Cohen to Congress: Trump is a 'racist,' 'conman' and a 'cheat'

The disbarred lawyer who once served as the president's fixer arrived on Capitol Hill with a long list of accusations.
7:54 | 02/28/19

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Transcript for Cohen to Congress: Trump is a 'racist,' 'conman' and a 'cheat'
ending here right before the president's long-time fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen took questions in front of the American people on live television. The hearing playing here in Hanoi, as well. Michael Cohen answering questions from members of congress, opening by calling the president a racist, a conman and a cheat, who allegedly said of his run for president, "This will be the greatest infomercial in political history." And what Cohen revealed about what the president knew and when. Republicans asking, why should the American people believe you? And tonight, what Cohen could not answer, and what that revealed, too. ABC's Mary Bruce leading us off tonight from the hill. Reporter: The hearing room chaotic and intense as Michael Cohen, the man once trusted to keep the president's secrets, took the oath and then delivered blow after blow. I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist, he is a conman, and he is a cheat. Reporter: It was a high stakes do-over for Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to congress. The last time I appeared before congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump. Today, I am here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump. Reporter: He came armed with a long list of accusations. He says the president knew ahead of time that Wikileaks founder Julian assange was going to release hacked DNC e-mails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton, because he heard trump talk about it in a 2016 call with his adviser, Roger stone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect, "wouldn't that be great?" Reporter: Both the president and Roger stone deny this ever happened. Cohen also claims trump expected him to lie to congress about a trump tower Kos mow project, a deal Cohen now admits trump's team was negotiating with Russia well into the campaign. You said, quote, "Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to congress. That's not how he operates," end can you explain how he does this? He doesn't give you questions. He doesn't give you orders. He speaks in code, and I understand the code because I've been around him for a decade. Reporter: And he says the president's legal team knew exactly what he was going to say. You need to know that Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to congress about the timing of the Moscow tower negotiations before I gave it. Reporter: In granular detail, Cohen told congress the president ordered him to pay off porn star stormy Daniels just before the election. 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. Reporter: He produced a check he says the president gave him to repay that money. You don't have to take my word for it. I don't want you to. I want you to look at the documents. Reporter: He insisted the president told him to lie about it all. What did the president ask or suggest that you say about the payments or reimbursements? He was not knowledgeable about these reimbursements and he wasn't knowledgeable about my actions. He asked you to say that? Yes, ma'am. Reporter: Two months later, president trump told the American people he knew nothing about the hush money payments. Did you know about the $130,000 payment to stormy No. No. Reporter: Cohen claims the president even told him to lie to the first lady. I lied to the first lady when the president called me and I was sitting in a car with a friend of mine and he had me speak to her and explain to the first lady. Reporter: Cohen says it's all typical in the world of Donald Trump, and that for ten years, he used lies and pressure tactics to protect the mogul. How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual our entity on his behalf? Quite a few times. 50 times? More. A hundred times? More. 200 times? More. 500 times? Probably. Reporter: And knowing full well that the president was likely watching in Vietnam, Cohen made this claim. Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters, but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment -- "You think I'm stupid? I'm not going to Vietnam." And I find it ironic, Mr. President, that you are in Vietnam right now. Reporter: Through it all, Republicans trying to discredit Cohen, attacking his character and credibility. Michael Cohen. Fraudster, cheat, convicted felon, and in two months a federal inmate. A narcissist, a bully who cannot tell the truth about the president or about his own personal life. Liar, liar, pants on fire. Reporter: They accused him of trying to cash in on his infamy, calling him a man scorned when the president didn't bring him to Washington. You said all these bad things about the president there in that last 30 minutes, and yet you worked for him for ten years? Mr. Cohen, how long did you work in the white house? I never worked in the white house. That's the point, isn't it, Mr. Cohen? No, sir. Yes, it is. No, it's not, sir. You wanted to work in the white house. No, sir. You didn't get brought to the dance. Reporter: But as Cohen himself pointed out, Republicans did not spend much time defending the president's actions. All I wanted to say is I just find it interesting, sir, that between yourself and your colleagues that not one question so far since I'm here has been asked about president trump. Reporter: The disbarred lawyer saying he owned his mistakes. Cohen calling himself a cautionary tale for the president's defenders. And I can only warn people, the more people that follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering. Mary Bruce joins us live from the hill tonight. And Mary, this evening the president's team pushing back hard against Michael Cohen, no surprise there. Reporter: David, the president's campaign says Cohen is, quote, a felon, a disbarred lawyer and a convicted per your. And tonight, the president's lawyer says trump's legal team never changed Cohen's previous false testimony to congress. David? Mary Bruce leading us off from the hill tonight. Mary, thank you. And there were some questions Michael Cohen could not answer. He said he wasn't able to because of ongoing investigations. And that made news, too. So, let's get right to our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams tonight. Dan, this is what Michael Cohen said. Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today. Yes. And again, those are part of the investigation that's currently being looked at by the southern district of New York. So, Dan, Michael Cohen telling that committee he is actively cooperating with the southern district of New York, which is investigating, quote, wrongdoing or illegal acts involving Donald Trump. Dan, how significant is this? Well, it's very significant. Maybe the most significant moment in the entire hearing. First of all, that means that there is some other crime or wrong doing that Michael Cohen says he knows about with regard to president trump. But just as important, it's the southern district of New York that's investigating, not the special counsel. The special counsel, Robert Mueller's mandate, is limited. They're going away in the relatively near future. The southern district of new York isn't going anywhere. And you heard Republicans citing that office again and again today, that office could become

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