President Trump’s second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week came as Michael Cohen, a man who was once one of Trump’s closest allies, delivered dramatic testimony before Congress calling the president a “con man,” “racist” and “cheat.” At a press conference in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on Thursday morning shortly after the talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came to an abrupt end, Trump was asked to respond to Cohen’s appearance. The president described his former attorney and fixer’s descriptions of him as “incorrect” and said the “fake hearing” was “shameful.”
“I tried to watch as much as I could. I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy. But I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing,” Trump said.
Cohen was called to testify by the Democrats leading the House Oversight Committee after he pleaded guilty last December to what a federal judge described as “a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct” including lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project he worked on with Trump and arranging payments to silence women who alleged they had affairs with the president. Following his guilty plea, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison.
In over six hours of testimony on Wednesday, Cohen attacked Trump’s character and also implicated the president in several potentially criminal acts. Among other things, Cohen said that, during the 2016 election, Trump was aware of WikiLeaks plans to release emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of his opponent Hillary Clinton. Cohen also accused Trump of cheating on his taxes.
Trump and other Republicans have pointed to Cohen’s crimes, particularly his past lies to Congress, in order to question his credibility. During the hearing on Wednesday, Republican members of the Oversight Committee also suggested Cohen, who had a reputation for being one of Trump’s most fiercely loyal aides, only changed his tune in the hopes of receiving a reduced prison sentence.
For his part, Trump objected to the timing of the hearing and claimed Cohen made many false statements.
“They could have made it two days later or next week, and it would have been even better,” Trump said. “They would have had more time, but having it during this very important summit is sort of incredible, and he lied a lot.”
Trump did manage to find one bright spot. He claimed Cohen “didn’t lie” when it came to the “most important question” — whether Trump and his campaign colluded with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential race.
“It was very interesting because he didn’t lie about one thing. He said no collusion with the Russian hoax. And I said, ‘I wonder why he didn’t just lie about that too like he did about everything else. I mean he lied about so many different things,” said Trump, adding, “I was actually impressed that he didn’t say, ‘Well I think there was collusion.’”
Cohen didn’t say there had not been collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Rather, Cohen said he had no “direct evidence” that collusion had occurred while noting he had “suspicions.”
Still, Trump was apparently pleased with Cohen’s answer to that question.
“He could have gone all out,” Trump said of Cohen. “He only went about 95 percent instead of 100 percent.”
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