tv Rep. Elijah Cummings Reacts to End of Michael Cohen Hearing CSPAN March 3, 2019 1:56pm-2:13pm EST
two years ago, i said that when hillary clinton and donald trump were running against each other, i said that this is not about hillary. and this is not about donald trump. this was a fight for the soul of our democracy. that statement is truer now than it was then. today i think was a very important day. i tell my staff that 200 years from now people will be reading about this moment. so i will say to you, the press, get it right.
we have a situation where we have strayed so far away from normal in our country, and we have got to get back to center. and i think today was at least an opportunity to do that. a lot of people, we got a lot of criticism, as you could hear, about michael cohen coming before our committee. but just think about what we are dealing with. we have rosenstein, who said that it is quite possible that the american people will never see the report or just about anything that comes out of mueller's investigation. and i think the american people in the last election were crying out.
even the people who love the president, even the ones who believe he is doing a great job, said that we want accountability. we want accountability. and i think, and, therefore, they elected democrats in some districts that were trump districts, quite a few of them. so today, as i said earlier, you know, what has happened over the last two years is that there has not been any accountability. none. none. couldn't get a subpoena, couldn't get a hearing, couldn't get witnesses, and all we were trying to do is do our job. the constitution is abundantly clear.
it says to us, every two years, we raise our hand, and we say that we swear to uphold the constitution. and part of that constitution says that we have to be a check and balance on the executive branch. that is what this was all about. mr. cohen coming in and bringing corroborating evidence, i think the checks are very, very significant. he talked about the man that he and basically what he did was the american people to the man he has known for 10 years. the republicans did not want to hear any of that. and that is all well and good, but that will not get us to where we need to get to as a nation.
the question becomes, you know, where do we go from here? well, we're going to study our testimony and figure out what we got there. we have got transcribed interviews of some people that we are going to be looking at. we have not gotten the kind of cooperation that i would want from white house counsel with regard to documents that we need. but again, we are going to follow up on this testimony, and if you ask me exactly where we are going, i cannot tell you exactly the areas we are going, but we will do things in a very methodical way, a very careful way, because the thing that i emphasize to the members of our committee is that we must be a committee with integrity. i want to be effective and efficient in everything we do, and in order to be effective and efficient, one of the things you have got to do is you have to reclaim civility. that is one of the things i was trying to do in there. two, we have got to make sure that we get information. when we have an uncooperative
executive branch, basically who does not want us to get information, and then they tell all of you all by the way they want us to suppress you all, how do you even make a government accountable? i appreciate mr. cohen coming in. i thought he brought a lot to the table. he described the donald trump that he knows, and we will see where we go from there. reporter: what is the most important thing you learned today? sir, congressman, what is the most important thing you learned today? rep. cummings: i believe that he told the truth. i have been practicing law, first of all, as i said in there, i have practiced law for many years. one of the things that i did, i represented a lot of lawyers who got in trouble. and i am used to watching
witnesses. i think that he -- first of all, i think he is very, something -- a light bulb went off in his head i guess and he said you know what, i'm going the wrong way. i want to change things. i want to reverse things. and i think he is remorseful, and a lot of people said the reason he is coming in is because he just wants to get his sentence reduced. i think that is not likely. the fact is i don't want you to miss this. and he agreed with me because i told him, if you come in here and you lie, and these were my exact words, i will nail you to the cross. and i meant that. because we cannot keep going on just lying and lying and lying. we will never get to any kind of sense of normalcy. but to answer your question, i believe him. reporter: mr. chairman, what do you think --
reporter: what about donald trump jr., do you need to talk to them? rep. cummings: we probably will. that is a very good question. there are certain areas we have got to be careful with because special counsel, the southern district of new york, and others have basically said that there are things that they are looking into. there are a number of areas we couldn't even get into and did not get into that they are looking into. i think that there are still a number of shoes to drop. i think there is more. i don't know what it is, but i can tell you that we work very closely with special counsel to try to make sure that we did not interfere with the investigation. one more thing. wait a minute. i have a bad cold. reporter: do you believe -- rep. cummings: i want to be clear. i don't know whether you missed this. i said that i would rather have
no hearing than to have a hearing that interfered with mueller. i would rather not have it. because i think mueller is doing very, very important work. but the press, come on, guys and ladies, one of the things we have to get back to, we still have a situation where folks are messing with our elections. and we have done very little we have done very little about it. i mean, this was an attack on our system of government, our democracy. this is serious. there is a lot that is going to come out of this, things that other committees will learn from this. i just talked to adam schiff a few minutes ago before i came over here, and there are a number of things of that he is going to be able to use from our hearing for his hearing. but we have got about five other committees that are looking at different aspects of the trump administration. but again, again, don't get it
twisted. we are doing, i have said it from the very beginning, that we are going down too fast in this committee. one, we are going to make sure we address those issues that confront the american people on a day-to-day basis such as the census, and such as voting rights, and prescription drugs, and the affordable care act. but on the other hand, we also are going to paint a picture of what is happening to our democracy. reporter: mr. chairman, based on what you heard, do you believe that the president committed a crime while in office? rep. cummings: based on what -- looking at the text and listening to mr. cohen, it appears that he did. and that is not for me to say. i am basing that on what has already been found. here they found mr. cohen is pleading to charges where he said he was directed to commit a crime by the president. so again, i think, we really, we will just have to see what mueller says.
a lot of you all have been asking me to do interviews. i literally turned down at least probably 150 interviews over the last month. once we knew that cohen was coming. do you know why? because the thing i did not want to do was just assume what he was going to say. i wanted him to come in, say what he had to say, and then try to tell you what we found out. because i refuse to be a hypocrite. when my republican colleagues, when they were in control, what they would do is go out, make a headline, a big headline, and then try to have a hearing to get the facts to catch up with the headline.
and usually, the facts were not there. so i wanted to make sure i was very careful, so now you all can start asking for interviews again. reporter: you said that he may have committed a crime. what are the impeachable offenses? rep. cummings: you have to understand, i have been sitting there for eight or nine hours. i need to study the transcripts and see what we have. keep in mind, i want to proceed very cautiously. but isn't it interesting that not one person, not one person on our side even mentioned the word impeachment? not one. not one. they did, but not us. so again, i am hoping that, not hoping -- i know that this is not the end of the process but the beginning. reporter: chairman, you spent several years in of the minority committee. this is your first really big hearing as chairman.
rep. cummings: here we go again. reporter: how do you think it went, and how do you think the two parties behaved today? rep. cummings: i felt that, you know, when you get to be my age, you don't, i don't, i don't, i probably would judge it in a different way than a younger person. but i have been on this committee 22 years. so i have seen a lot. i practiced law and have seen some people that have done some of the worst things in the world. i have seen people get disbarred. i have seen all kinds of stuff. i see it as part of our history. so the fact that people were arguing back and forth was not as bad as i thought it would be. i thought it would be more dilatory tactics. but it did not work out that way. reporter: where do you rank this hearing compared to all the other oversight committee hearings over the years?
rep. cummings: i think this on had to be, this end of the toyota hearings had to be probably number one and two. number one and two. remember toyota? that was big. thank you, guys. reporter: [indiscernible] rep. cummings: you know, what i want the president to know, i want you to put my closing argument, that's what i want. i want the president to be reminded of what i said to him in the oval office two years ago. i said to him, i said, mr. president, you can be the greatest president in the world if, if, if, if, if you went out there and not just represented and did good things for 35% or 40% of the people but for all of the people. of course, he went out and said i told him that he would be the greatest president in the world. he cut off the "if," but that is what i want. do you know why?
when i spent time in the hospital for six months, you get a chance to think about your life and your death. you try to figure out what it is that you want the most. and i think most of us want to know that our children are going to be ok. we want to know that there are going to experience a democracy, that they are going to have an opportunity, a better opportunity than i had. i want him, when he goes out there and he does things, want him to think about children. i want him to think about the children that he separated from their parents. i wanted him to think about the fact that we had children in cages. i want him to think about the education of children. in other words, other things -- more important than all of that, i want him to think about the
democracy, a true democracy. i've got to go. thank you. >> thank you. there was more reaction to cohen's testimony on the sunday shows. this is a guy coming in who has zero credibility who has lied and is going to prison for lying, one of those laws was lying to congress previously. and guess what he did? he came before congress and told at least six different lies. bother you that paul manafort, george papadopoulos, michael flynn, michael cohen, all his people around the president have all been convicted or pled guilty either to investigators are congress? >> what bothers me