- In sworn congressional testimony earlier this year, Michael Cohen denied all of the salacious claims made about him in the infamous Steele dossier, as well as allegations that President Trump cavorted with prostitutes in Moscow
- Cohen revealed in the testimony that as many as “half a dozen” people had approached him over the years regarding rumors of a blackmail tape of Trump. But Cohen said that after investigating the rumors and discussed them with Trump, he determined they were false.
- Transcripts of Cohen’s two-day testimony were released by the House Intelligence Committee on Monday.
In two interviews with the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen issued blanket denials of key allegations made in the infamous Steele dossier.
Cohen told lawmakers that he had heard rumors for several years about a blackmail tape of President Trump that is mentioned in the dossier, but that he came to doubt the footage existed. He also offered a line-by-line rebuttal of the dossier’s claims that he visited Prague in August 2016 to pay off Russian hackers.
Cohen provided a largely negative portrayal of Trump during his two days of testimony.
He accused his former boss of unethical and shady business practices, and of making misleading statements about his business ties to Russia. He told Democrats that Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, instructed him to lie to Congress in 2017 about the extent of negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign.
But if there is one upside to Cohen’s testimony for Trumpworld, it is that he knocked down several conspiracy theories fostered by Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the dossier while on the payroll of the DNC and Clinton campaign.
“[Let me just ask you, do you have any evidence of or are aware of a videotape of Mr. Trump with Russian prostitutes, as alleged in the Steele dossier?” Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Republican, asked Cohen during his Feb. 28 testimony.
“No,” Cohen replied. “And I would also like to state I truly don’t believe that it exists. I had spoken to many, many people who all claimed that they had this, and none of them turned out to be true. And, again, I do not believe that Mr. Trump was involved in this type of action.”
According to the dossier, Russian intelligence operatives had recorded Trump with prostitutes at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Steele’s sources claimed that a video of the incident showed prostitutes urinating on each other as Trump watched.
Though Trump has vehemently denied the claim, the possibility of a blackmail tape has clouded his presidency.
Cohen gave even more detail about his knowledge of the alleged tape during his March 6 testimony.
He was asked about an Oct. 30, 2016 text message exchange with Giorgi Rtskhiladze, a Georgian-American businessman who had partnered with the Trump Organization on a project in Georgia in 2011.
Rtskhiladze told Cohen that he had “stopped the flow of some tapes from Russia.”
The special counsel’s report cited the text message in a footnote, generating speculation about whether prosecutors believed that a tape actually existed. But Cohen testified that he had spoken to Trump about the video tape rumors and investigated whether one existed, but doubted that it did.
Cohen also revealed for the first time that he heard from “many people” — as many as “half a dozen” — over the course of several years about an alleged tape. One of those was Harvey Levin, the founder TMZ, the celebrity gossip news outlet.
“TMZ, Harvey Levin called me, said he had heard about the existence of it. You know, other people had heard of the existence of that tape,” Cohen said.
In one case, Cohen said that a man he did not know reached out claiming to have the tape. Cohen indicated that he believed the man was bluffing, and so offered him $20 million to see a four-second sample of the footage.
In one exchange with California Rep. Jackie Speier, Cohen recalled a conversation he had with Trump about the rumored tape.
“When I was speaking with Mr. Trump about it, you know, I said to him, ‘I’m a little disappointed.’” ‘He’s like, what do you mean? Why?’ And I said, ‘Well, I would have liked to have been invited to the party. It sounds like it was wild.’ So he goes, ‘Michael, it never happened.’ And I said, ‘All right, you know, if you say so, it never happened.’ And he said, ‘No, I’m serious, it never happened. This whole thing is just pure nonsense.’”
Cohen said he believed the denial because there would have been little time for the incident to occur as described in the dossier. Trump stayed only one night in Moscow, and eyewitnesses have claimed that he was alone in his hotel room for only five or six hours, just long enough to sleep.
“So I’m sure he – it didn’t happen. That’s how we kind of deduced it didn’t happen,” he told Speier.
Cohen began a three year prison sentence on May 6. He pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax evasion, lying to Congress and making illegal campaign finance contributions in the form of a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump.
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