Michael Cohen: ‘Lying for Mr. Trump was normalized’

Kadia Tubman
Reporter

“I knew early on in my work for Mr. Trump that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests,” said Michael Cohen in his opening testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday. “I am ashamed to say, that when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. As the President, I consider it significant and dangerous.”

He continued: “But in the mix, lying for Mr. Trump was normalized, and no one around him questioned it.”

Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud and lying to the IRS and to Congress, said “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates.”

Cohen continued: “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 Russian business and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.”

Cohen, who frequently expressed remorse and humiliation for his admitted crimes, described himself as “a fool” for his loyalty. He said he was a victim of “the intoxication of Trump.” Cohen said he was “so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.”

“Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating,” said Cohen. “When you were in his presence, you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself -- that you were somehow changing the world.”

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump, reads his opening statement as he testifies at a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 27, 2019. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

At the start of the hearing, Cohen’s credibility was heatedly contested by the committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH). “This might be the first time someone convicted of lying to Congress has appeared again so quickly in front of Congress,” said Jordan. “Certainly, it’s the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness in a hearing.”

Cohen admitted lying to Congress about the extent of the Trump Organization’s attempts to win approval for a billion-dollar project in Moscow during Trump’s presidential campaign. He apologized for lying to Melania Trump about payoffs he made to a porn star to cover up her relationship with Donald Trump.

“Lying to the First Lady,” he said, “is one of my biggest regrets.”

“I have lied, but I am not a liar,” said Cohen. “I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump.”

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