Michael Cohen To Face Tough Questioning From House Oversight Committee
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
All right. Well, as we just heard Tim mention, Michael Cohen's testimony tomorrow before the House Oversight and Reform Committee will be public and will likely be dramatic. Cohen will face questions from some of the president's most ardent defenders and also critics who've already called for his impeachment. The big headlines will come out of whatever Cohen reveals about Trump. And as NPR's Kelsey Snell reports, the focus also will be on Cohen's own credibility.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Even on the highest drama days, congressional hearings all pretty much start in the same way. The chairman - in this case, Democrat Elijah Cummings - picks up the gavel.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: The committee will come to order. Without objection, the chair is authorized...
SNELL: Cummings will repeat that ritual call to order tomorrow, moments before he ask President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen if he swears to tell the truth and nothing but the truth this time in a marathon of questioning that could last all day. Cummings says this is a high-stakes hearing that people will remember for 200 years, and he has a responsibility to the public.
CUMMINGS: We've been flooded with so much information that is inaccurate that the main thing that I'm trying to do is get to the truth and expose it to the American people.
SNELL: It won't be easy to keep that serious tone intact. There are some rules for what members can ask, but Cohen is expected to face salacious questions about things like hush money payments made on Trump's behalf to women, including a Playboy model and a porn star. And there will be questions about whether Trump himself ordered Cohen to lie the last time he spoke to Congress. Cummings says Cohen is a man who now has a chance to tell the truth. But Republicans like Jim Jordan of Ohio are questioning his motives.
JIM JORDAN: A guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress - you got to be kidding me. So this is a complete circus. Everyone sees it for what it is. Michael Cohen can't be trusted.
SNELL: It's something Republicans will repeat over and over. Jordan and Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows, another Trump ally, say Cohen is simply a liar. Democrats have not found a clear way to combat that. They realize it's a problem. And Congressman Jamie Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, says the goal now is to make sure Cohen corroborates other evidence of wrongdoing in Trump's inner circle.
JAMIE RASKIN: So it's not really a question of making him a believable witness. It's a question of getting from him all the information we can in order to supplement the other information we have about what's been going on in the administration.
SNELL: Cummings says he does have a plan to make that happen. But a hearing of this magnitude can get out of hand quickly, and not every Democrat is expected to focus the same way. Some of the committee's newest progressive members, like Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will also weigh in. All three have largely focused on other policy areas so far. This will be their first hearing on the Trump investigation, and it's unclear what they'll ask. Ocasio-Cortez made clear in her early days on the committee that she's not interested in holding back. At the time, she said it isn't the committee's job to, quote, "paper over" any presidential misdeeds. Instead, she says it's her job to get to the truth.
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We are not supposed to be here to protect the president, and we're not supposed to be here to kind of have an agenda against him.
SNELL: The marathon hearing will put every strategy on display, leaving it up to viewers to decide who they believe. Kelsey Snell, NPR News, the Capitol.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.