Ex-Trump lawyer: Hush money paid over election concerns
WASHINGTON – Shaken and facing a prison term, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer said Friday that Trump directed him to buy the silence of two women during the 2016 campaign because he was concerned about how their stories of alleged affairs with him “would affect the election.”
Michael Cohen – who for more than a decade was a key power player in the Trump Organization and a fixture in Trump’s political life – said he “gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty.” Cohen spoke in an interview with ABC that aired Friday on “Good Morning America.”
Speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen appeared shaken over the series of events that swiftly took him from Trump’s “fixer” to a man facing three years in prison.
“I am done with the lying,” Cohen said. “I am done being loyal to President Trump.”
He added: “I will not be the villain of this story.”
Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to several charges, including campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. Prosecutors have said Trump directed 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.
Asked whether the president also knew it was wrong to make the payments, Cohen said, “Of course.” But Cohen did not provide any specific evidence or detail in the interview except to say that Trump “directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.”
Trump has denied that he directed Cohen to break the law and has asserted in a barrage of tweets over the last several weeks that Cohen is a “liar” who cut a deal in order to get a reduced prison sentence.
“He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth,” Cohen said. “And here is the truth: People of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying. The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.”
In a separate case, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his work on a possible Trump real estate project in Moscow and said he did so to be consistent with Trump’s “political messaging.”
The charges in that case were brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and Mueller’s prosecutors have said Cohen has provided key information in their investigation. Cohen has said he is continuing to cooperate with investigators.