Cohen warns Republican lawmakers: don't protect Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s prison-bound former personal lawyer, on Wednesday cautioned Republicans in Congress against defending a president he had protected for years, saying they, too, risk a fall from grace.

“I’m responsible for your silliness because I did the same thing that you’re doing now for 10 years,” Cohen told Republicans at the House Oversight Committee hearing. “I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years ...

“I can only warn people. The more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”

Cohen is due to begin a three-year sentence in May for lying to Congress, tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. The sentence was reached in a plea agreement with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia.

Cohen’s comment was one of the standout moments of the hearing, one of the first public airings of the inner workings of Trump’s business, campaign and presidency, all of which have come under investigation.

Cohen, 52, was one of Trump’s closest aides and fiercest defenders, working with him on business and personal deals, including paying off an adult film actress who said she had an affair with Trump, for a decade before turning against him last year.

Throughout the hearing of the House Oversight committee, Republicans tried to undermine Cohen, portraying him as an admitted liar whose testimony against Trump could not be trusted.

Republicans on the committee did not respond to Cohen’s warning.

Trump, in Vietnam for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had yet to respond to the hearing. Trump has previously called Cohen a “rat” and a liar who is trying to reduce his prison time.

The president has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow and has called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.”

Reporting by Reuters staff; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Bill Trott