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Cohen: 'There Will Never Be a Peaceful Transition of Power' if Trump Loses in 2020

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, speaks after testifying to the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Longtime former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen wrapped up more than seven hours of public testimony on Capitol Hill today by warning there could be violence if President Trump loses re-election in 2020.

In his written testimony and under questioning from lawmakers, Cohen asserted that the real-estate mogul whom he served for a decade is racist and a “con-man” who is in office simply for personal gain.

At various points, Cohen implicated or suggested involvement by Trump and his family members in crimes including campaign finance violations, bank fraud, tax fraud, and possible perjury or obstruction of justice. Cohen also said that Trump asked him to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf “probably” more than 500 times over his decade of service with the Trump Organization.

Given the opportunity for closing remarks, Cohen said he acknowledged his own mistakes “but silence and complicity in the face of the daily destruction of our basic norms and civility to one another will not be one of them.”

“I did things and I acted improperly, at times at Mr. Trump’s behest. I blindly followed his demands,” he said. “My loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me everything; my family’s happiness, friendships, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation, and soon my freedom. And I will not sit back, say nothing, and allow him to do the same to the country.”

“Indeed, given my experience working from Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power, and this is why I agreed to appear before you today.”

Cohen then ran through a list of statements directed at Trump, looking directly into the camera. “In closing, I’d like to say directly to the president we honor our veterans even in the rain. You tell the truth even when it doesn’t aggrandize you. You respect the law and our incredible law enforcement agents; you don’t villainize them. You don’t disparage generals, Gold Star families, prisoners of war, and other heroes who had the courage to fight for this country.”

“You don’t attack the media and those who question what you don’t like or what you don’t want them to say. And you take responsibility for your own dirty deeds. You don’t use your power of your bully pulpit to destroy the credibility of those who speak out against you. You don’t separate families from one another or demonize those looking to America for a better life,” Cohen continued.  “You don’t vilify people based on the god they pray to and you don’t cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies. And finally, you don’t shut down the government before Christmas and New Year’s just to simply appease your base. This behavior is churlish. It denigrates the office of the president and it’s simply un-American, and it’s not you.”

“So, to those who support the president and his rhetoric, as I once did, I pray the country doesn’t make the same mistakes that I have made or pay the heavy price that my family and I are paying.”

Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said that “we know Mr. Cohen has been dishonest in the past, that’s why he’s going to prison in two months, but there are things today that he said during the several hours of questioning that just don’t add up either.”

“He said he never defrauded any bank… obviously, that’s not true because he’s going to prison for that very offense,” Jordan said. “He said today he was a good lawyer who understood the need to represent his client with legal advice but in his written testimony he said he never bothered to consider whether payments to women were improper, much less the right thing to do…. He said he didn’t want a job with the administration even though the attorneys with the Southern District of New York stated that this was a fact.”

Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), before adjourning for the day, declared that “we really are, as a country, we are so much better than this.”

“I tell my children I say when bad things happen to you do not ask the question why did it happen to me ask the question why did it happen for me,” Cummings told Cohen. “I don’t know why this is happening for you. But it is my hope that a small part of it is for our country to be better. If I hear you correctly, it sounds like you’re crying out for a new normal, for us getting back to normal. It sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays intact.”

Cummings added that Trump publicly calling Cohen a “rat” isn’t helpful as Cohen prepares to serve his sentence, “because when they go to prison that means a snitch.”

“I know that this has been hard. I know that you face a lot. I know that you are worried about your family. But this is a part of your destiny. And hopefully this portion of your destiny will lead to a better, a better, a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world,” the chairman continued. “And I mean that from the depths of my heart. When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing? Did we placate?”