Cohen, Trump’s one-time “fixer,” said Trump directed negotiations for a real estate project in Moscow during the White House race, even as Trump publicly said he had no business interests in Russia, according to Cohen’s prepared testimony.
“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Cohen said in an opening statement to a House committee.
“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen said.
“He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.”
The testimony that appeared to be most damaging to the president were allegations Trump knew in advance about a WikiLeaks dump of stolen emails from senior Democrats, that he pursued plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, and that he was directly involved in reimbursing Cohen for hush money payments.
But Trump will take comfort in Cohen’s assertion that he had no direct knowledge of any collusion between his 2016 campaign team and Russia to influence the election.
Cohen then said Trump ordered him to pay $US130,000 ($A182,254) to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair, and also told Cohen to lie about it to First Lady Melania Trump.
Trump said in a post referring to Cohen on Twitter on Wednesday from Vietnam, where he was meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,: “He is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”
Later, sitting alongside Kim, Trump refused to answer reporters’ questions about Cohen, who will begin a three-year prison term in May after pleading guilty to multiple criminal charges.
US officials have said the emails released by WikiLeaks were stolen by Russia as part of Moscow’s campaign of hacking and propaganda during the presidential race, aimed at harming Trump rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump has previously denied knowing in advance about the WikiLeaks release.
But Cohen said he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to Trump, called the Republican presidential candidate.
Cohen said Stone told Trump he had been speaking with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who told him there would be a dump of emails within a couple of days that would damage Clinton’s campaign.
However, Cohen said in his statement he does not have direct evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia.
“I do not. I want to be clear. But I have my suspicions,” Cohen said.
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