President Donald Trump‘s longtime friend, fixer and attorney Michael Cohen will finally face congressional investigators after a series of promised, canceled and pushed-back dates. Barring yet another unforeseen postponement, Cohen is set to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, and at least one former federal prosecutor believes there’s a real possibility Cohen might reveal the identities of, say, “Executive One” or “Executive Two” at the Trump Organization. These are the unnamed executives allegedly involved in the hush payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney and New Jersey state prosecutor Elie Honig discussed specific questions that are likely to come up during Cohen’s testimony in an analysis piece for CNN. This morning, Honig appeared on CNN’s At This Hour With Kate Bolduan to elaborate further.
“I think what we’re going to see is a little bit like what you see with the the prosecutor-defense lawyer dynamic when a cooperating witness is on the stand at trial,” Honig said. “I think the Democrats are going to be focusing on the crimes he committed and who else he committed them with. So, the first place I would go if I was on that panel is: look at the campaign finance crimes–the hush money payments–who else was involved in that? Cohen said, in his guilty plea allocution, he did that for and at the direction of the president.”
Honing also suggested that names might finally be named:
There also were people inside the Trump Organization, according to Cohen’s plea documents, who were involved in that–Executive One; Executive Two of the Trump Org. I’d ask him, ‘Who’s Executive One? Who’s Executive Two?’ They’re the people who cut that check.
Bolduan noted that lawmakers are oftentimes not the best interviewers and said she wasn’t expecting much news to be made during Wednesday’s testimony. Honig disagreed–with the second part.
“I think there will be new information,” he said. “They can ask him questions like…’Who else was in the room with you? Cohen pled guilty to testifying falsely in the Senate about the Moscow [Trump Tower] project. In the plea memo, it says Michael Cohen sort of ran that testimony by and coordinated it with other people. I’d want to know who. Who did you meet with? Who did you run this by? Did you lie on your own? Were there other people involved?”
Law&Crime also reached out to Honig to ask whether congressional investigators will get into the Friday New York Times report about Cohen sharing more information with prosecutors on the Trump Organization.
Recall: observers initially thought Cohen’s case–which also involves Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker–was largely geared toward campaign finance violations. Friday’s report, however, suggests federal prosecutors are also trying to leverage more Trump Organization information out of Cohen regarding potentially illegal business practices–which could again bring the likes of Weisselberg and Pecker into the mix.
Honig told Law&Crime that Friday’s allegations are likely to be useful for the congressional inquiry mill as well.
“In short, I see almost nothing as out of bounds and I’d expect almost anything to happen,” Honig said. “So yes, Committee members might well ask about the recent NYT report. While Rep. Cummings did issue a list of topics, the topics are quite broad and I think almost any question can be shoehorned to fall within them.”
Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has already signaled that Russian electoral interference is off the table. But that doesn’t mean the hearing will be boring and dry.
An official briefing memo contains a lengthy list of salient and controversial topics investigators plan to address:
•the President’s debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election;
•the President’s compliance with financial disclosure requirements;
•the President’s compliance with campaign finance laws;
•the President’s compliance with tax laws;
•the President’s potential and actual conflicts of interest;
•the President’s business practices;
•the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.;
•the accuracy of the President’s public statements;
•potentially fraudulent or inappropriate practices by the Trump Foundation; and
•public efforts by the President and his attorney to intimidate Mr. Cohen or others not to testify.
[image via Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images]