In roughly total five hours of testimony before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen described his former boss as a racist who had committed a number of criminal infractions during the 2016 presidential campaign. He also said President Trump has not been completely forthcoming about his relationship with the Russian government, specifically with regard to plans for a Trump Tower project in Moscow.
Cohen, who has admitted he lied to Congress in previous testimony, may not be the most credible of witnesses, but his remarks provided a roadmap for congressional Democrats as they investigate President Trump. In particular, Democrats are sure to look into Cohen’s version of events related to what Mr. Trump knew of the WikiLeaks release of Democratic emails, as well as Cohen’s claim that the president’s attorneys edited his testimony before the Senate.
Here are the top takeaways from the hearing:
Accusations of racism
Cohen accused Mr. Trump of being a racist and a con man.
“He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Cohen said. “He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘sh**hole.’ 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.”
Hush money payments
Cohen provided new details about the catch-and-kill hush payments Cohen made to women on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Cohen alleged that he was reimbursed directly by the president through the first year of his term, and he submitted a copy of a personal check for $35,000, signed by Mr. Trump, that he said was one of 11 installments he received as a covert reimbursement of the payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had an affair with him over a decade ago.
Cohen said that it was Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg who structured the payments in smaller increments to avoid arousing suspicion. Cohen said he discussed the payments with the president in the Oval Office in Feb. 2017.
Roger Stone and WikiLeaks
Cohen said Mr. Trump knew his confidant Roger Stone was coordinating with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks dump of DNC emails.
“I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone,” Mr. Cohen said. “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.”
Assange released a statement saying he has “never had a telephone call with Roger Stone.” Stone also denied this, and in doing so appears to have violated his newly imposed gag order.
Cohen’s earlier testimony about Moscow project
Cohen testified that Trump attorney Jay Sekulow edited his testimony, and the changes made by Sekulow related to the length and timing of the Trump Tower Moscow project. Mr. Trump not only knew about Trump Tower Moscow negotiations well into the 2016 presidential campaign, but directed them, Cohen claimed Wednesday.
“Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen said. “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. And so I lied about it, too — because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie.”
Sekulow denied the allegation. “Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the President edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false,” he said in a statement.
Cohen told the Senate that the plan submitted to the special counsel in November, the Washington Post reported.by the end of January 2016, when in fact, he says the discussions went on several months longer, through at least June 2016, when it was apparent that Mr. Trump would clinch the GOP nomination. Mr. Trump was asked about the Trump Tower project in the written questions he
Vietnam and SATs
Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that he avoided service in the Vietnam War due to bone spurs that rendered him unable to fight. But Cohen said in his testimony Wednesday that Mr. Trump confided to him that he did not serve in Vietnam because he felt it would be “stupid” to do so.
“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 said. “He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.”
According to Cohen, Mr. Trump told him: “You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”
Cohen also said that Mr. Trump directed him to threaten his colleges, high school and the College Board to never reveal his SAT or other test scores. In the past, Mr. Trump was repeatedly critical of then-President Obama’s reluctance to release his test scores.
Threats made on Trump’s behalf
Rep. Jackie Speier asked Cohen how many times Mr. Trump had asked him to make threats on his behalf.
“50 times?” She asked. Cohen replied, “More.” “100 times?” she countered. “More,” Cohen said. “200 times?”
When she reached “500 times,” Cohen replied, “Probably, over the 10 years.”