US President Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen has claimed Mr Trump knew beforehand about a leak of hacked Democratic emails
In his Wednesday testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Michael Cohen revealed that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating “illegal acts” involving President Donald Trump that he was unable to discuss, as they are the subject of a criminal probe.
Cohen also said Mr Trump directed plans for a Moscow skyscraper even during his White House campaign.
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime fixer and lawyer, provided documents related to hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign, in his prepared opening statement provided to multiple news outlets early Wednesday morning.
In blistering testimony, Cohen branded Mr Trump a “racist”, a “conman” and a “cheat”.
“He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did,” Cohen’s statement reads. “Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that.”
One of the documents provided to the committee is a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from Cohen to Daniels’ attorney. He claims he was directed by Trump to use funds from his “Home Equity Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign.”
The second document related to the hush-money payments is a copy of a $35,000 personal check from Trump to Cohen dated August 1, 2017, which was well into the first year of Trump’s presidency. Cohen alleges that he was paid “11 check installments” related to repaying Cohen.
“I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later,” Cohen said
Highlights of what Cohen said:
• Proof of those illicit acts. The documents Cohen will provide to the House committee include a check Trump allegedly gave him as reimbursement for a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, Politico reports. Cohen says the hush money was part of “a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.”
• Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about talks over a Trump Tower in Russia, says Trump lied about it, too. “To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen says. “He lied about it because he never expected to win the election,” and because he expected to make hundreds of millions of dollars from the project, Cohen says.
• ‘The worst version of himself.’ Cohen says Trump is an “enigma,” but over years working for him, he came to see his true character. “The bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself,” he says. “He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”
• Trump ‘never expected to win.’ Trump saw the campaign as a “marketing opportunity” and he never expected to win the primary, let alone the election, Cohen says. He “ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation—only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.'”
• Racism. Trump is a racist who has publicly courted white supremacists and bigots, Cohen says—and “in private, he is even worse. While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way,” he says. “And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
• Threats to his former schools. While describing ways in which Trump is a “cheat” and a “conman,” Cohen says Trump directed him to “threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.” He says he will give the committee copies of a letter sent at Trump’s direction threatening legal action if the grades were released.
• No bone spurs. Cohen says that when Trump put him in charge of dealing with questions over the Vietnam draft deferment he claimed was because of a bone spur, “I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery.” “He finished the conversation with the following comment: ‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam,'” Cohen says.
• Russia collusion. Cohen says he has no direct evidence that Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia, though he certainly has suspicions. He recalls that around the time of Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, he recalled Trump Jr. telling Trump that the “meeting was all set,” which struck Cohen as odd because Trump “had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world.”
• An apology. Cohen, who says he hasn’t asked for a pardon from Trump and would never accept one, apologizes to the nation for hiding the truth about the president for so long. “But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me,” he says. “I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.”
Various news outlets