Michael Cohen 'fears Trump will not allow peaceful transition' if he loses 2020 election

Man who was Trump's fixer says president involved in criminal conspiracy still under investigation

Michael Cohen: 'I fear that if Trump loses the election in 2020 there will never be a peaceful transition of power'

Michael Cohen, the man who infamously said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump, has raised the spectre of political chaos and even violence if the man he once served failed to win re-election in 2020, telling Congress he feared there would never be a “peaceful transition of power”.

In testimony on Capitol Hill that was part payback, part self-defence, and part attempted atonement, the former lawyer laid bare the danger of becoming intoxicated by the lure of powerful people.

“I did things and I acted improperly, at times at Mr Trump’s behest. I blindly followed his demands. My loyalty to Mr Trump has cost me everything: my family’s happiness, friendships, my law licence, my company, my livelihood, my honour, my reputation and soon my freedom,” said the 52-year-old. “And I will not sit back, say nothing, and allow him to do the same to the country.”

Cohen, who for a dozen years worked as Mr Trump’s legal fixer and enforcer, is the latest in a number of former associates of the president who have publicly rued the day they worked for him. Yet his testimony before the House of Representative’s oversight committee carried particular weight because for those 12 years he was up close and personal to whatever action the president was involved in.

Over the course of around six hours of testimony, he made several revelations or claims – that the president, his eldest son and the CFO of Trump Organisation, Allen Weisselberg, were involved in a criminal conspiracy still under investigation; that Mr Trump spoke to Roger Stone about an imminent dump of hacked documents by WikiLeaks; and that Mr Trump probably knew in advance about a June 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr was having in Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” he said . “I am ashamed because I know what Mr Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”

While some of Cohen’s remarks – his comments blunt and his accent a thick Long Island burr – made have sounded damning, it remains unclear whether any of what he presented on Wednesday contained either a smoking gun or an accusation so damaging it could at this point harm the president. He said he had no evidence Mr Trump colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election, only “suspicions”.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘colluding’. Was there something odd about the back-and-forth praise with President Putin? Yes, but I’m not really sure I can answer the question about collusion,” he said.

Also, somewhat cushioning any sting, was the fact that much of what Cohen said about Mr Trump was not new. Indeed, for some observers, the most worrying aspect of testimony of Cohen was his claim Mr Trump’s supporters would not go quietly if he was defeated in his re-election effort.

“Given my experience working for Mr Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” Cohen said during his closing remarks. He said it was that concern that led him to appear before the members of congress.

Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings, chair of the committee, told reporters he believed, based on what he had heard, it appeared Mr Trump had committed a crime.

“I believe he told the truth,” Mr Cummings said of Cohen at the end of the hearing.

Asked if he believed the president had committed a crime while in office, he replied: “Based on what – looking at the text and listening to Mr Cohen, it appears that he did.”

Michael Cohen says he cannot discuss that last contact he had with Trump, as it is being investigated by the Southern District of New York

Cohen is scheduled to go to jail in May to serve a three-year sentence after he last year pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations in relation to hush money payments made to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, on the eve of the election. He also pleaded guilty to a separate charge brought by Robert Mueller’s office that he lied to Congress about discussions over the construction of a proposed Trump Organisation skyscraper in Moscow.

As such, Mr Trump, the White House and Republicans on the committee sought to project him as desperate man with a record of lying who had done a deal with prosecutors. Republican congressman Paul Gosar put up a sign that read “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire” and called Cohen a “pathological liar”, according to the Associated Press.

Cohen hit back, accusing the Republicans of “protecting” the president as he had once done. “I am not protecting Mr Trump anymore.”

Mr Trump, who is in Vietnam for peace talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, got in his defence before his former lawyer had even spoken.

“Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also,” he tweeted from Hanoi.

“He was just disbarred by the state supreme court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

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