‘Trump told me to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal because he feared he would lose – OF COURSE he knew it was wrong’: Michael Cohen savages president as a liar who KNEW he was committing a crime in first interview since being sentenced to jail
- Michael Cohen, 52, was sentenced to three years in jail on December 12
- He does not have to report to an upstate New York prison until March 6
- Cohen and Trump have traded insults since Cohen pleaded guilty in August
- Trump is said to be fretting about impeachment and vented his fury on Twitter
- Cohen’s interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos airs at 7am ET on GMA
Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen has sat down for a tell-all interview with Good Morning America which will air in full on ABC at 7am ET this morning.
Cohen told ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos that ‘of course’ the President knew it was wrong to pay off two women, Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, who claim they had affairs with Trump.
The explosive interview is Cohen’s first since he was sentenced to three years in prison for the McDougal and Daniels campaign finance violations among other crimes.
He did not mince his words, issuing the people of America a stark warning.
‘Here is the truth,’ he said. ‘People of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying. The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.’
Cohen: ‘People of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what [Trump] is saying’
Cohen (right) was sentenced to three years in jail on Wednesday for multiple crimes sat down for an interview on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos (left) in which they discussed his sentencing and Trump
Admitting it is ‘never good to be on the wrong side of the president of the United States of America’ Cohen also said he is ‘angry at himself’ for helping Trump because he ‘gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty,’ he said.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail on Wednesday for multiple crimes – including bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.
However he does not have to report to prison in Otisville – around 70 miles from New York City – to begin his 36-month sentence until March 6.
In the GMA interview, Cohen expressed his wish to ‘not be the villain’ of the saga and defended himself against the President, who has publicly attacked him numerous times since he pleaded guilty to a ‘veritable smorgasbord’ of charges in August.
Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign and banking violations after he created a shell company to transfer $130,000 to Stormy Daniels (right), who claims she had an affair with Trump. AMI gave $150,000 to model Karen McDougal (left) who claims she had an affair with Trump
President Trump (left) and his former lawyer Michael Cohen (right) have traded blows since Cohen pleaded guilty to crimes that implicate the President
The crime that is most perilous for Trump – who is said to be ‘privately fretting over impeachment’ is Cohen’s campaign violation payments.
Prosecutors say a figure identified as ‘Individual-1’ – Trump – ‘directed’ Cohen to make a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with the president.
Trump initially denied any payment, but on Thursday put forward the defense that it was his lawyer’s job to know the law.
Trump distanced himself from the $150,000 deal in an interview with Fox News on Thursday
‘I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,’ Trump wrote on Twitter yesterday. ‘He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made.’
But Cohen told Stephanopoulos: ‘I don’t think there is anybody that believes that.
‘First of all, nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.’
Trump said Cohen agreed to plead guilty before a federal judge ‘in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence,’ after his former lawyer was sentenced to three years in jail
Trump then went on to say Cohen agreed to plead guilty before a federal judge ‘in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence.’
In his GMA interview, Cohen hit back saying: ‘It is absolutely not true. Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president. He knows the truth. I know the truth.’
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The President’s Twitter outburst also appeared to dangle a hint that Cohen’s family members will be facing prosecution in the future.
Cohen, who was engaged in the taxi medallion business with his father-in-law, furiously slammed this comment, telling Stephanopoulos: ‘Instead of him taking responsibility for his actions, what does he do? He attacks my family.’
An anguished Cohen also said his family come first and he was ‘done with the lying’.
‘I am done being loyal to President Trump and my first loyalty belongs to my wife, my daughter, my son and this country,’ he said.
However, Trump’s former trusted fixer is not quite done fixing – although his priorities are different now. ‘I will spend the rest of my life in order to fix the mistake that I made.’
Trump’s previous attacks on Cohen, in which he called him ‘a weak person and not a very smart person’ as well as a ‘rat’ were repeatedly mentioned during the lawyer’s dramatic trial.
Cohen also gave an emotional explanation of what it took to provide information against the President.
Michael Cohen’s weepy statements in court
I stand before your honor humbly and painfully aware that we are here for one reason.
I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to: The personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America.
This may seem hard to believe, but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life.
I have been living in personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired. In fact, I now know there is little to admire.
Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.
I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.
Seeing the unbearable pain that my associations and my actions have brought to my entire family – this is why I did not enter into a cooperation agreement.
I do not need a cooperation agreement in place to do the right thing. I will continue to cooperate.
I want to apologize to the people of the United States. You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.
I am committed to proving my integrity and making sure history will not remember me as the villain in his story.
I’m truly sorry and I promise I will be better.
He told the courtroom: ‘I have been living in personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen I deeply admired. In fact, I now know there is little to admire.’
‘Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.’
‘I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,’ Cohen added.
The President said in an interview with Fox News yesterday that he made a mistake in trusting Cohen, saying: ‘I hire usually good people.’
‘I liked him and he was a lawyer,’ he said. ‘In retrospect I made a mistake.’
In the same interview Trump also made a jibe at Cohen by claiming former national security advisor Michael Flynn – also caught up in the Mueller investigation into possible Russian interference in Trump’s election – faces no jail time because ‘He’s a tougher kind of a guy than Cohen.’
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, appeared on CBS ‘This Morning’ and suggested his client still had more information to share.
Davis quoted back a term used by Mueller’s sentencing memo, which argued that Cohen’s help had been ‘core’ to his investigation.
Cohen himself said of GMA that: ‘the special counsel stated emphatically that the information that I gave to them is credible and helpful.’
‘There’s a substantial amount of information that they possessed that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth.’
Cohen refused to answer specific questions about the investigation, saying he did not want to jeopardize it had respect for due process.
But asked whether he thinks the Trump is telling the truth about the Russia probe, Cohen did tell Stephanopoulos simply, ‘No.’
Ahead of the interview, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis told Vanity Fair that this interview could make Cohen the ‘next generation of what John Dean was to Richard Nixon’.
Dean was Nixon’s former White House Counsel who covered up the Watergate scandal and then struck a deal with prosecutors to become a key witness in exchange for reduce jail time. He is regarded as instrumental in Nixon’s downfall.
‘Go to Congress, and turn the television cameras on, and tell us all that you know about Donald Trump over the years. Not just about the Mueller investigation—over the years,’ Davis told Vanity Fair.
Trump, meanwhile has reportedly told allies in his closest circle that he is alarmed by the possibility of impeachment, despite publicly stating that he isn’t concerned.
On Thursday, the president was revealed to be the third man who attended a 2015 meeting with Cohen and American Media Inc. boss David Pecker where they forged a plan to keep Trump’s alleged affairs out of the press.
‘The entire question about whether the president committed an impeachable offense now hinges on the testimony of two men: David Pecker (left) and Allen Weisselberg (right), both cooperating witnesses in the SDNY investigation,’ a friend of Trump’s claims
The meeting, which was referenced in a letter federal prosecutors sent to National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc, included an offer by the company CEO to ‘help deal with negative stories about the presidential candidate’s relationships with women’.
With Trump identified as having been there, it means he was present when a plan was developed that ultimately led to Cohen pleading guilty to a felony and getting three years in jail.
It also led to a cooperation agreement with prosecutors in which Pecker – one of Trump’s former best friends – would not be prosecuted ‘for any crimes’ related to campaign finance law resulting from the meeting.
Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign and banking violations after he created a shell company to transfer $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump.
AMI gave $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who says she had a 10-month affair with the president, and Cohen was involved in discussions relating to this.
That could leave Trump as the odd man out if he continues his denials that he did anything wrong and never ‘directed’ Cohen to break the law and he is now the only person in the room who claims that the hush money wasn’t used to impact the outcome of the election.
The documents revealing the deal make clear that Pecker agreed to flip – and is still cooperating with federal authorities.
They do not say who he and his company flipped on, raising the possibility that he has handed over information on his former friend, Trump.
The news comes amid a spike in talk in Washington about the possibility that the president could be charged with directing a federal crime, even if it is ultimately held that he is immune from such charges due to his office and the Justice Department’s prior interpretation of the Constitution that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, only impeached.
A statement of facts spelled out the $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model and that AMI knew about federal campaign laws at the time it reached the deal
After the bombshell development, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: ‘The president was clear that he directed no one to do anything wrong, particularly Michael Cohen. He’s been clear on this.’
DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel determined during the Nixon Administration that a sitting president could not be indicted, although its position has not been tested in court.
Amid the swirling developments of the week, one powerful Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, is calling for that interpretation to change.
Although the founders included impeachment in the constitution as a political remedy, critics of the status quo have argued they never intended to give the executive a ‘free pass’ for crimes just by holding office, including alleged crimes that helped a president obtain the White House.
Trump’s inauguration is probed for ‘accepting cash-for-access from the Middle East’
Federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether some of the top donors to Trump’s 2017 inauguration gave money in exchange for access to his administration, policy concessions or to influence the administration.
The inquiry is particularly focusing on Middle Eastern donors like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
According to The New York Times, investigators are trying to determine whether those nations used straw donors to disguise their donations to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and the pro-Trump super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, in hopes of buying influence.
Foreign nations are prohibited from contributing to federal campaigns, PACs and inaugural funds by law.
Federal prosecutors are also examining whether Trump’s inaugural committee misspent some of the $107million it raised.
The investigation came partly out of materials seized in the federal probe of Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s business dealings, according to The Wall Street Journal.
During April raids of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, federal agents obtained a recorded conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events.
In their conversation, Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending its money.
Wolkoff, a former Vogue staffer who is one of the first lady’s longtime friends, left the administration in February after reports her firm, WIS Media Partners, received $26million in payments to help plan the inauguration.
She was an unpaid adviser to the first lady.
It’s unknown when the conversation between Wolkoff and Cohen took place or why it was recorded.
‘I think the Justice Department needs to re-examine that OLC opinion, the Office of Legal Counsel opinion, that you cannot indict a sitting president under circumstances in which the failure to do so may mean that person escapes justice,’ Schiff told CNN on Wednesday, hours after Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other matters.
Meanwhile, impeachment – a subject Democratic leaders sought to tamp down before the elections – continues to hover over the courtroom developments.
If it is determined that the Justice Department can’t or won’t charge Trump, even with a recommendation from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, it would then fall to House Democrats to begin the process that can result in the president’s removal from office.
Adding to the pressure on Democrats will be the statute of limitations on potential campaign finance crimes. That could allow Trump to avoid facing charges by winning election to a second term – even as his subordinate Cohen cools his heels in jail well past the time Trump would again take the oath of office.
Former Acting Solicitor General under President Barack Obama, Neal Katyal, wrote Wednesday on Twitter that existing special counsel regulations ‘put thumb on scale of Mueller asking Acting AG to indict, as that is the one way Mueller can be sure info he has uncovered in his investigation is provided to Congress. EVEN if Mueller thinks AG would say no, he may need to ask’.
Despite the current regulations, Mueller could ask the Justice Department to allow for a waiver to indict, according to Katyal.
If the official overseeing the Russia probe refuses, Mueller would be required to report it to Congress – which would then have that information as it considered any impeachment proceedings.
It is not entirely clear who is even overseeing the probe who would make that call.
Trump installed loyalist Matt Whitaker as Acting Attorney General, but Justice has refused media requests for information on whether Whitaker received an ethics review of any potential conflicts, following a slew of comments critical of the Mueller investigation.
If he weren’t in an oversight role, it could be Deputy Attorney Gen Rod Rosenstein who would make the call.
Trump ‘and his Republican supporters do not appreciate what legal analysts do: that the president is in serious legal jeopardy and it is mounting,’ wrote former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti in Politico.
In a statement, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District said it agreed not to prosecute AMI after the company admitted ‘that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election’.
Representatives for AMI and Pecker could not be immediately reached for comment.
Federal prosecutors in New York are also examining whether Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the $107million it raised.
The investigation is looking into whether some of the top donors to Trump’s crowning event gave money in exchange for access to his administration, policy concessions or to influence the administration, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Money in exchange for political favors could violate federal corruption laws.
There could also be a violation of federal law if funds were diverted from the inaugural committee, which was registered as a nonprofit.
‘That doesn’t have anything to do with the president or the first lady,’ White House press secretary Sanders said Thursday night.
‘The biggest thing the president did in his engagement for the inauguration was to come here and raise his hand and take the oath of office. The president was focused on the transition during that time and not on any of the planning.’
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