Donald Trump may assert that he never directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to do anything wrong, but Cohen says otherwise
Disgraced lawyer Michael Cohen claims his former client Donald Trump directed him to arrange illegal “hush money” payments during the 2016 presidential campaign because he was “very concerned” about how affair allegations would affect the election.
Sitting down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for his first interview since he was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday, Cohen rebuked Trump’s denials of involvement in the payments — which the president made again on Thursday when tweeting, “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”
“I don’t think there is anybody that believes that,” Cohen, 52, said in the chat that aired on Friday’s Good Morning America. “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.”
“He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth,” Cohen claimed. “And here is the truth: 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 will begin serving time on March 6, 2019, at the Federal Correctional Institute Otisville, in upstate New York. He pled guilty in August to eight criminal counts, including tax fraud, breaking campaign finance laws and those illegal $150,000 “hush money” payments he made during the 2016 presidential election to buy the silence of pornstar Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal — who both claim they had affairs with Trump. (Trump has repeatedly denied the affairs).
“I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Cohen said on GMA. “I stood up before the world [Wednesday] and I accepted the responsibility for my actions.”
Asked why he made the payments, Cohen said it was out of his “blind loyalty” to Trump and to “help [Trump] and his campaign.”
“I gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty,” Cohen said, adding that he was “angry at himself” for his role in the deals. “It’s never good to be on the wrong side of the president of the United States of America, but somehow or another this task has now fallen onto my shoulders and as I also stated … I will spend the rest of my life in order to fix the mistake that I made.”
Since the allegations first came to light, there has been shifting explanations as to when Trump learned about Cohen’s payments. This week, Trump said on Twitter that the payments were a “private transaction” and not at all related to the campaign.
In a sentencing memo filed last week, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York wrote that “Individual 1” — Trump — directed Cohen to make the hush money payments, which are felony campaign finance violations. No charges have been made against Trump.
The president continued to deny that on Twitter, Thursday, placing the blame on Cohen for any illegal actions and claiming that Cohen only pled guilty “in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did.”
“It is absolutely not true,” Cohen told GMA in response to Trump’s numerous tweets. “Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president. He knows the truth. I know the truth.”
“Instead of him taking responsibility for his actions, what does he do? He attacks my family,” Cohen said.
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Also in the GMA interview, Cohen said that he no longer recognizes Trump — whom he worked with for more than a decade.
“He’s a very different individual,” Cohen said. “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 and 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.
“I will not be the villain of his story,” Cohen concluded.