ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Michael Cohen spent a decade at Donald Trump's side as his personal lawyer and fixer. Today, he testified before Congress that his former boss was a racist, a con man and a cheat. This testimony comes just a couple of months before Cohen goes to prison for crimes that include lying to Congress and covering up what Cohen called Trump's dirty deeds. One of those deeds was paying off women who say they slept with Trump. The president denies those affairs.
Today, Cohen produced a check signed by Donald Trump in 2017 after he was in the White House. Cohen said that check was reimbursement for one of those hush money payments.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MICHAEL COHEN: The president of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.
SHAPIRO: In another part of the program, we're hearing from a Democrat who questioned Cohen today. And we are joined now by one of the Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina.
Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
RALPH NORMAN: Well, thank you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Everyone went into this hearing with expectations for what would happen and what they would hear.
What did you hear or see today from Michael Cohen that surprised you?
NORMAN: Well, I guess the main thing, Ari, he really wasn't - he apologized, and he, you know, said he was a changed man. And my questioning, along with others, said, well, you know, is he really repentant or is he - did he just get caught? And...
SHAPIRO: I think a lot of Republicans were very concerned that he was lying again under oath, given that he has lied under oath to Congress before. But one question I have for you is, even if you set aside every unverified claim that Cohen made and assume that he is a liar, he's introduced a pile of documents as evidence. There was that hush money reimbursement check we mentioned. There are copies of financial statements, letters, articles with the president's handwriting. Even if he is a serial liar, does it concern you that these documents appear to connect President Trump to crimes?
NORMAN: Well, here's the question. One - with the payment for the women, that's old news. But that's fine. Let him produce the documents. Let him - he says he's been looking, you know, for, I think, weeks and months for boxes of documents. Let's get them out. We're not trying to hide anything. And I guess, you know, where were the documents? Where are they now?
And we came in, and the fact that he - you know, I'm not interested in Michael Cohen's opinion. The fact that he will be in an orange jumpsuit in less than 90 days, it's obvious for the record what he's admitted to - tax fraud, bank - signing fraudulent bank statements. He's guilty of that. And yeah, it makes us suspect on anything he says.
But - and he came out with - and this really got me - when he came out, the man that he says he would take a bullet for, that he respected, he worked for a decade, and then he said, you know, he's a cheat. And my question to him was, Mr. Cohen, you were his personal lawyer for 10 years, who you respected. You illegally recorded him, wiretapped him. And...
SHAPIRO: Congressman, I would like to drill down on something that you said, though, that - where you referred to the hush money payments as old news because the fact that President Trump wrote a personal check to Michael Cohen to reimburse him for those hush money payments - which have been documented to have been a campaign finance violation - that's not old news. That's something we learned today, that he made that payment from his personal account while he was in the White House. Does that concern you?
NORMAN: Well, it is what it is. And let's let the documents show, and let's let the public - and let's let it be of record, as anything else he has. So you know, that'll be played out as it is. You can't change that. Where were they...
SHAPIRO: I mean, I guess the question put bluntly is do you believe the president was complicit in these crimes that Michael Cohen is going to prison for?
NORMAN: Well, after they examine the records, let's see what happens. Let's see how they judge it. But my issue is why did he wait this long? And if that's all he has - you know, he was on the record today of no collusion. I thought that with the Mueller investigation...
SHAPIRO: With Russia, you mean?
NORMAN: With Russia. I thought with the Mueller investigation, you know, this was going to prove Donald Trump - they're laying the groundwork to impeach the president. That's what this is about. And anything...
SHAPIRO: Well, you're saying you're undecided as to whether the president was complicit in crimes or not. If the president was complicit in crimes, then whether or not the president should be impeached seems to be an open question.
NORMAN: Well, let's open it up, and let's see the documents. But we got his opening statement 10 minutes before I walked in. He gave things - he gave documents and news to CNN that he didn't - he gave the Democrats. He didn't give us. If this is really aboveboard and open, show it to everybody, and then let's let - let's see what happens.
SHAPIRO: Congressman Norman, just in our final 30 seconds or so, I want to ask what you think it says about President Trump's judgment that he kept this man by his side for a decade as recently as last year?
NORMAN: My question is what - how about Michael Cohen's judgment? My question's about Michael Cohen's loyalty. Anybody that would tape somebody unknowingly, he has no credibility. And the lies that he's - I mean, he's going to jail for things unrelated to Donald Trump. He's going to jail for things to benefit him. And he has no credibility. It's a circus. And the date that he's doing it with the president overseas making probably the biggest decisions about nuclear weapons...
SHAPIRO: All right.
NORMAN: ...Is huge.
SHAPIRO: Congressman Ralph Norman, Republican of South Carolina, thank you for joining us today.
NORMAN: Thank you.
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