Former lawyer claims Trump knew about WikiLeaks email dump

Donald Trump's former personal lawyer is planning to tell a US congressional committee that the president knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton's election campaign, and that he is a "racist", a "conman", and a "cheat".

Michael Cohen suggests in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press that Mr Trump also implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow real estate project.

38 PHOTOS
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Vietnam
See Gallery
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Vietnam
US President Donald Trump attends a press conference following the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. - The nuclear summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Hanoi ended without an agreement on February 28, the White House said after the two leaders cut short their discussions. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference following the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. - The nuclear summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Hanoi ended without an agreement on February 28, the White House said after the two leaders cut short their discussions. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 28: Local newspaper front pages show the news about the summit between U.S President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on February 28, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. U.S President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met on Wednesday and Thursday during their second summit as discussions continue in Hanoi on the possible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he wouldn't be holding a second summit with President Donald Trump if he weren't willing to make good on his denuclearization pledge. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference following the DPRK-USA Hanoi Summit in Hanoi, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Trumps second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un collapsed without an agreement between the two leaders, plunging future talks on North Korea's nuclear program into question. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Two Vietnamese policewomen rest near the Melia hotel following the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. - The nuclear summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Hanoi ended without an agreement on February 28, the White House said after the two leaders cut short their discussions. (Photo by Ye Aung THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 28: Media members work at the International Media Center during the DPRK-USA Hanoi Summit on February 28, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi for their second summit on Thursday. (Photo by Fu Tian/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) speaks during a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump (not pictured) at the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un listens during a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump (not pictured) at the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk past a screen in Tokyo on February 28, 2019 showing US President Donald Trump speaking during a press conference following the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 28: The car carrying U.S President Donald Trump is seen leaving the summit on February 28, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. U.S President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met on Wednesday and Thursday during their second summit as discussions continue in Hanoi. According to White House after the summit: 'No agreement was reached' between Trump and Kim at Vietnam summit, meetings to continue in the future. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
A motorcyclist rides past a Vietnamese soldier standing between armoured personel carriers during the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks during a dinner with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
A motorcade, transporting US President Donald Trump, leaves the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel following the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read NHAC NGUYEN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc wave flags before a meeting at the Office of Government Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong at the Presidential Palace, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
South Korean protesters hold a banner showing a photo of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a rally near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The second summit between U.S President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28. The letters read "Peace Agreement between U.S. and North Korea" and "Withdrawal of U.S. troops." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
President Donald Trump and Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong watch as VietJet President Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, right, and Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, left, sign a business agreement at the Presidential Palace, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
A Grab motorcycle deliveryman checks his phone in front of shops selling paintings and t-shirts of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Trump hoped for "great things" from his second meeting with Kim as he paid a courtesy call on his Vietnamese hosts ahead of the summit in the Vietnamese capital. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck)
President Donald Trump stand as he meets Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong at the Presidential Palace, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A motorcyclist rides past a Vietnamese soldier standing next to an armoured vehicle during the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump poses for a photo as he meets Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong at the Presidential Palace, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A man walks past a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and U.S. President Donald Trump in a news program in Tokyo, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Kim is expected to meet with Trump for a second summit over the next two days in Hanoi, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
A police officer secures boundary tape on a pole near the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Hanoi late Tuesday for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump plans to meet Vietnam's leaders and sign commercial deals today before meeting Kim in the evening. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (L) waves to his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong (not pictured) after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on February 27, 2019, ahead of the second US-North Korea summit. (Photo by LUONG THAI LINH / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUONG THAI LINH/AFP/Getty Images)
A vendor (C) waits for customers while displaying T-shirts with pictures of US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on February 27, 2019, ahead of the second US-North Korea summit. (Photo by Ye Aung THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump's motorcade runs en route to the Presidential Palace of Vietnam ahead of the DPRK-USA summit on February 27, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet on February 27-28 in Hanoi for their second summit. (Photo by Fu Tian/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 26: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'Handout / White House / Shealah Craighead' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam on February 26, 2019. (Photo by Handout / White House / Shealah Craighead/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 26: U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One after arriving at Noi Bai International Airport on February 26, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. U.S President Donald Trump arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday as preparations continue in Hanoi for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi later this week. Both leaders are scheduled to have a private dinner and meeting on Wednesday as reports indicate they are expected to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and end international sanctions against Pyongyang. (Photo by Tuan Mark/Getty Images)
HANOI, Feb. 26, 2019 -- U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 26, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on Tuesday night to meet with Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. (Xinhua/Wang Shen) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 26: U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One after arriving at Noi Bai International Airport on February 26, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. U.S President Donald Trump arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday as preparations continue in Hanoi for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi later this week. Both leaders are scheduled to have a private dinner and meeting on Wednesday as reports indicate they are expected to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and end international sanctions against Pyongyang. (Photo by Tuan Mark/Getty Images)
The train which transported North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un to Vietnam leaves Dong Dang railway station, Vietnam, at the border with China, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
A train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leaves from a train station in the Chinese border city of Dandong, China in this photo taken by Kyodo on February 23, 2019. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) speaks during a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump (not pictured) at the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mr Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to US congress about the project, which he says Mr Trump knew about as Mr Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the election.

The lawyer says in his testimony that Mr Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but "he would look me in the eye and tell me there's no business in Russia, and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing".

Mr Cohen said that "in his way, he was telling me to lie".

He added that lawyers for Mr Trump had "reviewed and edited" the statement in which Mr Cohen falsely said a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow had been abandoned in January 2016.

Mr Cohen has since acknowledged he continued pursuing the project for months after that.

In the prepared testimony, Mr Cohen apologises for his actions. "I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience," he said.

Ahead of his appearance, Mr Cohen said on Tuesday that the American people can decide "exactly who is telling the truth" when he testifies before the US House Oversight and Reform committee.

Michael Cohen
Mr Cohen will claim the president knew about the WikiLeaks email dump concerning his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton (AP)

This sets the stage for an explosive public hearing that threatens to overshadow Mr Trump's summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On WikiLeaks, Mr Cohen said in the prepared testimony that he was in Mr Trump's office in July 2016 when longtime adviser Roger Stone called his client. Mr Trump put Mr Stone on speakerphone, and Mr Stone told him that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that "within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign", according to Mr Cohen.

Mr Trump responded by saying "wouldn't that be great?" Mr Cohen says.

That month, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee's server.

Mr Cohen says in his testimony: "A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time.

"The answer is yes."

Mr Cohen said he does not have direct evidence that Mr Trump colluded with the Russian government during the election, but that he has "suspicions".

Of a meeting in Trump Tower between campaign advisers, including Mr Trump's oldest son and a Russian lawyer, Mr Cohen says that Mr Trump had frequently told him that Donald Trump Jr "had the worst judgment of anyone in the world" and he "would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father".

Michael Cohen
Mr Cohen said he had lied to the US first lady out of 'blind loyalty' to Mr Trump (AP)

Mr Cohen, once the president's loyal attorney and fixer, has turned on his former boss and cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

He begins a three-year prison sentence in May after he pleaded guilty to lying to US congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while he was working for Mr Trump.

He met the US senate intelligence committee for more than nine hours behind closed doors on Tuesday.

Mr Cohen said in brief remarks afterwards that he appreciated the opportunity to "clear the record and tell the truth" to the committee after acknowledging he lied to the panel in 2017.

It is the first of three consecutive days of congressional appearances for Mr Cohen.

After the public hearing on Wednesday, he will appear before the House intelligence panel on Thursday, again speaking in private.

Republicans are expected to attempt to discredit Cohen, given that he has acknowledged lying previously.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that it was "laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies".

Democrats have been alternately suspicious of Cohen and eager to hear what he has to say. Senator Mark Warner, the intelligence panel's top Democrat, suggested in a brief statement to reporters outside Tuesday's interview that Mr Cohen had provided important information.

In addition to lying to congress, Mr Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Mr Trump.

Stormy Daniels
Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (AP)

Federal prosecutors in New York have said Mr Trump directed Mr Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign.

Mr Cohen told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty".

He says in his prepared testimony that he lied to the first lady, Melania Trump, about the affairs. Mr Trump has denied that he had the affairs.

"Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets," Mr Cohen says. "She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that."

On the matter of racism, Mr Cohen says the president made racist comments "disparaging African-Americans, saying at one point that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid".

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS