Trump's day ruined: Cohen will testify in public before going to jail

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In the words of one former FBI agent, Michael Cohen's public testimony will be 'unlike anything we've seen in recent memory.'

Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, has agreed to testify in an open session of Congress early next month, marking the first major move by the new Congress to increase accountability for Trump and his associates.

The hearing, scheduled for Feb. 7 before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, was announced Thursday afternoon by new committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

"I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily," Cummings said in a statement. "I want to make clear that 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. The Committee will announce additional information in the coming weeks."

Cohen also released a statement Thursday saying that he had agreed to testify publicly before the committee "in furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers."

"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," he added.

The announcement was perfectly timed to ruin Trump's day — coming just as Trump arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border for a photo-op designed to rally support for the wall that no one wants.

While Trump had hoped to dominate the headlines with his stunt, the revelation that Cohen had agreed to testify publicly stole the spotlight as networks interrupted their coverage with the breaking news.

It's not yet known what Cohen will be asked about when he appears before the congressional committee, but investigators have no shortage of material to work with.

In December, Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple criminal charges, including two campaign finance violations stemming from illegal hush money payments made to women during the presidential campaign.

According to prosecutors, Trump directed Cohen to commit those crimes. If Cohen testifies publicly about Trump's role in the illegal scheme, that will put Trump in a vulnerable position.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to felony counts of lying to Congress about Trump's business dealings with Russia and failing to report millions of dollars in income.

When he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Cohen admitted that he had provided false statements to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Trump Tower Moscow project in order to minimize Trump's actual role in the effort to build a Trump property in Moscow.

He also admitted to lying about the timeline of the negotiations for the project, claiming they had ended before the Iowa caucuses in February 2016 when they were actually ongoing through the summer of 2016 — meaning that Trump was engaged in negotiations with Moscow, and lying about it, throughout the presidential primary election.

The news about Cohen agreeing to testify publicly marks a significant development in the ongoing investigations encircling Trump and his associates.

As Trump's longtime lawyer and "fixer," Cohen was involved in the inner workings of Trump's financial and business dealings, as well as his personal life. He knows Trump's secrets — and now he is about to have an opportunity to tell them to the public.

As former FBI special agent Josh Campbell put it, Cohen's testimony "will be unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory" because "[h]e’s a witness essentially unencumbered by personal legal jeopardy (he’s already going to jail) and he will not have to respect classification restraints (he doesn’t work for the govt). Buckle up!"

The era of oversight has begun — and if this development is any indication, the road ahead is a rough one for Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent.