WASHINGTON • Rep. William Lacy Clay said Wednesday that he believes, based on testimony from President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, that Trump will eventually be prosecuted for bank fraud for allegedly submitting a false loan application to Deutsche Bank in an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills NFL team.
Clay, D-University City, said in an interview after Michael Cohen’s daylong grilling before the House Oversight Committee, on which Clay is a senior member, that he was undecided whether what he learned from Cohen’s testimony merited Trump impeachment proceedings. Clay said he would wait to hear a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is expected soon.
Under direct questioning from Clay, Cohen alleged Trump inflated the value of his businesses in order to get loans and to rank high on Forbes’ business rankings.
Clay said that he believed that opened Trump to prosecution, but that it was unclear if he could constitutionally face charges while still in office.
“What we have learned today is that the president committed bank fraud by submitting a false loan application to Deutsche Bank,” Clay said. “And we learned that contrary to his denial, the president knew all about Wikileaks’ plan to use weaponized information stolen by Russian intelligence from the DNC to harm Hillary Clinton and help his own (2016) campaign.”
Even before Wednesday’s hearing, some Democrats were raising the possibility of impeaching Trump.
But Clay said that “I am still waiting on Mueller.
“I think, though, it is obvious that crimes were committed and I think eventually that there will be criminal charges filed against this president,” he said. “Now, it may have to wait until his term is over.”
The dramatic Clay-Cohen exchange came in an explosive and bitterly partisan House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday in which Cohen said he had lied to Congress, accepted going to prison over it, but declared: “I am not a liar.”
“The American people are tired of being lied to,” Clay said, prefacing his questioning. “They have been lied to by President Trump, they have been lied to by the president’s children, they have been lied to by the president’s legal representatives. And it pains me to say they have been even lied to by his congressional enablers who are still devoted to perpetuating and protecting this giant con game on the American people.”
Republicans attacked Clay and his colleagues for relying on a convicted liar — Cohen faces a three-year prison term as a result of actions he took on Trump’s behalf — to try to bring down Trump.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., accused committee Democrats of using a congressional hearing “to bring the president down, to impugn the president.”
“We have brought this committee to its knees in terms of losing its credibility,” Hice said.
Clay homed in on a part of Cohen’s opening statement to the committee.
“To your knowledge did the president or his company ever inflate assets or revenues?” Clay said, later introducing several years of Trump’s financial statements into the record.
“Yes,” Cohen said.
“And was that done with the president’s knowledge or direction?” Clay asked.
“Everything was done with the knowledge and direction of Mr. Trump,” Cohen said.
Cohen said it was done to inflate Trump’s ranking on Forbes magazine’s rankings of net worth, which Clay later said would not necessarily be illegal. But Clay then pivoted to actions that may be illegal: lying about assets to insurance companies to verify coverage, or to banks in order to get loans.
“Inflating assets to win a newspaper poll to boost your ego is not a crime but to your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to a bank in order to help him obtain a loan?” Clay asked
“These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one occasion in which I was with him in our attempt to obtain money so that we can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills,” Cohen said, referring to Trump net worth statements he said he believed inflated the value of Trump’s companies.
The rancorous hearing, in which each side accused the other of using congressional oversight authority to score political points, came on a day in which Trump was in Vietnam at a summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump, himself, weighed in with a tweet from that summit halfway across the world, even including a slap at lawyer Lanny Davis, who the just-disbarred Cohen said was representing him without pay. Trump referred to Davis’s representation of then-President Bill Clinton, during the impeachment scandals, and of Hillary Clinton.
“He is lying in order to reduce his prison time,” Trump tweeted, although Cohen has already been sentenced to a three-year term to begin in May. “Using Crooked’s lawyer.”
Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also. He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2019