President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen told Congress on Wednesday that his old boss asked him to lie on multiple occasions about the president’s involvement in hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to a smorgasbord of financial crimes, some related to the $130,000 he paid to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to keep quiet about the alleged affair she had with the president in 2006. The president has admitted to authorizing the payments, but he's denied the affair.
Last August, when he pleaded guilty, Cohen said that Trump had directed him to pay off Stormy Daniels. In testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Cohen shed even more light on the exchange: He admitted that Trump asked him to lie — to the press and to the first lady — about orchestrating the payments.
In his opening statement, Cohen expressed remorse for lying to first lady Melania Trump about Trump’s alleged affair with Stormy Daniels, which he said the president asked him to do.
“He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair and to lie to his wife about it, which I did,” Cohen said. “Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person."
Later during his testimony, Cohen said Trump even had him call Melania on the phone to mislead her.
Cohen also said that he lied to the New York Times in February 2018 at the behest of his former boss. Rep. Katie Hill, a newly elected Democrat serving California’s 25th Congressional District, asked Cohen about the veracity of a statement he made to the New York Times about paying Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket.
Cohen replied that it wasn’t false, necessarily, but rather that it was carefully worded to exclude Trump.
“I purposefully left out Trump,” Cohen said. “That’s what was discussed to do.” Cohen said Trump called him in February 2018 and asked him to say the president “wasn’t knowledgeable” about the payments.
Cohen also told the Times in February 2018 that he paid Daniels out of his own pocket and insisted the money wasn’t a campaign contribution, nor was he ever reimbursed by the Trump organization or the Trump campaign. A disclosure released in May 2018 by the U.S. Government of Ethics, however, showed that Trump wrote a check of more than $100,000 to reimburse Cohen, the same year that Stormy Daniels received hush money. The disclosure did not elaborate further on the purpose of the money.
On Wednesday, Cohen entered two checks into evidence that showed Trump, and his eldest son Donald Trump Jr., had reimbursed him for the hush money payments to Daniels. That check — with Don Jr.’s signature, is the first instance where one of Trump’s children became potentially implicated Stormy scandal.
Cohen also testified that he lied to Congress in 2017 about the timeline to secure a Trump Tower in Moscow, one of the crimes he pleaded guilty to. Cohen, however, stopped short of saying that Trump directed him to lie.
"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,” Cohen said. “ And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.”
Cohen will begin his three-year sentence in federal prison in May.
Cover image: Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, speaks as he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)