Cohen to Call Trump a Liar and Offer Documents to Back His Story
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is set to tell Congress that the president is a liar who repeatedly made false statements about his wealth and his efforts to build a luxury tower in Moscow while running for office, according to his prepared remarks.
Cohen is also making public copies of checks he received that he and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have said are reimbursement for hush money he paid to silence adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, who claimed an extramarital affair with Trump. At least one of the checks, dated August 1, 2017, was personally signed by Trump.
Cohen said the check was written from the president’s personal bank account, after he took office, “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.”
Cohen has pleaded guilty to charges of illegal campaign contributions related to the payments.
As the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened its hearing on Wednesday, Cohen also was poised to tell the panel that Trump knew during the 2016 presidential election that his ally Roger Stone was talking to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks about a release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails.
“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is,” Cohen intends to tell the committee at a public hearing on Wednesday, about the man who he once said he’d take a bullet for. “He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Cohen said in the prepared testimony.
Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including lying to Congress, and is headed to prison, also is planning to tell the committee that Trump “did not directly tell me to lie to Congress” about the timing of talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
“That’s not how he operates,” Cohen said in the prepared remarks.
But Cohen asserts that in conversations with Trump during the 2016 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,” he wrote.
“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,” Cohen wrote in his statement. “That was false -- our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.”
Cohen, in his testimony, says he has first-hand knowledge of -- and even some documentary evidence for -- a number of questionable and even potentially illegal Trump activities.
One of the biggest accusations involves the 2016 WikiLeaks release.
“He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails,” Cohen plans to say, recalling a telephone call to Trump from Stone when he was in the room that was put on speaker.
“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,” Cohen writes. “Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”
So, too, he is planning to provide the committee three years of Trump’s financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills.
Cohen intends to testify that “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.”
He described his role in the Trump circle as “always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life.”
“Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I,” Cohen said. “He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”
Cohen wrote that his former boss never expected to win the Republican nomination in 2016, let alone the general election. He said Trump, a first-time candidate, “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 also alleged that Trump displayed blatant racism in private conversations.
Trump “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,” he said. He claims Trump also said “black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
Cohen testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee for hours on Tuesday and will do the same on Thursday before the House Intelligence panel. Questions will focus in part on his role in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Tuesday that “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.”
From Vietnam, where he was meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump tweeted Wednesday that Cohen is “lying in order to reduce his prison time.”
Cohen’s appearance generated sharp debate along party lines.
“Obviously, he has a story to tell and he wants to tell it. And I want him to tell it,” said Democrat Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the Oversight subcommittee on government operations. When it comes to Trump’s businesses and Trump personally, Connolly said, “This is not just some marginal figure.”
But Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the Oversight panel’s top Republican, says there’s nothing to be gained.
“That’s right,” Jordan said in a tweet. “Oversight Dems first big witness: a guy going to prison in two months for LYING TO CONGRESS.”
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