On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump's former personal lawyer — who has since "flipped" on him, and been sentenced to three years in prison — began his testimony to the House Oversight Committee. In his prepared opening statement, which was released in advance, Michael Cohen accused Trump of being a "racist," "conman," and "cheat" and said that he's providing the committee with "irrefutable" evidence of Trump's "illicit acts." Some of that evidence has been leaked, including signed checks by Trump and Donald Trump Jr., which Cohen suggests is evidence that they were complicit in the Stormy Daniels "hush money" deal.
"I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility," Cohen told Congress Wednesday. "It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful." Among that evidence, he said, is "a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account – after he became president – to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign."
CNN has since released a photo of a $35,000 check "signed from [Trump's] personal bank account" on August 1, 2017 which a source told Axios is "another installment in the illegal hush money 'reimbursed' to Cohen ... for [the Stormy Daniels] hush money payoff." Here's an image of the check posted by CNN's "New Day":
NBC News' Allan Smith has since posted an image of a check signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization COO Allen Weisselberg that Cohen claims is more evidence of the Trumps' involvement in the hush money payoff.
While the checks appear to prove that Cohen was indeed reimbursed for services in 2017, the Trump team has already stated publicly that Cohen was paid in installments in 2017 for past services — as Cohen acknowledges in his statement (below) — and the checks by themselves are not "irrefutable" proof of wrongdoing.
Here are Cohen's full comments on the "hush money" deal with porn star Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford):
He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that.
I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford’s attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 4 to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a Home Equity Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. I did that, too – without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right thing to do or how it would impact me, my family, or the public.
I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.
As Exhibit 5 to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1, 2017 – when he was President of the United States – pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me — the word used by Mr. Trump’s TV lawyer — for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year – while he was President.
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. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.