Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump is sworn in before testifying before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

7 things to know from Michael Cohen's opening statement to Congress

President Trump's former lawyer and personal "fixer" is set to testify publicly before Congress on Wednesday


Shira Tarlo
February 27, 2019 3:00PM (UTC)

Michael Cohen, the attorney who spent many years working as President Donald Trump's personal "fixer," will testify before Congress on Wednesday, but his opening statement was published by multiple media outlets late Tuesday.

In the stunning 20-page statement, Cohen describes the commander-in-chief as a "racist," a "conman" and a "cheat” as he details a wide range of allegations against his former boss. While Cohen's prepared remarks could change somewhat when he delivers them to the House Oversight Committee, here is what he intends to reveal about the president:

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1. Cohen will describe Trump as a "racist"

"He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a 'shithole.' This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States," Cohen's testimony notes. "While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him, because they were too stupid. And yet I continued to work for him."

2. Cohen says Trump knew of WikiLeaks email dump ahead of time

"In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. 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 emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of 'wouldn't that be great.'"

3. Trump may have known in advance about June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians

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Cohen plans to testify that he doesn't have any direct knowledge of Trump's presidential campaign coordinating with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, but he does remember an exchange, "probably in early June 2016," between Trump and Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, that he suggests may have been related to Don Jr.'s meeting that same month with a Russian lawyer with supposed "dirt" on Hillary Clinton — something Trump and his eldest son have long denied.

"I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying, 'The meeting is all set.' I remember Mr. Trump saying, 'OK good . . . Let me know,'" Cohen notes. "What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any 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 approval," Cohen will say. "So, I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad's desk that day — and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about when he said, 'That's good . . . Let me know.'"

4. Trump engaged in an illegal hush-money scheme to keep his alleged extramarital affairs quiet

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"Mr. Trump is a conman. He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair – and to lie to his wife about it – which I did," Cohen will say, referring to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, legally known as Stephanie Clifford.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges last year and admitted that he had paid off Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006, during the 2016 presidential campaign in exchange for her silence about the alleged affair with Trump before he was president.

In his prepared remarks, Cohen also reveals he regrets lying to first lady Melania Trump.

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"Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly — and she did not deserve that," Cohen notes. "I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford's attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump."

5. Cohen describes how Trump faked a medical condition to avoid military service in Vietnam

"Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. 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 wasn't going to Vietnam.'"

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In recent years, Trump has been widely ridiculed by critics over the bone spurs diagnosis, who have found it "implausible that a healthy and athletic 22-year-old, on the cusp of being declared fit for service, could suddenly be felled by growths in his heels," the New York Times reported last year. In 1968, Trump was granted a 1-Y classification – a temporary medical exemption, which meant he could be considered for service only in the event of a national emergency of an official declaration of war. In 1972, his status changed to 4-F – a permanent disqualification.

6. Trump continued negotiating for a luxury real estate project in Russia throughout the 2016 campaign

"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 the election. He also lied about it, because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project," Cohen will say.

The president's former lawyer has pleaded guilty to lying about that project in his 2017 testimony to the Senate and House intelligence committees.

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Cohen will tell lawmakers that Trump "did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates." But he alleges alleges that Trump's "personal lawyers" edited his untruthful testimony ahead of time.

"I lied about it, too, because Mr. Trump had made clear to me through his personal statements to me – that we both knew were false – and through his lies to the country that he wanted me to lie," the remarks say. "And he made it clear to me, because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress."

7. Cohen's statement also include an apology to lawmakers

"I want to apologize to each of you and to Congress as a whole," Cohen's remarks say. "The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump. Today, I'm here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump. I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false. Our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign."

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Cohen, who will start a three-year prison term for crimes committed later this year, painted himself in the testimony as an employee who let his blind loyalty to Trump cloud his judgment.

"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 president, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance and actually win," Cohen will say. "I regret the day I said 'yes' to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way."


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

MORE FROM Shira TarloFOLLOW @shiratarlo

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

All Salon Congress Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Michael Cohen News & Politics Politics Racism Trump White House

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