Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen ‘to offer new details' of president’s alleged racist language and collusion with Russia

Cohen expected to tell congress more about US president’s role in hush money payments and alleged contacts with Russia 

Chris Riotta
New York
,Nathan Layne,Ginger Gibson
Tuesday 26 February 2019 17:42 GMT
Rudy Giuliani says Donald Trump might have talked to Michael Cohen about testimony

Michael Cohen plans to tell US lawmakers that Donald Trump asked him several times about a proposed skyscraper project in Moscow long after he secured the Republican presidential nomination, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer said that Mr Trump was enquiring about the project as late as June 2016, which could suggest he remained personally interested in a business venture in Russia well into his candidacy.

Cohen, scheduled to report to prison in May, has already said he briefed Mr Trump on the project in June 2016. A New York Times report also claimed the president’s former attorney would describe the extent of his “lies, racism and cheating,” as well as his criminal conduct while in the White House, during his public testimony on Wednesday.

He is set to offer lawmakers new information about Mr Trump’s private affairs over three consecutive days starting on Tuesday. The Times reported Cohen “is prepared to describe Mr Trump making racist statements as well as lying or cheating in business”. He previously told a magazine outlet the president said “black people are too stupid to vote for me” during the 2016 election.

The newspaper, which spoke to an anonymous source that had been briefed on Cohen’s upcoming public testimony, also revealed he would “describe the president inflating or devaluing his net worth”. This new information comes as special counsel Robert Mueller nears the end of a 21-month probe into whether the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 presidential election in collusion with Mr Trump's campaign

Russia denies interfering in the 2016 election and Mr Trump has denied any collusion took place between his campaign and Moscow.

On Wednesday, in a public session before the House Oversight Committee, Cohen also intends to give lawmakers “granular details” about Mr Trump's hush-money payments to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels.

He also intends to give information about a “money trail” after Mr Trump became president, said the source, who asked not to be identified.

In addition, Cohen will offer new information on Trump's financial statements that “have never been produced before” relating to how Mr Trump represented the values of his assets in financial transactions and other matters, said the source.

Cohen pleaded guilty last year to criminal charges including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

In December, he was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including orchestrating hush-money payments to women in violation of campaign laws before the 2016 election. He is scheduled to begin serving his prison sentence on 6 May.

His in-depth discussions on Tuesday and Thursday with the intelligence committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives will be behind closed doors.

The Tuesday session in the Senate will focus mainly on what Cohen knows about Mr Trump and his associates' dealings with Russia as well as about Cohen's previous lying to Congress, said two congressional sources.

Cohen once said he would “take a bullet” for Mr Trump, but he has since turned against his former boss. When Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, he implicated the president, who afterward called him a “rat” on Twitter.

In the only public session of the three this week, House Oversight Committee Democrats said they planned to question Cohen about Mr Trump's personal finances. This includes the payments to women, as well as alleged efforts by Mr Trump and his lawyers to intimidate Cohen to try to keep him from testifying.

On 29 November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress by telling lawmakers in 2017 that all efforts relating to the Moscow project had ceased by January 2016. In fact, Cohen said, those efforts continued until June 2016.

Cohen paid $130,000 weeks before the 2016 election to Ms Daniels, who said she had an affair with Mr Trump. When Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws for that, he said he made the payment at Mr Trump's direction.

Led by Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, the Oversight Committee plans to limit its questioning of Cohen.

The panel said in a statement it would steer clear of the House Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into “efforts by Russia and other foreign entities to influence the US political process during and since the 2016 US election, and the counterintelligence threat arising from any links or coordination between US persons and the Russian government”.

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That will put off-limits for Cummings' committee questions about “any financial or other compromise or leverage foreign actors may possess over Donald Trump, his family, his business interests, or his associates”, the committee said.

Cummings' panel will focus on Mr Trump's debts and payments “relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election”, as well as his compliance with financial disclosure, campaign finance and tax laws, it said.

Possible conflicts of interest faced by Mr Trump, including at his Trump International Hotel in Washington, will be targets for the Cummings panel. As will the Trump Foundation and “efforts by the president and his attorney to intimidate Cohen or others not to testify”, the committee said.


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