President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen has waffled on whether he will testify for Congress before he reports to prison for the crimes he's pleaded guilty to — but on Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee confirmed that he will be appearing publicly at a hearing on Feb. 27.
It was also announced Wednesday that the date on which he must report to prison has been pushed back two months — from March 6 to May 6. He has been sentenced to 3 years in prison.
As one of the people who had been most deeply involved in the darkest elements of Trump's business — he frequently referred to himself as Trump's "fixer"— his testimony has the potential to be a political spectacle and damaging to the president. Once a loyal aide, he now sees himself as a bold truth-teller speaking out against the president's corruption. He has already pleaded guilty to committing campaign finance crimes at Trump's direction, implicating the president himself in a crime, by arranging hush money payment ahead of the 2016 election for women who said they had affairs with Trump. He has also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about working on the president's behalf to negotiate a deal with the Russian government to build a Trump Tower Moscow during the campaign.
He's been scheduled to testify before but ended up backing out of the plans, most notably because Trump sent a threatening tweet demanding investigations of Cohen's father-in-law. Cohen and his lawyer Lanny Davis said he felt threatened by these public messages, which many argued could constitute the crime of witness tampering and intimidation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Cohen will not discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Cohen has previously said that Trump has not been honest about the Russia issue, and Mueller said he has provided details about central parts of the investigation.
But according to a memo released by Oversight Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Cohen will be expected to discuss a wide range of topics touching on the president. They include (as described by Cummings):
- the President’s debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election
- the President’s compliance with financial disclosure requirements
- the President’s compliance with campaign finance laws
- the President’s compliance with tax laws;
- the President’s potential and actual conflicts of interest
- the President’s business practices
- the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C
- the accuracy of the President’s public statements
- potentially fraudulent or inappropriate practices by the Trump Foundation
- public efforts by the President and his attorney to intimidate Mr. Cohen or others not to testify
Cummings noted that Cohen is testifying voluntarily and therefore is not under a subpoena. He will also meet with the committee on Feb. 28 to discuss matters that can not be discussed publicly.