain on key episodes involving Trump’s personal life and business dealings, including hush-money payments to women and a proposed Moscow real estate deal, that federal prosecutors have been dissecting for months.

Cohen is a pivotal figure in investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign and by federal prosecutors in New York into campaign finance violations related to payments to buy the silence of a porn actress and a former Playboy Playmate who say they had sex with Trump. Federal prosecutors have said Trump directed those payments during the campaign. Trump has denied having the extramarital affairs.

Cohen has pleaded guilty in both investigations and was sentenced last month to three years in prison. An adviser to Cohen, Lanny Davis, said shortly after he was sentenced that the former political fixer wanted to testify and “state publicly all he knows.”

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In a statement released on Thursday, Cohen said he had accepted the invitation “in 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.” Trump has denied wrongdoing and sought to minimize Cohen’s statements by painting him as a liar.

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