Key Comments from Trump's Ex-Attorney Testimony
Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former long-time personal attorney, is testifying Wednesday before a congressional panel about his dealings with Trump through the years, during the 2016 presidential campaign and in the first months of his presidency two years ago.
His testimony is occurring about two months before he is set to begin a three-year prison term for financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.
Trump, in Vietnam for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, assailed Cohen on Twitter, saying 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."
Here are some of Cohen's comments from his prepared statement at the opening of the hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform:
"Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for president, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said 'yes' to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way."
"I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat."
Cohen said he was providing the congressional panel with several pieces of evidence to support his account. Cohen described one of them as "a copy of a ($35,000) check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president – to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign."
He also submitted "a copy of an article with Mr. Trump's handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs."
Cohen admitted lying to Congress in previous testimony, saying, "I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign."
"In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there's no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie."
"To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project."
"Donald Trump is a man who 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.' He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity."
"A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes. Mr. Trump knew from (political adviser) Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with (WikiLeaks founder) Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of "wouldn't that be great.'"
"Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries 'shitholes.' In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a 'shithole.' This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States. While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid."
"Mr. Trump is a cheat. It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes."
"Mr. Trump is a conman. He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife (first lady Melania Trump) about it, which I did. 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."
Trump claimed a bone spur in his foot to avoid serving during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, but Cohen said, "When I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment. 'You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam."
"I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.