Trump knew hush-money payments were wrong, says ex-lawyer Cohen

US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City, May 9, 2018. — Reuters pic
US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City, May 9, 2018. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Dec 14 — President Donald Trump knew it was wrong to order election-eve hush money paid to two women who claimed to have had affairs with him, his former lawyer Michael Cohen said in an interview to be broadcast today.

Trump acted because he “was very concerned about how this would affect the election,” Cohen told ABC News of the women’s allegations, in his first comments since being sentenced to three years in prison yesterday.

Trump has said he never directed Cohen to break the law. But Cohen, asked if Trump knew the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were wrong, said “of course.”

Cohen challenged Trump’s assertion that he never told him to break the law.

“I don’t think there is anybody that believes that,” Cohen told George Stephanopoulos on the programme Good Morning America. ABC released excerpts of the interview ahead of its full airing. 

“First of all, nothing at the Trump Organisation 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,” Cohen said.

“He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth,” Cohen added.

“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,” said Cohen.

Asked if he believed Trump was telling the truth about Russia’s meddling in the US election, Cohen said “no” but he declined to comment further.

“That sort of gets into the whole investigation right now between special counsel’s office, the attorney general’s office, you also have the Southern District of New York — I don’t want to jeopardise any of their investigations,” he said.

Affairs denied

Trump denies having affairs with the women who were paid off just weeks before the election in which Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

The US president enters his third year in office facing an increasingly perilous situation as federal prosecutors and the special investigation into alleged collusion with Russia close in on him and his inner circle.

But he was as combative as ever on Twitter yesterday when he sought to distance himself from Cohen, his loyal fixer for a decade.

In his first public reaction since Cohen was sentenced, Trump said he was the victim of the attorney’s malpractice.

“He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law,” Trump tweeted. “It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.”

Later, he told Fox News that he was being singled out for a grilling over payments that would not cause a ripple elsewhere among politicians.

“Nobody except for me would be looked at like this, nobody,” he said. — AFP