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Rep. Comer on why House Democrats didn’t gain ‘any traction’ with Cohen hearing

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., is a member of the House Oversight Committee that questioned President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen on Wednesday. He talks to Judy Woodruff about his conclusions from the hearing's "spectacular claims," including whether he thinks “we learned anything new” and why he sees Cohen as marred by a "cloud of suspicion" for his own track record on the truth and the law.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We want to get reaction to Michael Cohen's testimony from lawmakers now.

    We start with one who was in the room. He is Congressman James Comer of Kentucky. He was among the Republicans who posed tough questions to Michael Cohen today. And he joins me now.

    Congressman Comer, thank you very much for being with us.

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    Thank you for having me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What was your main takeaway from listening to him?

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    Well, I don't think we learned anything new that we hadn't already heard through speculation in — of the media in the past.

    But one of the things that I tried to do in my questioning, and I think most of my Republican colleagues tried to do, was determine the level of credibility of this witness.

    I think that it's — it's suspicious that the first witness we have in this committee with the new Democrat majority on an issue this important ends up being a guy that's going to be in jail in less than three months. He's a guy that just got disbarred this week from the New York bar.

    So the level of credibility from the one and only witness was a little suspect. But I don't think we learned anything earth-shatteringly new on the Trump investigation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We knew from his opening statements and comments he has made before that he's now saying he made a mistake in his 10 years of loyalty to President Trump. He talked about the mistakes he had made. He was open about that.

    But what about what he had to say about the president, I mean, in saying that the president, for example, directed him to make hush money payments to women with whom the president had affairs?

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    Well, you know, my first impression is, this guy's the president's lawyer. If he felt like he was doing anything illegal, it's the role of the attorney to tell the client that I don't think this is legal or, no, you cannot do that.

    So the fact he was the president's lawyer already raises a cloud of suspicion over the word that Michael Cohen has and the testimony that he delivered today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And when he provided the evidence, a check signed by the president reimbursing Michael Cohen for the hush money payment, what does that say to you?

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    Well, you know, the president has repeatedly denied that that's what that was for. He's — if I want to quote the president, I believe he said it was a personal private transaction.

    The president has also led some to believe that, you know, Michael Cohen was on a retainer, and that possibly the last bonus payment that Michael Cohen claimed he had was a severance check, because, after that, to my knowledge, I don't think Michael Cohen ever did any legal work for President Trump again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you think he may have just made the whole thing up?

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    Well, I don't — I don't know what happened. And I want to find out. I think a lot of America wants to find out.

    But, unfortunately, we have a witness that the things that he can prove, like the check — you know, he has a check. Obviously, he showed a copy of the check. He recorded certain conversations that he had with the president.

    But other things, when he talks about, yes, I think they did coordinate possibly with Russia or with Assange on the WikiLeaks, he said, I heard that, but I don't have that recording.

    So, he made a lot of spectacular claims today. It's just unfortunate that there wasn't enough evidence, in my mind, to be able to go much further in trying to punish the president for any wrongdoing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, he certainly did have criticisms of the president. He backed it up in some cases with evidence.

    But he also, when asked on a number of occasions about very critical statements made about the president, accusations made against the president, on a number of those occasions, he said, no, I don't have any reason to believe that's true.

    So he painted a mixed picture of the president. Did that add to his credibility in your mind?

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    I will be honest with you, Judy. His credibility is very low with me.

    The line of questioning that I took with Mr. Cohen was the fact that I have a banking background. He lied on his loan applications, on multiple loan applications. He tried to say he didn't do anything wrong because he eventually paid it back. He only paid it back because he got caught lying. And, you know, it's a crime.

    In Kentucky, in New York, it doesn't matter where. If you mislead the bank, if you omit significant liabilities, that's a felony. And to say before the committee in the testimony, if you listen to what his answers were to my questions, he said he didn't commit a felony.

    But he pled — he pled guilty in the Southern District of New York to bank fraud.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, just to sum up, you are completely satisfied that the president has done nothing wrong?

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    I am.

    There's nothing that came out today that would lead me to believe that the president has committed an impeachable offense. Has the president made financial claims before that may not be 100 percent accurate? I think any businessperson could probably say that.

    But as far as an impeachable offense, I do not think the president has done anything wrong. And I think that the Democrats are wasting a lot of political capital and their newfound majority on this investigation. I believe that this was the first step in a process to try to impeach the president.

    I don't think Nancy Pelosi wants to go there. But the speaker has a very new, very liberal, very aggressive group of freshman legislators. So I believe there's a movement within a very liberal wing of the Democrat Party here in Washington to try to take steps to impeach the president.

    I don't think they gained any traction today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative James Comer of Kentucky, we thank you very much.

  • Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.:

    Thank you.

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