- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2019

President Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen agreed to testify next month before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, becoming the first member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle ensnared by the special counsel to appear in an open session before Congress.

His testimony, scheduled for Feb. 7, marks the first major step for Democrats, who now control the House, in fulfilling their pledge to investigate the president’s official acts, business ties and administration turmoil.

Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said he is working with special counsel Robert Mueller on details for the appearance of Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, tax evasion and campaign finance misdeeds.

Cohen is cooperating with Mr. Mueller’s team and has spent more than 70 hours with investigators.

“I want to make clear we have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with special counsel Mueller’s office,” Mr. Cummings said in a statement.

Cohen’s testimony is scheduled roughly one month before he reports to federal prison.

During his sentencing hearing last month, Cohen told a federal judge that he committed some of those crimes to cover up Mr. Trump’s “dirty deeds.” Prosecutors in New York said campaign finance rules were violated at the direction of Mr. Trump.

Cohen said Thursday he is looking forward to “the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”

Mr. Trump, traveling in Texas, brushed off the news. I’m not worried about it,” he told reporters.

But some House Republicans blasted Democrats’ decision to call Cohen, saying it is “political theater rather than legitimate oversight.”

“This makes it clear that Chairman Cummings and the Democrats will do whatever it takes to attack this president,” Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

Democrats signaled that more meetings with Cohen could be scheduled as they wield their newfound control of the House.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said a private hearing with Cohen could be scheduled “in the near future.”

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign violations that involved an effort to silence women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. Cohen and federal prosecutors in New York said the hush payments were arranged at the direction of Mr. Trump and were meant to prevent their stories from hurting his chance at the White House.

The president has denied that he directed Cohen to break the law and insisted that if the payments were bungled, then it was because Cohen, his personal attorney, didn’t understand the law.

Mr. Trump has called Cohen a “rat” willing to lie in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.

Cohen also has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia. Cohen told lawmakers that the plan was abandoned in early 2016 when, in reality, it was being discussed just months before the presidential election.

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