WASHINGTON – President Trump's longtime lawyer accused him Wednesday of procrastination and crime, offering a damning picture of life in the president's orbit, claiming that his advisers sacrificed integrity for the proximity of power.
Michael D. Cohen, who represented Trump for a decade, told Congress that the president had lied to the US public about commercial interests in Russia during the 2016 campaign and lied to reporters about stolen Democratic emails. . Mr. Trump also told Mr. Cohen to lie about illegal payments of silence in order to cover up alleged sexual indiscretions, the lawyer said.
The charges, broadcast for a full day before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, revealed a dark underbelly of Trump's business and political world at the voice of one of the ultimate insiders. Perhaps no close associate of a president has so strongly criticized him in Congress since John Dean testified against President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
"He's racist. This is a scammer. And it's a cheater, "Mr. Cohen told the president. Mr. Cohen, who pled guilty to having lied under oath before Congress, among other crimes, said he did so to protect Mr. Trump. "I no longer protect Mr. Trump," he said.
But it remains unclear whether his testimony will change the political momentum of a series of scandals that have already polarized Washington and the country and that could lead to a dismissal battle later this year.
In criticizing Mr. Cohen as a proven liar, the Republicans described the audience as "charade" and "embarrassment for our country." Democrats said Republicans "escaped from the truth" as they sought to defend a corrupt president who used tactics from the crowd. "
Like many other moments of the Trump era, the audience seemed to be as much about partisan drama as it was about finding the facts, with both parties frozen in their views and inflexible in their approach. . Democrats and Republicans are exposing their own contradictory accounts about the man who once served Mr. Trump, either as a former dissatisfied employee who is trying to reduce his sentence, or as a fallen sinner who is not guilty. is aware of his mistakes and is now trying to redeem himself.
All the while, Mr. Cohen, 52, had dark circles under his eyes as he waits three years in jail starting in the spring. Excusing repeatedly with his family, Mr. Cohen described his 10 years of work for Mr. Trump as a trip into a world of deception in which the lawyer ignored his own conscience in order to bring a person closer to magnetic power.
"Sitting here today, it seems incredible to me that I was so fascinated by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew to be absolutely wrong," said Mr. Cohen. When he met with Mr. Trump, he knew him as "a real estate giant" and an "icon" at the center of the action. "Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating," he said.
In the private sector, Mr. Cohen explained that Mr. Trump's dishonesty was described as "trivial", but as chairman, he said, "I consider this to be important and dangerous."
Mr. Cohen said that he had come to realize that he had sacrificed his own ethic and that he was now seeking to redeem his own misdeeds. "The more people who follow Mr. Trump like me blindly will suffer the same consequences as me," he said. "I lost everything."
The hearing took place while the President was on the other side of the world Vietnam for a meeting with the leader of North Korea. His family and council members expressed anger over the time of the hearing, saying the Democrats were sabotaging Trump in a delicate nuclear diplomacy for political ends.
The organization of the president's campaign for re-election dismissed Mr. Cohen as a perjury convicted of not believing. "It's the same Michael Cohen who admitted to having already lied in Congress," Kayleigh McEnany, the campaign's national press secretary, said in a statement. "Why did they even bother to swear at this time?"
The Republicans of the committee aggressively attacked Mr. Cohen in the same direction. Representative Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio called Mr. Cohen "a fraudster, cheater, criminal and, in two months, federal inmate."
Mr. Jordan questioned why Mr. Cohen had attacked Mr. Trump's character and actions, suggesting that the former lawyer was embittered because the new president had not brought him to Washington.
"You wanted to work at the White House -" says Mr. Jordan.
"No, sir," replied Mr. Cohen.
"- and was not brought to the dance."
"I did not want to go to the White House," said Cohen.
Eric Trump, one of the president's sons, challenged this on Twitter. "Michael was pressuring EVERYONE to be" Chief of Staff "" he wrote. "It was the biggest joke of the campaign and the office. Has he just perjured himself again?
The hearing sparked a keen interest in Capitol Hill, where the Democrats took control of the House last month and are under tremendous pressure from their Liberal base to dismiss Mr. Trump. The crowd was huge and the sense of drama palpable. Lawmakers on both sides attended the 30-minute opening statement by Mr. Cohen, who presented his charges.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who threatened to reveal Tuesday what he said was Cohen's extramarital affairs on Twitter, showed up at the hearing, although he is not a member of committee.
Mr. Cohen presented a series of actions by Mr. Trump that reinforce the previous allegations and submitted corroborating documents to his account, including copies of checks issued by the President or by his trust which he said corresponded to repayments of $ 130,000 in hidden payments that Mr. Cohen had made to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic porn actress who alleged a relationship with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Cohen said that Mr. Trump, as a candidate, had initiated the discreet payment plan and that, although president, he had organized eleven checks repaying the lawyer "as part of a ploy. criminal offense to violate campaign finance laws ", a crime to which Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty.
After reporting on payments in February 2018, Mr. Cohen told lawmakers that the President had called to discuss what the lawyer should say publicly about the scheme. Mr. Trump told him to say that the president "was not aware of these repayments and he was not aware" of Mr. Cohen's actions.
Democrats asked Mr. Cohen if Mr. Trump had provided false financial information to hide secret payments. Mr. Trump's annual personal financial disclosure statement in 2017 did not mention Mr. Cohen's reimbursement that year.
But the statement filed by Mr. Trump last year included a footnote stating a refund of $ 100,001 to $ 250,000 to Mr. Cohen, raising questions as to whether the 2017 filing improperly omitted the debt. While the 2018 declaration did not specify the purpose of the payment, it was understood that she was referring to the interim payment.
"Why do you think the president has not provided the exact information in his 2017 financial disclosure form?", Asked Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat representative, Mr. Cohen. "What was he trying to hide?"
Mr. Cohen stated that the purpose of the payment was to prevent Ms. Daniels from telling her story. "It would have embarrassed the president and it would have embarrassed the elections," he said.
Mr. Cohen told lawmakers that Mr. Trump had personally followed the negotiations for the construction of a Trump tower in Moscow, requesting "at least half a dozen times" between January and June 2016, even though that he was running for president.
"Mr. Trump was aware of and directed the Trump-Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it," said Mr. Cohen. "He lied about it because he did not believe it. Was also expected to win.He also lied about it because he was preparing to earn hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. "
In his previous testimony before the federal authorities, Mr. Cohen lied to Congress saying that the project was abandoned in January 2016. Mr. Trump had not explicitly asked him to lie, he said. for me "that he" wanted me to lie "and the president's lawyers reviewed and even reviewed Mr. Cohen's false testimony before Congress.
Mr. Cohen stated that he had "no direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign agreed with Russia". But, he added, "I have my suspicions".
He highlighted the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Donald Trump Jr., the candidate's eldest son; Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, Campaign Chair; met Russian visitors after learning that They had "dirty" Hillary Clinton of the Russian government.
The President denied knowing about the meeting at the time, but Mr. Cohen questioned it, stating that he was in Mr. Trump's office on June 2016 when Donald Jr. went in, got past his father's desk and spoke. a low voice, said, "The meeting is over." The candidate, he said, replied, "OK, fine. Let me know."
Mr. Cohen said that this could have referred to the meeting with Russia because "Mr. Trump had often told other people and other people that his son, Don Jr., had the worst judgment in the world "and that his son" did not ". would never hold an important meeting alone and certainly not without verification with his father. "
Cohen also recalled staying in Trump's office shortly before the 2016 Democratic National Convention, when Roger J. Stone Jr., a long-time advisor, had called. Mr. Trump put him on the speaker and Mr. Stone announced that he had just spoken to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who stated that "in a few days he There would be a huge amount of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. . "
Mr. Trump responded by stating, "Would not that be great?" "Said Mr. Cohen.
In an interview with The New York Times last month, Mr. Trump denied speaking to Mr. Stone about WikiLeaks and emails. Mr. Stone has been charged with obstruction of justice, misrepresentation and falsification of witnesses
Mr. Cohen compared Mr. Trump to a gangster who inflated his net worth, staged an art auction, frequently used racist language and threatened anyone who got in his way. Mr. Cohen felt that he had threatened someone under the orders of Mr. Trump, perhaps 500 times in 10 years, blaming a "nasty reporter" or warning of lawsuits.
He has provided several documents to the committee. He presented what he said were financial statements that Mr. Trump gave to institutions such as Deutsche Bank and said that the president inflated or deflated his assets when it was used for his purposes. He also offered letters he had written on Mr. Trump's instructions to the President's High School, Colleges and Board of Directors, threatening them not to publish his notes during the 2016 campaign.
Mr Cohen said Mr Trump did not show up for the presidency to make the country big, calling it "the best publicity story of political history" for his company. "He never expected to win the primary," he said. "He never expected to win the general election. For him, the campaign has always been a marketing opportunity. "
The former lawyer also described racist conversations in which Mr. Trump had asked him if he could "name a country run by a black person who was not a mess" and, while driving in a troubled neighborhood, he pointed out that only way. "He told me that blacks would never vote for him because they were too stupid," said Mr. Cohen.
As the day went on, Republicans insisted that Mr. Cohen should not be believed. They claimed that he had lied even by signing a committee form in which he did not disclose the payments he had received from a bank in Kazakhstan.
"You are a pathological liar," said Arizona Representative Paul Gosar.
"Are you talking about me or the president?" Retorted Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen hinted that the group's Republicans had fallen into the trap, exchanging their honor for a president who did not deserve it.
"I did the same thing you have been doing now for 10 years," he said. "I have protected Mr. Trump for 10 years."