Trump ordered hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal weeks before the election, knowing it was illegal, because he worried their allegations of affairs with the developer/NBC reality-TV star would impact the election, Cohen said.
Yesterday, Trump insisted during a Fox News Channel interview that he never directed Cohen to do anything “wrong.”
“I don’t think there’s anybody that believes that,” Cohen scoffed this morning when Stephanopoulos brought it up.
“First of all, nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump,” Cohen explained.
“He directed me…to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters.”
Asked if Trump knew those payments were “wrong,” Cohen answered “of course.”
Asked if Trump did so “to help his election,” Cohen responded, “Yes.”
“Remember, at what point in time that this matter came about, two weeks or so before the election, post-Billy Bush comments,” Cohen, referencing the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasted about being so famous he could grab women by their genitals, which WaPo published after NBC News sat on it for days.
“So yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election,” Cohen told Stephanopoulos.
Federal prosecutors charge that Cohen committed felony campaign finance violations with those payments.
ABC News’ chief correspondent also asked if Trump is telling the truth about everything related to Russia and the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“No,” Cohen said simply; Stephanopoulos nonetheless called that “a big statement.”
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress three times about a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, among other charges. Cohen originally insisted that effort ended in January 2016, before the GOP primaries. He since has admitted those talks continued to June of ’16, by which time Trump had become the GOP’s presumptive nominee.
As he had done at his sentencing, Cohen claimed to be guilty of “blind loyalty” to Trump. This morning, Cohen said the Trump he went to work for years ago was a very different man from the one who now occupies the Oval Office.
“You know, I can’t give you a specific time that it went from point A to point B; it was just a change,” Cohen said.
“The gentleman that is sitting now in the Oval Office, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., is not the Donald Trump I remember from Trump Tower.”
Trump is in over his head, Cohen calculated, of the change.
“I think the pressure of the job is much more than what he thought it was going to be. It’s not like the Trump organization, where he would bark out orders and people would blindly follow what he wanted done.”
“There’s a system here; he doesn’t understand the system. And it’s sad because the country has never been more divisive.”
That segued nicely into Cohen’s “I am not the villain here” argument, first laid out during his sentencing earlier this week.
“One of the hopes that I have out of the punishment that I’ve received, as well as the cooperation that I have given, I will be remembered in history as helping to bring this country back together,” Cohen argued.
“I am 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,” insisted the man Trump told Fox News Channel he made a mistake in hiring.
Trump also said the hush-money payment charges are bogus, and that Cohen only agreed to plead guilty to them “in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence.”
“Absolutely not true,” Cohen shot back next morning.
Also not true: Trump claims he never directed Cohen to do anything wrong, his former fixer said.
Cohen asserted, “He directed me, as I said in my allocution and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.”
That includes, Cohen said, the payment made to McDougal in the National Enquirer’s catch-and-kill campaign, helmed by Trump pal and Enquirer honcho David Pecker.
That buying and burying of life-story rights “was really between him and David Pecker and then David Pecker’s counsel. I just reviewed the documents … in order to protect him,” Cohen said, adding, “I gave loyalty to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty.”
Stephanopoulos asked Cohen if he is afraid of Trump.
“It’s never good to be on the wrong side of the President of the United States of America,” said Cohen.
Beauty pageant-style question: “If he were sitting in this chair right now, what would you say to him?”
Cohen: “Lay off Twitter, run the country the way that we all thought that you would, be able to take the Democrats, Republicans, bring them together and bring the country together instead of dividing the country.”
Stephanopoulos: “Do you think he has ears to hear that?”
Cohen: “I don’t think so.”
But when asked “How does this end for Donald Trump?” Cohen declined to answer that Beauty Pageant Question, explaining he still is cooperating with the special counsel’s office and the AG office in New York and does not “want to jeopardize any of their investigations.”
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