During Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress, Democrats zeroed in on his claims that Donald Trump engaged in crime before and even into his presidency. But Republicans seemed less interested in Cohen’s message than the messenger himself.
Republican members of the House Oversight Committee impugned Cohen’s motives for testifying against Trump, saying he is after a lighter prison sentence and a book deal. But their main charge was that Cohen resents his former boss because Trump did not reward him with a coveted White House position despite years of loyal service.
"You wanted to work for the White House, but you didn’t get brought to the dance," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, levelled at Cohen.
Cohen pushed back, saying he was "offered jobs," but that he "didn’t want to go to the White House."
On Twitter, Trump’s sons immediately pounced, saying Cohen’s snub is a source of bitterness, and accusing him of committing perjury on this point.
"Michael was lobbying EVERYONE to be ‘Chief of Staff,’ " Eric Trump tweeted. "It was the biggest joke in the campaign and around the office. Did he just perjure himself again?"
Things ramped up a day later when Jordan and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the committee’s top Republican, asked the Justice Department to investigate perjury charges based on several of Cohen’s statements.
We’re not putting Cohen’s desire for a White House job on our Truth-O-Meter because not all of the pertinent witnesses have been heard from. Here, we’ll look at the evidence offered by Cohen critics.
To make the case Cohen lied about the White House job, the lawmakers pointed to federal court documents the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York filed as part of the criminal case against Cohen.
"During and after the campaign, Cohen privately told friends and colleagues, including in seized text messages, that he expected to be given a prominent role and title in the new administration," read prosecutors’ sentencing memo. "When that did not materialize, Cohen found a way to monetize his relationship with and access to the President."
When confronted with this information during the hearing, Cohen said the memo was "not accurate."
"I did not want to go to the White House," Cohen said. "I retained and I brought an attorney and I sat with Mr. Trump — with him for well over an hour, explaining the importance of having a personal attorney, that every president has had one, in order to handle matters like the matters I was dealing with."
In their criminal referral, the Republican committee members also pointed to a tweet by a former New York City police detective and Fox News contributor, who claims to have heard Cohen express anger over being iced out of Trump’s White House.
"Getting sick watching these hearings," Bo Dietl tweeted. "I know Michael Cohen personally for many years and he told me several times that he was very angry and upset that he didn't get a post in the WH and that he ‘would do what he has to do now to protect his family.’ "
Getting sick watching these hearings. I know Michael Cohen personally for many years and he told me several times that he was very angry and upset that he didn't get a post in the WH and that he "would do what he has to do now to protect his family " @seanhannity @potus— Bo Dietl (@BoDietl) February 27, 2019
Following Cohen’s testimony, a video began circulating online that shows him telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo in 2016 that he "certainly hopes" to be asked to work in Trump's White House, and that he would "100 percent" accept an offer.
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis called the Republicans’ criminal referral "baseless" and a "sad misuse of the criminal justice system."
Michael Cohen testimony, Feb. 26, 2019
Southern District of New York sentencing memo for Michael Cohen, Dec. 7, 2018