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Democratic rep presses Cohen on Trump's tax returns

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President Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen had harsh words for his former employer during public testimony before a House congressional panel Wednesday. "He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat," Cohen, testifying before the House Oversight Committee, said in his opening statement about Mr. Trump.

Cohen's testimony comes as Washington prepares for a final report from special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections and possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.

The irony of Cohen's testimony two months before he reports to federal prison for lying to Congress was not lost on lawmakers. "I've made it abundantly clear to Mr. Cohen if he comes here today, and he does not tell the truth, I will be the first to refer those untruthful statements to the DOJ," Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said when opening the hearing.

Cohen's high-profile hearing got underway with Republican and Democratic lawmakers sniping at each other before he even began speaking. Mr. Trump's former lawyer faced intensive questioning by members of the committee about the lies he told to congressional investigators in 2017.

Follow along below for live updates on the hearing:

Rep asks Cohen if Trump can be considered a racist. "Yes," he replied

4:55 p.m. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, one of the new progressive Members of Congress, asked Cohen if Mr. Trump -- who she noted has been accused of perpetrating housing discrimination on the basis of race as a landlord and calling some African nations "sh**hole countries" while in White House -- could be considered a racist even if he had an African American friend.

"Yes," Cohen replied.

"I agree," Pressley responded.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez asks about reports Trump deflated value of properties

4:50 p.m. Progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, asked Cohen if he was aware of Mr. Trump deflating the value of one of his golf courses in Florida to try to reduce his tax bills.

"It's identical to what he did at Trump National Golf Club and at Briarcliff Manor," Cohen replied.

Democratic rep presses Cohen on Trump's tax returns

4:40 p.m. Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez of California pressed Cohen on the president's tax returns and his controversial decision to not release them. The Congressman asked Cohen if the president ever detailed the reasoning behind his refusal to not release his tax returns.

Cohen said Mr. Trump told him that he did not want think thanks and tax experts to scrutinize his finances. According to Cohen, the president believed it would ultimately lead to tax penalties.

Mr. Trump has long refused to release his tax returns, citing a claim that he's under audit. Pressed by Gomez, Cohen said he never obtained confirmation that Mr. Trump was under audit, despite asking for it.

Hearing resumes after nearly two-hour recess

4:27 p.m. After a nearly two-hour recess for House floor votes, lawmakers and Cohen reconvened in the committee room to resume the hearing.

Hearing expected to resume at about 4:15 p.m. 

3:41 p.m. Members of Congress have begun the last of a series of House votes scheduled during a recess in Cohen's testimony.

The hearing is expected to resume 35 minutes after -- at approximately 4:15 p.m.

Trump's 2020 campaign blasts Cohen's "worthless" testimony

3:29 p.m. Calling Cohen a "felon," "disbarred lawyer" and "convicted perjurer," Kayleigh McEnany, a spokesperson for the president's 2020 reelection campaign, cast doubt on the credibility of Cohen's testimony -- which she said "has proven before to be worthless."

"This is the same Michael Cohen who has admitted that he lied to Congress previously," McEnany added. "Why did they even bother to swear him in this time?"

Pelosi: "I haven't seen one word" of Cohen's testimony

3:01 p.m. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she has not watched the first hours of Cohen's testimony before Members of Congress.

"I haven't seen one word of it," she told CBS News Capitol Hill producer Bo Erickson.

Cummings sends the committee into recess

2:33 p.m. Chairman Cummings sent the committee into a recess that he expects to last about an hour.

The high-profile hearing is likely to resume at approximately 3:15 p.m.

Cohen said he was previously a Democrat

2:29 p.m. Asked by Rep. Stacey Plaskett, the non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, about his time as vice chair of the RNC finance committee, Cohen confessed he was previously a Democrat.

Cohen said he switched parties after casino magnate and former RNC chair Steve Wynn found out he was a Democrat.

"It wasn't right for a Democrat to be the vice chair," he told lawmakers.

Cohen says he lied to Melania Trump about hush payments at Trump's direction 

Michael Cohen testified that he lied to Melania Trump about Donald Trump's knowledge of the hush payments made to women alleging affairs with Mr. Trump, at the direction of Mr. Trump.

Cohen testifies Trump Tower Moscow deal stopped because Trump won

Cohen was asked why the Trump Tower Moscow deal came to a halt. Cohen claimed it's because Mr. Trump won.

Cohen says he'll pursue a book deal

Michael Cohen was asked by Republican Rep. Carol Miller whether he plans to pursue a book deal in the future about his experiences. "Yes," he responded simply.

Ex-lawyer says he doesn't believe Trump has a love child

Cohen answered a series of questions from Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier - including whether Mr. Trump has a love child.

Cohen said he doesn't believe the president has a love child. Cohen also said he doesn't believe Mr. Trump ever struck Melania Trump.

Cohen: 'I've never been to Prague'

Finally, nearly three hours into his testimony, Cohen answered a long-awaited question of whether he has ever been to Prague. 

Cohen says SDNY is investigating other matters

Michael Cohen said he handled important personal legal matters of Donald Trump's when serving as his Special Counsel. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi asked about the non-disclosures that Cohen help facilitate for Mr. Trump.

Citing the campaign staffer who recently became public in her lawsuit against the president after being allegedly assaulted, Cohen testified that the NDAs would keep people silent. "That was the goal," Cohen said.

Cohen was unaware if anyone is prevented from speaking up about the president because of NDAs that are being used against them. Cohen was asked about any illegal act by Mr. Trump and noted that those are being looked at and investigated by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

Asked about the last time he and Mr. Trump spoke, Cohen said he couldn't elaborate.

"Unfortunately, this topic is actually something that's being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York and I've been asked by them not to talk about these issues," Cohen said. Asked if there are any other illegal acts or wrongdoings federal prosecutors are investigating, Cohen responded, "yes."

Cohen calls out lawmakers for not asking about Trump

"Between yourself and your colleagues, no question since I have been here has been asked about President Trump, that's actually why I was coming today, not to confess the mistakes I've made, I've already done that," Michael Cohen told Rep. Jim Jordan, appearing to criticize Republicans' line of questioning at Wednesday's hearing.

He added, "The American people don't care about my taxes, they want to know what I know [about Trump]." Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia appeared to side with Cohen, saying that the argument Republicans are using to question Cohen would make the convictions of organized crime "null and void."

Hearing resumes with questions on Cohen book deal 

Cohen told Rep. Virginia Foxx that he could not commit under oath that he would not follow through on any potential book and movie deals based on his work and experiences with the president.

Cohen and Meadows have testy exchange

Michael Cohen and Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows got into a heated exchange, in which Cohen said he is a nice guy, and Meadows said the record speaks differently.

Cohen: "Shame on you, Mr. Jordan"

Rep. Jim Jordan claimed Michael Cohen is showing no remorse for his actions. Cohen took issue with that claim.

"Shame on you, Mr. Jordan," the president's former lawyer said, a highly unusual statement from a witness to a member of Congress.

Cohen says he's spoken to the special counsel seven times

During his testimony, Cohen said he has spoken with the special counsel seven times.

Trump's sons speak out

President Trump's sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric weighed in on Cohen's claims that he never wanted to work in the White House, slamming his testimony as untrue.

"Michael was lobbying EVERYONE to be 'Chief of Staff.' It was the biggest joke in the campaign and around the office. Did he just perjure himself again?" Eric suggested on Twitter.

Trump Jr. echoed his brother, tweeting "Michael Cohen begged to work at the White House and everyone knows it."

Cohen suggests Trump family conflicted with foreign adversaries before campaign 

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked Cohen if there was reason to believe that the entire Trump family was conflicted with a foreign adversary months before the 2016 election, Cohen replied: "Yes."

Watch a live stream of Cohen's testimony

Wasserman Schultz said the Trump campaign appeared to be "filthy with Russian contact" throughout the majority of the race. Asked if Mr. Trump was "fully aware and had every intent of working with Russia to help make sure he could win the presidency at all costs." Cohen replied that "Mr. Trump's desire to win would have him work with anyone."

Jordan presses Cohen on pattern of lies

"Did you lie to protect the president or did you lie to protect yourself?" Rep. Jim Jordan pressed Michael Cohen, suggesting he had a history of lying repeatedly, bringing up his past financial crimes against him. Jordan also brought up a "Women for Michael Cohen" Twitter account that said Cohen is "handsome" and "sexy" as an example. "That was not done to protect the president," Cohen said, claiming he didn't create the account. "We were having fun during a stressful time."

Cohen compares Trump to “mobster” for attacks

"I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family - and unleash his TV-lawyer to do the same. I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will make it clear: As a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable," said Cohen.

Cohen made those remarks as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, stood on the side of the hearing room watching as Cohen delivered his remarks. Gaetz, who isn't on the House Oversight Committee, deleted his controversial tweet about Cohen last night - which many saw as threatening - and apologized.

Cohen says he wouldn't accept a pardon

"I have lied but I am not a liar...I have fixed things but I am no longer your fixer Mr. Trump," Cohen testified, adding that he would not accept a pardon from the president if he were to ever issue one.

Cohen says he has “suspicions” that Trump campaign colluded with Russia

Cohen recalled Donald Trump Jr. informing his father that a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower had been arranged involving members of the Trump campaign and a representative of the Russian government to potentially discuss "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. He said the interaction between son and father struck him as odd as Mr. Trump had "frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgement of anyone in the world." Cohen added that "nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump's knowledge and approval."

Cohen says Trump lied about bone spur medical deferment from draft

Michael Cohen said that when asked for medical records to back up the president's claims on the campaign trail that he suffered from a bone spur, leading to a medical deferment from the Vietnam draft, "he gave me none and said there was no surgery." Cohen said Mr. Trump had told him not to answer any specific questions from reporters. "He finished the conversation with the following comment. 'You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam,'" Cohen recalled.

Cohen details Trump’s disparaging comments about African Americans

Michael Cohen notes that the president has been accused of courting white supremacists, but he claims the reality is "worse". "He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a 'sh**hole.' This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States," Cohen plans to say. "While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid."

Cohen says he lied to Congress because he was “protecting” Trump

Cohen testified that he lied to Congress about Mr. Trump's involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations, saying the president was aware of them well into the 2016 presidential campaign, and directed negotiations. "Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it," Cohen is prepared to say.

"He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. And so I lied about it, too - because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie."

Slideshow by Reuters

Cohen submits payment for Stormy Daniels cover-up to Congress

Michael Cohen provided Congress documents showing a copy of $35,000 check Mr. Trump made out to Cohen from his personal bank account to pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels, to avoid any money being traced back to the president and the campaign. Mr. Trump previously denied having any knowledge of such payments when asked by reporters.

Cohen says he knows the real Trump

Cohen said he knows the real Trump. "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat," Cohen said of the president in his opening remarks. Cohen details in his remarks that Mr. Trump knew his confidant Roger Stone was coordinating with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks dump of DNC emails and that Mr. Trump not only knew about Trump Tower Moscow negotiations well into the 2016 presidential campaign, but directed them.

Jim Jordan says Lanny Davis "arranged" the Cohen hearing

Rep. Jim Jordan says Lanny Davis "arranged" the Cohen hearing "Lanny Davis put this all together," ranking member Jordan said. He said it's the first time a "convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness in a hearing ... no other committee would do it."

Mark Meadows attempts to stop testimony

House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows attempted to postpone the hearing saying it was an "intentional effort" by Michael Cohen to "show his disdain" for the congressional body by not providing his testimony more than 24 hours in advance.

"The American people have a right to hear him so we're going to proceed, the American people can judge his credibility for themselves," House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said after a roll call is held to resume the hearing.

Earlier, Cohen's attorney Michael Monico told CBS News that his client is "feeling good" this morning ahead of his congressional testimony. Monico added that the hearing is "stressful, but he'll do good."

Asked what Cohen thinks about this hearing coinciding with the Trump-Kim summit: "It's ironic isn't it? He find that ironic. He is going to talk about that," a nod to Cohen's prepared remarks talking about Trump's history with the Vietnam War. Reporting by Bo Erickson

Previous report:

When President Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen appears before Congress Wednesday, he plans to offer explosive testimony. He is expected to say Mr. Trump knew his ally Roger Stone was talking with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about publishing hacked Democratic National Committee emails.

Cohen is also expected to say of his former boss, "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat."

Cohen may not be talking about the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, but he will have much to say to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, according to his prepared remarks provided to CBS News by a congressional source.

The testimony will be public, not behind closed doors like his two other appearance before congressional panels this week.

The president took time Wednesday to weigh in on Cohen from Vietnam, where he was to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un:

Rep. Matt Gaetz tweets cryptic warning to Michael Cohen ahead of hearing

Cohen will recall being in Mr. Trump's office in July 2016, before the Democratic convention, when Stone called. "Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone," Cohen plans to say. "Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of 'wouldn't that be great."'

Slideshow by Business Insider

Cohen is also expected to say Mr. Trump not only knew about Trump Tower Moscow negotiations well into the 2016 presidential campaign, but directed them. "Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it," Cohen is prepared to say. "He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. And so I lied about it, too — because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie."

Cohen notes that the president has been accused of courting white supremacists, but he claims the reality is worse. "He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a 'sh**hole.' This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States," Cohen plans to say. "While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid."

The president's former fixer is also providing Congress with documents from his time as a Trump employee -- among them, a copy of a $35,000 check from Mr. Trump's personal bank account, after he became president, which Cohen will say was one of 11 installments reimbursing Cohen for the hush-money payments Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump. 

Here is a copy of that check:

a screenshot of a cell phone: $35k check President Trump allegedly wrote to Cohen which Cohen alleges was part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. $35k check President Trump allegedly wrote to Cohen which Cohen alleges was part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws

Cohen will also provide financial statements from Mr. Trump to Deutsche Bank from 2011-2013, and copies of letters Choen wrote at Mr. Trump's behest that "threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores."

The former Trump fixer appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday in a closed hearing. 

Cohen starts a 3-year prison sentence in early May for violating campaign finance law.

FILE: US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while walking to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House November 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. - Trump said ex-lawyer Michael Cohen was 'lying' over a guilty plea for reduced sentence earlier today. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty Images FILE: US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while walking to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House November 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. - Trump said ex-lawyer Michael Cohen was 'lying' over a guilty plea for reduced sentence earlier today. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

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