Michael Cohen's opening testimony

President Trump's former personal lawyer called him a "racist," "cheat" and a "con man."
30:01 | 02/27/19

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Transcript for Michael Cohen's opening testimony
Chairman Cummings. Ranking member Jordan. And members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me here today. I had this this committee to ensure that my family. Be protected from presidential threats. And that the committee be sensitive to the questions pertaining to ongoing investigations. I thank you for your help and for your understand. I am here under oath to correct the record. To answer the committee's questions truthfully. And to all for the American people. What I know about president trump. I recognize. That some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason. That I have incorporated into this opening statement. Documents that are irrefutable. And demonstrate that the information. You'll hear is accurate and truthful. Never in a million years did I imagine. When I accepted a job in 2007. To work for Donald Trump. That he would one day run for the presidency. To launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance. And actively win. I regret the day I suggest to mr. trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him a long way. I am ashamed of my own failings. And publicly accepted responsibility. For them. By pleading guilty. In the southern district of New York. I am ashamed of my weakness at my misplaced loyalty. Of the things I did for mr. trump in an effort to protect and promote him. I'm machine did I chose to take port. In concealing mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed. Because I know what mr. trump news. He is a racist. He is a con man. And use a cheat. He was a presidential candidate to. Who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop. And Democratic National Committee emails. I will explain each and few moments. I am providing the committee today with several documents. And these include. A copy of the check this to trump wrote from his personal bank kept. After he became president. To reimburse me for the hush money payments are made to cover up his affair within adult film store. And to prevent damage to his campaign. Copies of financial statements from two when he 112012. And 2013. That he gave to such institutions such as Deutsche of a copy of an article with mr. Trump's handwriting on it. That reported on the auction of a portrait of himself. That he arranged for the bitter ahead of time. And then reimburse the bitter. From the account of his nonprofit charitable foundation. With a picture. Now hanging in one of its country's votes. And copies of letters I wrote that mr. Trump's direction. That threatened to his high school. Colleges. And the College Board. Not to release his grades or SAT sports. I hope my appearance here today. Mike guilty plea and my work with law enforcement agencies. Are steps along a path of redemption. Double restore faith and me and help this country. Understand. Our president Petar. And before going further. I want to apologize to each member. To use congress as a whole. The last time my appeared before congress. Quite keen to protect missed two room. Today. I'm here to tell the truth about missed. I lied to congress when mr. Trump's stop negotiating. The Moscow tower project in Russia. I stated that we stop negotiating in January of when he sixteen. That was false. Our negotiations. Continued. For months later during the campaign. Mr. trump did not directly tell me to lie to congress. That's not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign. At the same time I was actively negotiating. In Russia for him. He would look me in the eye and tell me there's no Russian business and then go on to law to the American people. By saying this same thing. In his way he was telling the law. There were at least a half a dozen times between the Iowa caucus in January 2016. And the end of June. When he would asked me how's it go we give Russia referring to the Moscow tower project. You need to know that mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed. And edited my statement to congress about the timing. Of the Moscow powered negotiations before I gave it. Sept be clear. Mr. trump knew of and directed the trump Moscow negotiations. Throughout the campaign. And lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected. To win. He also lied about it. Because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project. And so I lied about it too. Christmas to trumpet made clear to me through his personal statements to me that we both knew to be false. And through his lies to the country. That he wanted me to law. And he made it clear to me. Because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement. Before I gave it to congress. Over the past two years. I have been smeared as Iraq by the president of the United States. The truth is much different. And let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. My name is Michael dean go. And I am I less husband of 24 years. And a fall other twin incredible daughter and son. When I married my wife. I promised her that I would love her and cherish her and I would protect her. As my father said countless times throughout my childhood. You my wife and you might children. All the air that I briefed. So might laurel and Sammy to shape. There's nothing I wouldn't do to protect you. I have always tried to live a life of loyalty friendship. Generosity and compassion. It's always my parents ingrained in my siblings in nuisance child. My father survived the Holocaust. Thanks to the compassion and selfless acts of others. He was helped by many who put themselves. In harm's way. To do what they knew was right. And that is why my first instinct. Has always been to help those in need. And moment that I am sorry I let you down. As the many people that know me best would say. I am the person that they call at 3 AM if they needed L. I'd probably remember being emergency contact. From many of my children's friends when they were growing ought. Because their parents knew that I would drop everything. And care for them as if they were my own. Yet last fall. I plead guilty in federal court. To felonies for the benefit of at the direction of and in coordination. With individual number one. And for the record. Individual number one. This resident. Donald Chile. It's painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition times. It is even more painful too would Mitt. That many times I ignored my conscience. And acted loyal to a man when I should not. Sitting here today. It seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong. For that reason. I have come here to apologize to my family. To my government. And to the American. Accordingly. Let me now tell you about mr. trump. I got to know him very well. Working very closely with him for more than ten years as his executive vice president and special counsel. And then as personal attorney when he became president. When I first met mr. trump he was a successful on two wore a real estate giant. And an icon. Being around mr. trump was intoxicating. When you're in his presents. You felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself. That you're somehow. Changing the world. I wound up touting the trump narrative for over a decade. That was my job. Always stayed on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life. At first. I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter. Mr. trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time. I saw his true character revealed. Mr. trump is an enigma. He is complicated. As our Molly. He is both good and bad. As do we all. But the ped far outweighs the good and since taking office he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly. But he's not aren't. He's capable of committing acts of generosity. But he's not generous. He's capable of being loyal but he's fundamentally disloyal. Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brains great. Not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation. Only to market himself and to build his wealth and Pao. Mr. trump would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial. In political history. He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign. For him. Was always a marketing opportunity. I knew early on in my work for mr. Strom that he would directly to law to further his business interests. And I am ashamed to say. The win was for real estate mogul in the private sector. I considered trivial. As the president. I consider it significant. And dangerous. But in the mix. Lying for mr. trump was normalized. And no one around him question. In fairness. No one around him today questions in either. Lot of people have asked me about whether mr. trump. Knew about the release of the hacked documents. Democratic National Committee email. Ahead of time. The answer is yes. As I earlier stated mr. trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks dropped the females. In July of two when he sixteen. Days before the Democratic Convention. I was in mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced the Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. trump mr. stone on the speakerphone. Most stone told missed from that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange. And that mr. Assange hold mr. stone. That within a couple of days it would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. trump responded by stating to the effect. When that be great. Mr. trump is a racist. The country has seen missed from court white supremacists and bigots. You I've heard him call poor countries ship hauls. His pride. In write it he's even worse. He wants to ask me if I can name a country run by a black person that wasn't should Ole. This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States. And while we want striving for was struggling neighborhood in Chicago. He commented. That only black people could live that way. Annie to all meet. That black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid. And yet. I continue to work for him. This to trump. He's a cheat. As previously stated. I'm giving to the committee today. Three years of mr. Trump's personal financial statements. From when he 112012. Went when he thirteen. Which he gave to Deutsch a bank to inquire about alone. To buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. These are exhibits one a one B and one seat to my testimony. It was my experience. That mr. trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes. Such is trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes. And deflated his assets. To reduce his real estate taxes. And sharing with YouTube newspaper articles side by saw it. That are examples of mr. trump. Inflating and deflating his assets as I said too soon his financial interests. These are exhibit two to my testimony. As I noted I'm giving the committee today an article he wrote on and to send to. That reported on an auction of a portrait of mr. trump this is exhibit three day to my testimony. Mr. trump directed me to find destroy a better to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned off. At an art Hamptons event. The objective was to ensure that this portrait which was going to be auctioned last. Would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake better for 60000 dollars. Mr. trump directed the trump foundation. Which is supposed to be charitable organization. To repay the faith. Despite keeping the art for himself. And we see exhibit three B to my testimony. And it should come as no surprise. That one of my more common responsibilities. Was that mr. trump directed me to call business owners. Many of whom are small businesses. Out or owed money for their services. And told them that no payments or a reduced payment would be coming. When I asked mr. trump or when I told mr. trump up my success. He actually reveled in it. And yet. I continue to work for him. Missed trump is a con man. He asked me to pay off an adult film store. With whom he had an affair. And to lie about it to his wife which I did. And lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. Edition is kind good person. And I respect her greatly. And she did not deserve that. Then giving the committee today it copy of the 130000. Dollar wire transfer from me. To miss Clifford attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign. That was demanded. By miss Clifford. To maintain her silence. And out her farewell mr. trump. And this is exhibit four to my testimony. Mr. trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a home equity line of credit. To avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. And I did that to. Without bothering to consider. Whether that was improper. Much less whether it was the right thing to do. Or how would it impact me. My family. While the public. I'm going to jail in port because of my decision. To help boost to trump hype that he meant from the American people. Before they voted a few days later. As exhibit five into my testimony shows. I am providing a copy of a 35000. Dollar check. That president trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1 of two when he seventeen. When he was president of the United States. Pursuing took a cover up. Which was the basis of Mike guilty plea to reimburse me. The word used by mr. Trump's TV lawyer for the illegal hush money I'd aid on his behalf. This 35000. Dollar check was one of the lead and checked installments. That was paid throughout the year while he was president. Are there checks to reimburse me for the hush money payments. Were signed by Donald Trump junior. And Alan Weiss sober. Steve Forbes at that for example fight. The president of the United States. Thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money. As part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance lords. And you can find it details of that scheme directed by mr. trump. In the pleadings. In the US district court for the southern district of New York. So picture this scene. In February of 20171. Month into his presidency. I'm visiting prison didn't trump in the oval office for the first all right. And he says to me something to the effect of don't worry Michael you're January and February reimbursement checks come. They were FedEx from new York. And it takes awhile for that to get through the White House system. As he promised. I received the first check for the reimbursement of 70000. Dollars not long thereafter. When I say con man. I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant. But directed me to threaten its high school. His colleges. And College Board to never released his grades or SAT scores. As I mentioned. I'm giving the committee today. Copies of a letter I extent at mr. Trump's direction. Threatening these schools civil and criminal actions if mr. Trump's grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed. Without his permission. And these are under exhibit C six. The irony wasn't lost on me at the time that mr. trump into one. I'd strongly criticized. President Obama for not releasing his grades. As you can see in the exhibit seven this to trump declared. Let him show his records after calling President Obama. A terrible student. The sad fact is that I never heard mr. trump say anything in broad it. That led me to believe. He loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact he did the opposite. When telling me in 20082009. That he was cutting employee salaries and half including Martin. He showed me what he claims a ten million dollar IRS tax we fund. And he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was forgiving someone like him that much money back. During the campaign. Mr. trump said that he did not consider. Vietnam veteran and Prisoner of War Senator John McCain. To be a hero. Because. He likes people weren't captured. At the same tarring. Mr. trump test me to handle. The negative press surrounding. His medical deferment from the Vietnam drift. Mr. trump claimed it was because of the bones poor when Reyes from medical records he gave me none. Instead that there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters. But rather oil for simply the fact that he received in medical deferment. He finished a conversation. The following comment. If think I'm stupid. Not going to Vietnam. I find it ironic stood president. That you are in Vietnam right now. And yet. I continue to work for him. Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that mr. trump or his campaign. Colluded with Russia. I do not. And I want to be clear. But I have my suspicions. Sometime in the summer of 2017. I read all over the media. That there have been meeting in trump tower in June of 2016. Involving Don junior and others from the campaign with Russians. Including a representative. Of the Russian government. And in email setting up the meeting with the subject line dirt on Hillary Clinton. Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in a room with mr. trump probably in early to have to when he sixteen. When something peculiar happened. Don trump junior came into the room and walked behind his father's desk. Which it and of itself was in usual. People didn't just walk off on mr. Trump's desk to talk to. And I were called Don junior leave leaning over to his fault there and speaking in a low voice which I could clearly hear. And staying. The meeting is all set. And I remember mr. trump say. OK good let me know. What struck me as I look back and thought about the exchange between Don junior and his father was first. That mr. trump had frequently told me and others. That his son Don junior had the worst judgement of anyone in the world. And also that on junior would never sell up any needing of significance alone. And certainly. Not without checking with his father. I also knew. That nothing went on in trump world especially the campaign. Without mr. Trump's knowledge and so I concluded. That on tune your was referring to that jumped when he sixteen trump tower meeting about dirt on Hillary. With the Russian representatives. When he walked behind his dad's desk that day. And that mr. trump knew that was the meeting Don junior was talking about. When he said. That's good let me know. Over the past year were so. I have done some real soul searching. I see now that my ambition. And the intoxication. Of Tron power. Had much to do with the pay decisions. In part that I made. And to you chairman comings and ranking member Jordan the other members of this committee the members of the house and senate. I am sorry for my lies and for lying to congress. To or nation. I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth of out missed a trauma when you needed it most. For those who question my motives for being here today. I understatement. I have light. But I am not a liar. And I have done bad things. I am not a bad man. I have fix things. But I am no longer your fixer missed room. I'm going to prison. And it shattered the safety. And security. That I tried soul hard to provide for my Fam. My testimony. Certainly does not diminish the pain that I have caused my family and my friends. Nothing can do that. And I have never asked for nor would I accept. A pardon from president trump. And by coming today. I have caused my family. To be the target of personal scurrilous attacks by the president and his lawyer. Trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel. This to trump called me Iraq. For choosing to told the truth. Much like a mobster would do when one of his men to sites to cooperate with the government. As exhibit eight shows. I have provided the committee with copies of tweets that mr. trump posted. Attacking me and my family. Only someone during his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they all are. Encouragement. To someone to do harm to me and my Fam. I never imagined. That he would engage in vicious. Force attacks on my family. And unleash his TV lawyer to do the same. And I hope this committee and all members of congress on both sides of the oil. Make it clear. And as a nation. We should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before congress. And a tax on family are out of bounds. And not acceptable. I wish to especially thank speaker Pelosi for her statements. That's exhibit nine. To protect this institution. And meet. And the chairman of the house permanent select committee on intelligence. Adam Schiff. And you chairman Cummings. Polite voice defending the institution. And my family. Against the tax bite mr. trump. And also. That many Republicans. Who have admonished the president as well. I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not our oath. And I will live with the consequences. Of my actions. For the rest of my life. To date. I get to decide the stand that I set for my children. And how I attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to change the list. But I tend to right by the American people here today. And I thank you for your attention. And happy to answer the committee's questions.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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