In long-awaited and explosive testimony before a congressional panel, President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said that as a candidate, Trump was aware that Roger Stone was working with WikiLeaks to disseminate hacked emails, and that after he took office, the president reimbursed Cohen with a personal check for hush money payments to the actress Stormy Daniels.
In his opening statement at a Wednesday morning hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the president’s former personal lawyer and Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman attacked Trump’s character and described the work that he did for him over a decade, as a lawyer and fixer in matters concerning his private and business life, campaign and presidency. Among the new details in Cohen’s account, Trump had him threaten his schools and the College Board not to disclose his grades or SAT scores, and that at a time when he cut his employees’ salaries by 50 percent, Trump received a $10 million refund from the IRS — and made fun of the government’s stupidity in sending him money.
He described Trump’s penchant for making racial slurs against black people.
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” said Cohen. “I am ashamed, because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat.”
According to Cohen’s testimony, he was present when Trump was personally informed by Stone, a longtime ally, that he was in communications with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange about the upcoming release of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.
“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,” said Cohen. “Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with 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?’”
Stone, who is under indictment over charges he lied to Congress, has denied speaking directly to Assange or being involved in the email releases.
In discussing a June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a representative of the Russian government arranged in part by Donald Trump, Jr., Cohen said the president often said his eldest son had the “worst judgment of anyone in the world.”
Cohen provided a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse Cohen for hush money payments he made to Stormy Daniels during the campaign. He also provided copies of 2011-2013 financial statements that Trump gave to Deutsche Bank and letters Cohen had written threatening academic institutions to not release his grades or SAT scores. Trump had previously called on former President Barack Obama to release his college applications and transcripts.
Cohen also said that while Trump courts white supremacists and racists, he was even worse in private.
“He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘s***hole,’” said Cohen. “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. And yet I continued to work for him.”
The White House has denounced Cohen’s testimony as fabrications.
"Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement Tuesday morning. “Sadly, he will go before Congress this week, and we can expect more of the same. It's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies."
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal. He has also pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud related to the payments to Daniels. Cohen acknowledged his past lies in his opening statement and apologized.
“I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility,” said Cohen. “It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.”
In his recitation of Trump's greed, dishonesty and duplicity, Cohen summed up many of his points with the refrain, “And yet, I continued to work for him.” Cohen said he has never asked for and would never accept a pardon from Trump.
The testimony had originally been scheduled for Feb. 7, but was delayed after Cohen said he had been threatened by Trump and his allies. At the start of Wednesday’s hearing, Republicans on the panel attempted to get Cohen’s testimony postponed. Cohen testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday behind closed doors and will be doing the same with the House.
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