US Congress grills Trump ex-lawyer Cohen

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A US congressional panel began a contentious hearing in which Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen provided explosive testimony describing his former boss as a “con man” who committed wrongdoing as a candidate and as president.

Michael Cohen told Congress on Wednesday that he had no specific evidence that Trump coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, but spoke of his “suspicions” his former boss was involved in collusion.

Delivering uncomfortably blunt testimony about his decade-long professional relationship with Trump, the disgraced lawyer provided examples of how Trump or his family had dealings with Moscow or with Russian figures in 2016 in the heat of the campaign.

“Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia,” Cohen told the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “I do not, I want to be clear. But I have my suspicions.”

Underscoring the deeply partisan nature of the proceedings, Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee lifted an earlier restriction that the hearing not delve into Russia, while Republicans tried unsuccessfully to block the hearing as it got underway, on grounds that Cohen had not provided his opening statement long enough in advance.

The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, sought early on to undermine Cohen’s credibility by calling him a “fraudster, cheat” and “a convicted felon.”

“Certainly it’s the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness at a hearing,” Jordan said.

Cohen said Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but “he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing.”

– With The Associated Press