U.S. President Donald Trump directed hush payments to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign and knew the actions were wrong, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said in a television interview that aired on Friday. Jonah Green has more.
He may be facing three years in prison, but Michael Cohen says that now that he’s free from Donald Trump he’s free to speak his mind.
MICHAEL COHEN: “I have my freedom.”
In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Trump’s former attorney said that contrary to what the president says, Trump did direct to help silence his alleged mistresses late in the presidential campaign.
MICHAEL COHEN: “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….I just reviewed the documents, in order to protect him. I gave loyalty to someone to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty.
He was trying to hide what you were doing, correct?
And he knew it was wrong?
Cohen was sentenced to 36 months for campaign finance violations and other financial crimes, and 2 months for lying to Congress. Trump’s orbit is casting Cohen as a liar. But he says his story is backed up by Robert Mueller’s investigation.
MICHAEL COHEN: “The special counsel stated emphatically the information I gave to them was credible.”
And the publisher of the National Enquirer admitted it paid the money to a former Playboy model to prevent her from going public ahead with allegations of the affair with Trump with the intent of influencing the 2016 election.
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SARAH SANDERS: “The president was clear that he directed no one to do anything wrong. Particularly Michael Cohen, he’s been clear on this.”
The strategy from the White House and its allies seems to shift between denying Trump directed Cohen to downplaying the crime itself.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Daily Beast: “Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed… This was not a big crime,”
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch also shrugged it off, saying “You can make anything a crime under the current laws.”
NBC News reported Thursday that Trump was at a meeting in August 2015 when his personal Cohen and David Pecker, chairman of the publisher of the National Enquirer, discussed a scheme to pay off women to suppress their stories about having had affairs with Trump.
Trump has denied the affairs and argues the payments to the two women were not campaign contributions.