Michael Cohen testimony
Michael Cohen before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. (Image: AP/J Scott Applewhite)

He is a racist.

He is a conman.

He is a cheat.

Michael Cohen on Donald Trump

Michael Cohen, disgraced former lawyer and “fixer” to US President Donald Trump, has delivered incendiary testimony to US Congress about Trump’s business practices. If you’ve got the time, it’s worth reading his entire opening statement. For those who don’t, Crikey has assembled the most significant accusations and revelations here.

Naturally, Cohen includes a public apology to his family for his crimes (last December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for financial crimes and lying to Congress). And then, of course, we get the soul-searching concessions of an unequivocally guilty man in search of absolution. 

But then things get good. Armed with exhibits and corroborating documents, Cohen divulges, with startling frankness, sensitive information about subjects that have dogged the Trump presidency since inauguration: pay-offs to Stormy Daniels, the Democratic National Committee email leaks from WikiLeaks, the Russia investigation, and, most tellingly, Trump’s very character — if the public were looking for spice, they got it.

Trump’s character

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

 

Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. 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.

 

He 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 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.

 

When I [describe Trump as a] conman, I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.

Russia investigation

Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. 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. In his way, he was telling me to lie.

He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father.

DNC emails

A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes.

In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that [Republican strategist] Roger Stone was on the phone. 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.

Stormy Daniels

[Trump] asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that. I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford’s [aka Stormy Daniels’] attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump.

Bonus tidbits

Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.

Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft. Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment. ‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.’

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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