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Opinion

Will Cohen trump his former client?

Even as he preps for prison, the president's former lawyer has more to tell.

President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen arrives

President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen arrives at U.S. Federal Court in New York in this photo taken on December 12, 2018. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Timothy A. Clary

So, we can only speculate on what he will say about alleged links between Moscow and the Trump campaign and hotel business. Washington has been awash in gossip about what Cohen could add to the probe into Russia’s 2016 election interference and about what special counsel Robert Mueller will conclude in his report.

It’s important to remember that Cohen pleaded guilty in two cases: one brought by Mueller over Cohen’s lies to Congress about a Trump tower project in Moscow, the other brought by federal prosecutors in New York City over tax and bank fraud, as well as campaign finance violations.

Cohen has nothing to lose. He’s been sentenced to 3 years in prison for financial crimes and lying to Congress. How ironic that he will now testify under oath before a congressional panel. He is due to start serving his sentence on March 6, and the court hit him with forfeiture of $500,000, restitution of $1.4 million, and two $50,000 fines.

“Our democratic institutions depend upon the honesty of our citizenry in dealing with the government,” Judge William Pauley said during Cohen’s sentencing. “As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better. While Mr. Cohen is taking steps to mitigate his criminal conduct by pleading guilty and volunteering useful information to prosecutors, that does not wipe the slate clean.”

So why would Cohen testify before this committee?

1. To try to begin to rehab his reputation. It’s never too late for public relations.

2. To get back at Trump, who publicly dissed him. Trump distanced himself from Cohen and said he was a liar.

3. To lead us back to the misdeeds and malfeasance of a sitting president, including womanizing. Cohen was accused of working to buy the silence of women who claimed that they had affairs with the future president. His testimony could add more to that saga.

As it turns out, you can be accused of lying to Congress and still be a credible witness before Congress.

Stay tuned.

Tara D. Sonenshine is former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. She advises students at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.

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