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WASHINGTON —Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, testified Wednesday for a fourth time before a congressional panel, continuing to answer questions about his decade-long role as Trump's fixer.
Cohen once said he would "take a bullet" for Trump, but as Cohen has turned against the president, lawmakers are probing his role in helping Trump become the country's 45th president.
One focus is the combined $280,000 in hush money Cohen paid to or arranged for an adult film actress and a Playboy model shortly before the 2016 presidential election to keep them quiet about sexual encounters they allege they had with Trump more than a decade ago.
In addition, lawmakers are investigating Cohen's admitted lying to Congress two years ago when he testified that Trump's efforts to build a Moscow skyscraper ended in early 2016. Now Cohen says that talks about a Russian deal actually extended months longer, even as Trump was telling voters he had no Russian business deals.
CNN said Cohen, in behind-closed-doors testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, provided lawmakers with documents showing undisclosed edits to the written statement he planned to give to a congressional panel in 2017 about Trump's overtures to Russia. He publicly testified last week that a Trump lawyer had made changes to his testimony to a congressional committee, but the attorney rebuffed Cohen's claim.
Last week, Cohen showed lawmakers two $35,000 checks written to him, one signed by Trump and the other by Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, the president's global business empire. Cohen said the checks were partial payment for his making the hush money payments to the two women alleging sexual encounters with Trump. The president has denied the liaisons occurred.
The New York Times said it had seen six of the 11 checks Trump or his trust wrote to Cohen linked to the payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal. The newspaper said that based on the dates on the checks, Trump wrote them amidst normal business days at the White House as he met with lawmakers or hosted a foreign leader or as he traveled overseas.
The House Intelligence Committee is one of several committees in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives that has launched fresh investigations of Trump, his campaign, his businesses, his transition to power and his administration.
Cohen made three appearances on Capitol Hill last week, speaking to the House and Senate intelligence committees in closed sessions and publicly testifying before the House Oversight Committee that Trump is a "con man" who directed him to cover up affairs with the two women and signaled that he should lie about his business efforts in Russia.
The heads of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees made a joint request to the White House on Tuesday for records concerning any communications Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressing concern about allegations Trump worked to conceal details of those interactions.
Separately, the House Judiciary Committee requested documents this week from 81 people or entities linked to Trump as part of what Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York called an "investigation into the alleged corruption, obstruction, and other abuses of power by President Trump, his associates and members of his administration."
Trump assailed the investigations as "a big, fat, fishing expedition in search of a crime."
He contended that House Democrats "have gone stone cold CRAZY" and said letters looking for information were sent to "innocent people to harass them."
On Twitter, he called the House Judiciary Committee investigation "the greatest overreach in the history of our Country. The Dems are obstructing justice and will not get anything done."
"PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" he declared in a final, all-caps broadside.
Later, Trump told reporters, "It's a disgrace to our country," saying Democrats have still not gotten over his victory in the 2016 election. "They want to focus on nonsense."