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Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., Gives Her Take On Michael Cohen's Testimony


With one - no doubt - carefully crafted line, the president's former lawyer managed to tie both of today's big news stories together with a rhetorical bow. Michael Cohen was testifying before the House Oversight Committee. He brought up the bad press surrounding Donald Trump's medical deferment from military service in Vietnam. Cohen says Trump wouldn't hand over his medical records; just told him handle it, told him not to answer questions from reporters.


MICHAEL COHEN: He finished the conversation with the following comment - you think I'm stupid? I'm not going to Vietnam. And I find it ironic, Mr. President, that you are in Vietnam right now.

KELLY: A reference to the summit under way in Vietnam and one of many jaw-dropping moments from today's testimony. Tonight, we are questioning the lawmakers who have been questioning Cohen. And from the Capitol now, we are joined by California Democrat Katie Hill. She is vice chair of the House Oversight Committee. Congresswoman, welcome.

KATIE HILL: Thank you so much for having me.

KELLY: Point me to what, in your view, was the most significant revelation from Cohen's testimony.

HILL: Well, as far as I'm concerned, the most significant revelation was that President Trump made payments directly from his personal bank account to Mr. Cohen as reimbursements for the payments that Mr. Cohen made to Stormy Daniels to - as part of this, you know, scheme to try and deceive voters, to keep her silence, these illegal hush money payments Mr. Trump paid while he was president. And I think that, as far as I'm concerned, you know, all of the actions that he did before he became president are horrible enough, but once you are committing acts as president of the United States, it takes it to a completely different level.

KELLY: And the revelation that was striking today was the date of the check, that Cohen says this was dated in 2017, so when President Trump was already president, when he was in the White House.

HILL: Exactly. Exactly.

KELLY: Have you actually seen that check, by the way? Has it been introduced and has the committee had access to these documents that were introduced?

HILL: Yes. It has. And in fact, it was displayed in the hearing on the screen.

KELLY: So you got to look at it, see the signature and you're satisfied that it is legit and that it's dated when Cohen says it was dated.

HILL: As - I mean, as far as I can tell, I didn't personally examine it, but I know that our staff - the committee staff has, and we will be looking into it even further. He presented one, but there are - he - according to him, his testimony, there are 11 more that were - that he can get copies of from his bank, or I suppose we could get copies of from his bank (laughter).

KELLY: Right. There were a lot of questions, as you know, about the wisdom of inviting a man convicted of lying to Congress to come back and testify before Congress. Having sat now through many hours of this, do you believe today did prove a useful exercise? And if so, why?

HILL: I do believe it was a useful exercise for a few different reasons. The first is, as my colleague Jamie Raskin mentioned, the Republicans are not mad about him lying to Congress. They're mad that he stopped lying to Congress. And, you know, every single person that I know at some point has lied in their life. So this kind of false equivalency that the Republicans are making, which is that if you've lied once, then you can never tell the truth again, is absolutely absurd. So I think, you know, Mr. Cohen has - does not have a whole lot to gain by lying at this point. He does have a whole lot to lose.

KELLY: So you believe he was truthful in his testimony today.

HILL: Yeah. I mean, I think he's - you have to verify things, and that's the role of the committee. But I think that as you do with any cooperating witness in any kind of prosecution, you use this as important context and as an important kind of foundation to figure out where to go next and which other witnesses we need to call and what other kind of trails we need to follow. And that's exactly what I think this led us to.

KELLY: Yeah. And was there a trail that leapt out at you that you thought, I'm going to go back and have my staff jump on that one?

HILL: Well, one of the ones for sure is that I think we need to be having a conversation with Mr. Weisselberg. So I think that that's a significant one that we - it became clear that he has a lot of information that we can - you know, we can glean a lot of information from.

KELLY: I want to let you respond in the minute or so we have left to the charges leveled by Republican members of the committee that by inviting a convicted liar that today's hearing was never intended to contribute to the public record of facts, that it was instead a partisan hit job motivated by a desire to lay the groundwork for impeachment.

HILL: Personally, I find that completely offensive to the integrity of our chairman and to the integrity of this body. What I see instead is that we have a group of members of Congress on the other side of the aisle that have been doing everything in their power to try and cover up the truth or try to at least not give the American people the access that they deserve to hear the full story, right? And, you know, it's ultimately up to each person individually as citizens to decide whether or not to believe Mr. Cohen and - just like they do with any other, you know, testimony that they're going to hear. And, ultimately, the fact that they're trying to prohibit that to me is the shady part.

KELLY: California Democrat Katie Hill speaking to us from the Capitol. Congresswoman, thank you.

HILL: Thank you so much.

KELLY: And elsewhere on the program, we question a Republican member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.