The Dickinson Press: 'Lies on top of lies': North Dakota Rep. Armstrong among Republicans assailing Cohen’s credibility

February 27, 2019
In The News

U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., one of several members of Congress on Wednesday, Feb. 27, to hear from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, joined his Republican colleagues on the House Oversight and Reform Committee in attacking Cohen’s credibility.

“He pled guilty to tax evasion six times, he pled guilty to two counts of bank fraud,” Armstrong told hosts of a morning talk show before the Cohen hearing. “This is a web of deception in his personal life that was constant, was omnipresent. … There were lies on top of lies, lies to different banks, different lies to his accountants.”

Cohen reminded committee members in his testimony that he has pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution.

The latter charge relates to the $130,000 Cohen paid Stephanie Clifford, the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, to not discuss a sexual affair she says she had with the president.

Cohen also admitted in November that he had lied to Congress about Trump’s business efforts in Russia during the 2016 election season.

A judge sentenced Cohen to prison in December, and he will begin his three-year sentence in May.

“I am not protecting Mr Trump anymore,” Cohen told the House Committee. “To attack me every single time on taxes, (to say) I have no credibility, it’s exactly for that reason that I spent the last week searching boxes in order to find the information that I did, so that you don’t have to take my word for it.”

The information Cohen mentioned included letters Trump asked him to write to his high school and college, ordering the institutions not to share Trump’s grades, and copies of a check Trump signed to Cohen, reimbursing the attorney for the payment he made to Clifford.

Armstrong specifically targeted an offer Cohen made earlier in the hearing to share recorded conversations with clients other than Trump. Although it’s legal in the state of New York to record a call without the other party’s consent, Armstrong told Cohen he thought the action was unethical.

“I know lawyers who would go to jail before they would violate attorney-client privilege,” said Armstrong, formerly an attorney in Grand Forks and Dickinson. “Client privilege and attorney trust accounts are about the two most sacred things that you can ever do in your entire career as a lawyer.

“Within a matter of a second -- one second -- you took absolutely no calculation of your role as those clients’ counselor, the role that plays in privacy and the role that plays in the solemn vow you took when you passed the bar,” Armstrong said. “You just immediately said ‘If it helps me out in front of TV, then yes, Mr. Chairman, you can have that.’ ”

Cohen told Armstrong the recordings were already in the hands of law enforcement agencies and he was only trying to be cooperative with Congress.

Armstrong also addressed Cohen’s charges of tax evasion and giving false information to a financial institution.

“We talk about these indictments on tax fraud and bank fraud as if they are isolated incidents,” Armstrong said. “But they’re not isolated incidents of bad judgment. These were intricate, elaborate lies that needed to be held with constant deceptions, of banks, businesses, associates, accountants, potentially your family.

“My question is, was it exhausting keeping track of all these lies you were telling people?”