Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen turned on his former boss in a dramatic congressional appearance Wednesday, calling the US president a conman and inveterate liar who engaged in possibly illegal conduct while in office.
Cohen told the House Oversight Committee that Trump directed him last year to lie about hush payments made to a porn actress to silence her claims of an affair with Trump.
He said that Trump knew in advance in mid-2016 that WikiLeaks would publish emails stolen from rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign by the Russians.
And Cohen asserted that personal lawyers for Trump and his family reviewed and edited his written testimony to Congress in 2017 in which he lied about a Moscow real estate deal that was negotiated through the 2016 presidential election.
But Cohen’s five hours of testimony, at times angry and at others emotional, produced no fresh evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia during the race, or evidence of financial crimes by the president and his Trump Organization — subjects at the center of multiple federal and congressional investigations.
Instead, he drew a damning portrait of the man he worked for as personal lawyer, dealmaker and fixer for over 10 years — depicting a morally corrupt figure who forces staff to lie for him, and cares only about himself.
“Today, I am here to tell the truth about Mr Trump,” Cohen told the nationally-televised hearing.
“He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” who inflated his assets when it suited him “and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” Cohen said.
Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison over the hush payments and his lies to Congress — both of which he said were to protect Trump — as well as for tax evasion.
But in a striking display of remorse, the 52-year-old New Yorker, who was the president’s right-hand man at the Trump Organization, said he was ashamed of the time he worked for Trump, protecting him and concealing “illicit acts.”
He called Trump an “autocrat” who readily abuses the power of his office, and compared his operations to a mafia family.
“I did things and I acted improperly. I blindly followed his demands,” Cohen told the panel.
“My loyalty has cost me everything, my family’s happiness, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation and soon my freedom. I will not sit back and allow him to do the same to the country.”