February 28, 2019
President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal attorney Michael Cohen appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27 to “correct the record.”
In the process, Cohen characterized his former boss as “a racist, a con man, and a cheat”—and said he regretted his loyalty to the man for whom he had worked for ten years.
Cohen admitted last year that he lied to the House Intelligence Committee in his September 2017 testimony about his machinations on behalf of the Trump Organization.
Specifically, he misrepresented facts about the timing of his negotiations with the Kremlin for a Moscow Trump Tower; as well as about Trump’s relationships with Felix Sater and Roger Stone, who are targets of the Russia investigation; about a “massive dump” of Democratic National Committee emails; and about payoffs to Trump’s paramours.
Cohen also said that he was in the room both when Stone told Trump via speaker phone that the email dump was coming shortly; and when Donald Trump, Jr., told his father that he had confirmed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that would provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” Cohen said in his own opening statement. adding, “ I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat. 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 admitted, “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. There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me ‘How’s it going in Russia?’– referring to the Moscow Tower project.”
He added, “You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.”
In discussing his career at the Trump Organization, Cohen said, “At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.”
Among the tidbits that he dropped about the president’s character during his testimony are the following:
- “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen testified. “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.’”
- While Cohen was in a limousine with Trump, driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, Trump 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 said.
- Trump directed Cohen 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 [then] directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself,” Cohen said.
- Trump directed Cohen “to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and [tell] them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.”
- “He 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,” Cohen said.
- Trump tasked Cohen with handling 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,” Cohen remarked. “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.’
Cohen was reviled by the Republican members of the committee, who said they wondered why they were listening to additional testimony from a convicted liar who would be going to prison soon.
In addition to apologizing for his lies, Cohen stated, “I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not proud of, and I will live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life. But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.”
Research contact: @RepCummings