During the final week of February 2019, Michael Cohen, President Donald J. Trump’s former attorney, testified before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Cohen had earlier lied to Congress about Trump’s plan to build a Trump Tower in Russia, falsely claiming that no one from the Trump Organization had contact with Russian nationals at the time of or after the Iowa Caucus. Cohen has now been disbarred and, as part of a plea agreement for perjury, is expected to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in May. During Cohen’s most-recent testimony before the House of Representatives, he made some extraordinary, but not completely unexpected, claims about President Trump.
Trump the Racist
“He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Cohen said of Trump. During the time Barack Obama was president, Trump once asked Cohen if he “could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘sh**hole.’” In January 2018, Trump would use that same vulgar term when speaking about immigrants from countries like Haiti. According to Cohen, Trump further revealed his contempt for people of color while the two were in an economically-depressed neighborhood in Chicago and Trump stated that only black people could live that way. As to why he didn’t get more support from African-American voters, it was, Trump claimed, because they “would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
Trump Complicit in Leaks
In July 2016, then-candidate Trump publicly appealed to a foreign government to intervene in a U.S. presidential election. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing.” So, it comes as little surprise that Trump, through his associate Roger Stone, coordinated with WikiLeak’s founder Julian Assange to release hacked emails to damage the Clinton campaign. (Stone himself is under indictment for attempting to obstruct justice by lying to Congress and trying to tamper with a witness in regard to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.)
Trump’s Hush Money
Cohen presented the committee with a copy of a $35,000 check written to Cohen and signed by Trump. Cohen claimed the check was one of eleven intended to repay money he had spent to buy the silence of Stephanie Clifford (also known as Stormy Daniels), an adult film star with whom Trump had an illicit sexual encounter though he was already married to his current wife, Melania. Such a payment is a violation of federal campaign finance laws as money was spent in an attempt to directly influence the election by burying potentially damaging facts. Trump also paid hush money to another woman, Karen McDougal, for the same reason.
Draft Dodging and Other Claims about Trump
Donald J. Trump has maintained that he could not serve in Vietnam due to bone spurs. However, Cohen’s testimony refutes this. According to Cohen, “Mr. 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 reportedly told Cohen, “You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”
In further testimony, Cohen said he was tasked by Trump to threaten the president’s former high school, colleges, and the College Board to prevent the release of his SAT and other test scores. Cohen’s threats didn’t stop there, though. He said that, over the course of 10 years, he made 500 threats on behalf of Trump.
More Cohen testimony is expected in the near future.