'Mr. Trump Is a Racist:' Michael Cohen Testifies Before Congress

President's former personal lawyer testifies that Trump knew in advance that Wikileaks would release hacked e-mails and that he was aware of other possible illegal acts involving Trump that he could not discuss

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former attorney, exits the United States Court house after his sentencing at in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 12, 2018.
\ SHANNON STAPLETON/ REUTERS

President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen told the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that Trump is a "racist," a "conman" and a "cheat" who knew in advance about a release of emails by the WikiLeaks website aimed at hurting his 2016 Democratic presidential rival.

Cohen, Trump's onetime "fixer," said Trump directed negotiations for a real estate project in Moscow during the White House race even as Trump publicly said he had no business interests in Russia, according to Cohen's prepared testimony.

He further said that Trump has not released his tax returns because he feared that public scrutiny would lead to an audit and tax penalties.

Cohen also lawmakers he was aware of other possible illegal acts involving Trump that he could not discuss because they were under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. 

Cohen met with federal prosecutors in Manhattan last month and provided information about potential irregularities at the Trump Organization and a donor to the president's inaugural committee, the New York Times reported last week. 

The meeting with Cohen indicates prosecutors are interested in matters at the Trump Organization that go beyond its role in the illegal hush payments before the 2016 presidential election made to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. 

The hearing before a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee got off to a contentious start when the panel's top Republican tried but failed to postpone the session, complaining about the timing of Cohen providing his written testimony to the panel.

In his opening statement, Cohen said he would hand over documents to support his assertions.

"I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty - of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him," Cohen said in his opening statement. "I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat."

Trump ordered him to pay $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair in violation of campaign finance laws, and also told Cohen to lie about it to first lady Melania Trump, according to Cohen's statement.

Although many accusations against Trump emerged in news reports during his 2016 campaign and since he took office, the televised congressional testimony of a former loyalist provides a detailed public record with the potential to influence a large U.S. audience.

Cohen was compelled to turn on Trump after a conversation he had with his father in early 2018, who said he did not survive the Holocaust to have his name "sullied" by Trump.

Cohen’s August court appearance marked the first time that any Trump associate had gone into open court and implicated Trump himself in a crime, though whether — or when — a president can be prosecuted remains a matter of legal dispute.

Maurice Cohen, a Polish Holocaust survivor, according to an August Wall Street Journal report urged his son to be honest about Trump, saying that he did not survive the Holocaust for Trump to destroy his family name.

“As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy [are] heart wrenching,” Michael Cohen said in a since-deleted tweet, according to the Journal.

In his testimony, Cohen said, "My father survived the Holocaust thanks to the compassion and selfless acts of others. He was helped by many who put themselves in harm’s way to do what they knew was right."

Cohen also addressed Trump's alleged directing of hush-money payments to women in violation of campaign finance law. Cohen pleaded guilty to his role in arranging the payments, and prosecutors in New York said in a December court filing they believed the president ordered the payments to protect his campaign.

Trump has repeatedly denied ordering the payments.

"It could be historic," Dean, now a frequent commentator on TV, said of Cohen's testimony. "But if he just gets beat up by the Republicans, it won't be."