Donald Trump is a racist whose prejudice is “even worse” in private than his public outbursts suggest, the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen is due to say in explosive testimony before Congress.
“Mr Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘s***holes’,” Cohen will tell the House oversight committee on Wednesday, according to a transcript obtained by the New York Times.
“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 ‘s***hole’. This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.
“While we were once driving through a struggling neighbourhood 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.”
Cohen’s racism claims are part of a larger picture he plans to sketch of Mr Trump as a dishonest “conman” who only entered the presidential race to further his own business interests.
“I am ashamed because I know what Mr Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Cohen is expected to say.
The 52-year-old will detail allegations the president was likely aware of a June 2016 meeting between members of his campaign and a Russian lawyer – which Mr Trump denies – as well as claims Mr Trump lied to the American people about his business links to Moscow.
“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,” Cohen will say.
“In his way, he was telling me to lie.”
On Wednesday, Mr Trump responded angrily to reports of Cohen’s upcoming testimony.
“Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately),” Mr Trump tweeted. "He had other clients also. 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. Using Crooked’s lawyer!” Mr Trump added, in reference to Hillary Clinton.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements.
"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.”
Last summer, Cohen pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations in relation to hush money payments made to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, on the eve of the 2016 election.
He also pleaded guilty to a separate charge by brought by Robert Mueller’s office that he lied to Congress about discussions over the construction of a proposed Trump Organisation skyscraper in Moscow – referred to in court documents as the “Moscow Project”.
He was sentenced to three years in jail and is due to start his sentence shortly.