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Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Shares His Impression Of Michael Cohen

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Michael Cohen's turn before Congress today was marked by exchanges that started testy and then got testier. The president's longtime attorney and all-purpose fixer apologized for past lies to Congress and for the decade he spent protecting Donald Trump. But the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Jim Jordan, was not convinced. In one exchange, Jordan read a quote about Cohen from the prosecutor's sentencing memo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM JORDAN: Cohen's consciousness of wrongdoing is fleeting. His remorse is minimal. His instinct is to blame others is - to blame others is wrong. There's only thing - one wrong with that statement. His remorse is nonexistent. He just debated a member of Congress, saying, I really didn't do anything wrong with the false bank things that I'm guilty of, I'm going to prison for.

MICHAEL COHEN: Mr. Jordan, that's not what I said, and you know that that's not what I said.

JORDAN: It's exactly what...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Will the gentleman yield?

COHEN: I said I pled guilty, and I take responsibility for my actions.

KELLY: Jim Jordan of Ohio joins us now from the Capitol. Congressman, welcome.

JORDAN: Good to be with you.

KELLY: So you made clear going in that your expectations for today's proceedings were low. You likened this hearing to rolling out a welcome mat for a liar. Did you hear anything today that changed your mind?

JORDAN: No, it only reinforced it. I mean, Michael Cohen said he's the guy - he, Michael Cohen alone - who launched the Trump for president campaign simply because he did a website back in 2011. I mean, that's delusional. So the whole thing - when you bring in a guy who in two months is going to prison for lying to Congress - when you bring him in, give him a forum, a convicted felon, to say what he said today, I mean, that just shows what a circus this actually was today.

KELLY: Do you believe he told the truth today?

JORDAN: I mean, even - sometimes you'll get people who lie all the time who do say some things true. He told us his name. He told us who his family was. He did say one thing that I think is accurate because we know the dossier was so false and so fake. He said he never went to Prague.

KELLY: You're talking about the Steele dossier.

JORDAN: Yeah. The whole basis of what the FBI investigation of President Trump and any possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia was launched on that document, which we know was false - it's been known that for several - for a long time.

KELLY: Although what would Michael Cohen have to gain by lying to Congress at this point? As you mentioned, he's headed to prison. If he were to lie to Congress today, it could mean more charges being filed. Why wouldn't he just come out and tell the truth?

JORDAN: Yeah, well, you're underscoring an important point. There was no new evidence brought forward today because if there was any new evidence, no prosecutors would have allowed it to have been presented in a forum like this in front of Congress because it would be part of an...

KELLY: What about the check that he introduced, this check from 2017...

JORDAN: Old....

KELLY: ...When the president was already the president?

JORDAN: Old news. I mean, again, Michael Cohen can't have it both ways. He can't say on one hand he was the personal lawyer of the president and receiving a retainer payment as he did and then on the other hand say, no, no, this payment wasn't a retainer; it wasn't for me being his personal lawyer; it was to reimburse me for some other payment I did on my own without the president. I mean, he can't - you can't have it both ways.

So this was - I think there are probably lots of folks at companies who have lawyers on retainer and pay them in a similar way. So I think that was the key takeaway from that particular, quote, you know, "new news" that was brought forward today.

KELLY: Let me flip that point back on you about having it both ways. You can't credibly say that he's a liar and yet introduce things like the - whether or not he had a meeting in Prague, which was a key piece of the Russia investigation and say, well, OK, he did - he cleared the air on that; he set the record straight on that.

JORDAN: The Democrats can't - well, Mary Louise, the Democrats can't say, well, the dossier was so important and then say, but the fact that a central point of the dossier and all the stuff about Michael Cohen that was in the dossier are true when, in fact, he's saying that they aren't. They can't do the same thing. So all I'm saying is we learned this last week. Last week, Andy McCabe, a guy who cannot be trusted - but Andy McCabe did say one thing last week on his book tour.

KELLY: This is the former deputy director of the FBI.

JORDAN: Former deputy director who lied three times under oath, who was fired at the FBI and is currently under investigation by the Justice Department. You can't trust him, just like you can't trust Michael Cohen.

But Andy McCabe said one thing that I do believe last week because two other people have told me the same thing in depositions, namely that Rod Rosenstein was actually thinking about wearing a wire and recording the president of the United States and that Rod Rosenstein was looking to invoke the 25th Amendment and trying to remove the president, elected by the American people, from office.

KELLY: Let me - yep.

JORDAN: So sometimes, they will say some things that are accurate. But most of the time, you can't trust them.

KELLY: In the minute or so we have left, before we go way down the rabbit hole of the Mueller investigation, because I do want to turn you to the actual documents that were introduced as evidence today - the check, which you can say it's new or not, the copies of financial statements, letters, articles with the president's own handwriting on them. Say Cohen is a serial liar. Say you don't believe a word he says. Does it concern you that these documents appear to connect President Trump to crimes?

JORDAN: No. What concerns me is the crazy impeachment plans that the Democrats have. Here's the big news. Tom Steyer, megadonor for the Democrats, last week was in Jerry Nadler's district in Manhattan doing a town hall, encouraging Jerry Nadler's constituents to push him towards impeachment. Two nights ago in Baltimore, Elijah Cummings - Tom Steyer's in Elijah Cummings' district.

KELLY: Just very quickly - I'm sorry - 'cause we're short on time, but do you believe that the president had no involvement in any of these crimes that Cohen's going to prison for?

JORDAN: I don't think the president's done anything wrong. I think what we've seen is what we already knew. We've seen that - we already knew that there were a number of payments made to Michael Cohen as part of a retainer agreement, which I think happens all the time...

KELLY: Congressman...

JORDAN: ...With companies and their personal lawyers.

KELLY: Congressman, thanks very much for your time.

JORDAN: You bet. Thank you.

KELLY: Jim Jordan - he's the ranking Republican on the House oversight committee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.