Cohen says Trump directed him to lie about hush money payments

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Michael Cohen testified Wednesday that President Trump called him in February 2018 and directed him to mislead the public about the president’s knowledge of a hush money payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

Cohen told lawmakers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee that Trump called him while he was meeting with a reporter in February 2018. He confirmed that Trump had called to coordinate on public messaging about the payment to Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with the president.

{mosads}”What did the president ask or suggest you say about the payments or reimbursements?” Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) asked.

“He was not knowledgeable of these reimbursements and he wasn’t knowledgeable of my actions,” Cohen said. 

“He asked you to say that?” Hill asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Cohen replied.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in January 2018 that Cohen had paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. The president has denied the affair took place.

Trump has offered shifting explanations about when he knew about the payment, but initially told reporters that he was unfamiliar with the arrangement to pay Daniels. He later said reimbursed Cohen through a retainer fee that was unrelated to his campaign.

Cohen’s testimony, however, indicates Trump was aware of the payment and coordinated on how to portray it while serving as president.

The president’s former attorney presented a copy of a check signed by Trump for $35,000. Cohen said the money was one installment of reimbursements he received for paying Daniels.

“He knew about everything,” Cohen said of Trump.

Cohen told lawmakers that his statement issued in February 2018 that he used his own personal funds to pay Daniels and that “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction” or reimbursed him was technically accurate.

“I purposefully left out Mr. Trump individually from that statement,” Cohen said.

“Why did you say it that way?” Hill said.

“Because that’s what was discussed to do between myself, Mr. Trump and Mr. Weisselberg,” he said, referencing Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg.

Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance law violations related to the payments to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also alleged she had an affair with Trump. He said in court documents at the time that he made the payments at Trump’s direction.

Trump has denied the affairs, and has insisted that the payments did not violate campaign finance laws. He has said Cohen would be liable as his former lawyer for any mistakes.

Cohen presented the affair as fact in his testimony, citing it to describe Trump as a “conman.”

“He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie about it to his wife, which I did,” Cohen said. “And lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets, because she is a kind, good person, and I respect her greatly. And she did not deserve that.”

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