Hanoi: Donald Trump said his former fixer Michael Cohen “lied a lot” in his depiction of the president as a racist and con artist during dramatic testimony before a House committee.
Trump also assailed House Democrats for holding the Wednesday hearing as he was in Hanoi for his second face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of a very important summit like this is sort of incredible,” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Hanoi on Thursday, after his talks with Kim had ended without an agreement.
Yet Trump’s disparagement of his former lawyer, who had spent much of Wednesday laying out a litany of damning allegations against him, was somewhat subdued, and he even offered faint praise of Cohen at one point.
The nationally televised hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee was the most dramatic public inquiry into Trump’s personal and business affairs since Democrats won control of the House in the November election.
“He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Cohen said of Trump.
Republicans on the panel used every opportunity to attack the credibility of Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to nine felonies — including lying to Congress — and is scheduled to report to prison on May 6.
Cohen touched on numerous instances that could raise legal risks for the president, including hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 election and allegations that Trump overstated his net worth for loans, insurance and tax purposes. Cohen also said that he is in actively cooperating with US prosecutors for the Southern District of New York about other cases involving Trump.
Cohen also described a culture at the Trump Organisation where employees were expected to lie. “Everybody’s job at the Trump Organisation is to protect Mr Trump,” he said. “Every day, most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something. And that became the norm, and that’s exactly what’s happening right now in this country.”
Cohen also claimed he witnessed a July 2016 phone call where longtime adviser Roger Stone told Trump about WikiLeaks’ plans to release stolen Democratic emails. American intelligence agencies have found the hack was executed by Russia as part of an effort to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and ultimately help Trump win the election.
Cohen acknowledged he had no direct evidence of Trump colluding with Russia, a central question in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian election interference. He said only: “I have my suspicions.”
Trump said at the press conference in Hanoi that Cohen lied through most of his testimony but that he told the truth when he said he saw no collusion with Russia in the 2016 campaign.
“He lied a lot but he didn’t lie about one thing,” the president said. “I was actually impressed” that Cohen said there was no collusion.