Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee about various investigations relative to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
He said: “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. Graeme Demianyk, HUFFPOST
Michael Cohen, the disgraced ex-attorney, once boasted he would “take a bullet” for Trump, but has implicated him over election campaign finance violations.
Here are some of the most stunning moments from the session:
Hush money paid to Stormy Daniels
Cohen revealed two cheques and a wire transfer that he claims are evidence the president paid hush money to porn actor Stormy Daniels.
Trump ordered him to pay $130,000 (£77,000) to the adult film actress to cover up an affair, he claimed.
Cohen told Congress: “I am providing a copy of a $35,000 cheque that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account. This $35,000 cheque was one of 11 check instalments that was paid throughout the year – while he was President.”
Cohen asked the room to picture the scene, one month into his presidency, in which Trump was “showing me around and pointing to different paintings, and he says to me something to the effect of ‘don’t worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement cheques are coming. They were Fed-Exed from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system’.”
Cohen also claimed he was ordered by Trump to lie about the whole episode to First Lady Melania Trump.
Trump’s links to Russian mafia
Democrat Harley Rouda pushed Cohen on the president’s links with Felix Sater, a “convicted member of the Russian mafia”.
He said Trump had claimed not to know him while testifying under oath, but that appeared contradictory to Cohen’s claims they had close dealings.
The congressman asks Cohen where files about Sater’s involvement with the Trump Organization might be found.
Cohen says they’re “in the possession of the Trump Organization”, probably in a box in an offsite storage facility.
“Is it true that President Trump lied under oath?”
Democrat Harley Rouda pushes Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen on the US President’s links with “convicted Russian mobster Felix Sater”#CohenTestimony latest: http://bbc.in/2U6M7kh 1,1596:21 PM – Feb 27, 2019633 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy
Trump’s views on black people
He also claimed the president once said black people were “too stupid” to vote for him, and mocked living conditions in a poor Chicago neighbourhood.
Referencing the president’s controversial public comments about white supremacists, Cohen said the president’s attitude towards minorities “is even worse” in private.
He said: “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 neighbourhood 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.”
Views on his son
Trump appears to have a low opinion of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
Cohen said: “Mr Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgement 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.”
Earlier, Trump’s sons lashed out about the imminent congressional hearing.
Eric Trump tweeted that it was “a national disgrace that on the eve of historic peace talks” between his father and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, “the Democrats in the House orchestrate this clownshow”.
Jr, meanwhile, shared video to Instagram in which Cohen repeatedly praised his former boss.
“It was only after Cohen was caught for tax evasion and other personal financial misdeeds, he began lying about President Trump in an effort to save face,” he captioned the clip.
The Vietnam War
Cohen says he was tasked by Trump to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam war draft.
He said: “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.’”
Trump is currently at a Vietnam hotel before a planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Cohen made reference to: “And I find it ironic, Mr President, that you are in Vietnam right now. And yet I continued to work for him.”
Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Cohen claimed, which contradict the president’s assertions that he was in the dark.
Cohen said in the prepared evidence that he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when longtime adviser Roger Stone telephoned Trump.
Trump put Stone on speakerphone and Stone told him that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign”, according to Cohen.
Trump responded by saying “wouldn’t that be great”, Cohen said.
That month, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee’s server.
“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,” Cohen said in the prepared evidence. “The answer is yes.”
Cohen said he does not have direct evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government during the election, but that he has “suspicions”.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has not suggested that mere awareness of WikiLeaks’ plans is by itself a crime.
Buying portraits of himself
Trump is alleged to have arranged for someone to bid $60,000 on a portrait of himself – then reimbursed them with funds from his non-profit foundation.
The portrait now hangs in one of Trump’s country clubs, said Cohen.
“Mr Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event,” Cohen told the committee.
“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.”
School grades cover-up
Cohen threatened Trump’s former schools and the college board to ensure his grades and SAT scores never got out, he revealed.
In his testimony, Cohen said: “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.”View image on Twitter
Cohen: While demanding that Obama’s college grades be released, Trump “directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.”2,34612:28 PM – Feb 27, 2019979 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy
Cohen gave the committee copies of a letter threatening them with civil action if those details ever got out.
Moscow property project
Cohen suggested Trump also implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow property project.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project, which he says Trump knew about as Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the 2016 election campaign.
Cohen said Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but “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”.
Cohen said that “in his way, he was telling me to lie”.
He added that lawyers for Trump had “reviewed and edited” the statement in which Cohen falsely said a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow had been abandoned in January 2016.
Cohen has since said he continued pursuing the project for Trump for months after that.
Trump likes avoiding bills
Trump ‘reveled’ in refusing to pay his bills, Cohen said. “One of my more common responsibilities was that Mr Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming,” he said.
“When I advised Mr Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.”