tv Michael Cohen Opening Statement CSPAN February 27, 2019 6:58pm-7:29pm EST
>> c-span's washington journal every day wrl issues that impact you. coming up on thursday morning -- >> earlier today, president trump's former lawyer, testified before the house oversight and reform committee relating to the 201 presidential campaign. we'll show you his opening statements and the highlights rom today's hearing. mr. cohen: members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today.
i have asked this committee to ensure that my family be protected from presidential threats and the committee be sensitive to the ongoing investigations. thank you for your help and understanding. imhere under oath to go correct the record to answer the committee's questions truthfully and offer what i know about president trump. i recognize that some of you may doubt or attack me on my credibility. i have incorporated into this tatement, documents that are irrefuteable and demonstrate you will heremony are truthful. when i accepted the job in 2007
to work for donald trump that he would run one day run for the presidency on a platform of hate and tolerance and actively run. i regret it. him along the way. i am ashamed of my own failings and publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading i am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty of the things i did for mr. trump in an effort to protect and promote him. pro him. "i" ashamed that i chose to take part in concealing mr. trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my oconscience.
"i" ashamed because i know what mr. trump is. he is a racist. he is a conman, and he is a cheat. he was a presidential candidate who knew that rogerer stone was talking with julian assange about a wikileaks drop on democratic national committee emails. i will explain each in a few moments. i am providing the committee today with several documents. and these include a copy of a check mr. trump wrote from his personal bank account after he became president to reimburse me for the hush money payments i made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and to prevent damage to his campaign. copies of financial statements from 2011, 2012 and 2013.
that he gave to such institutions such as deutsche bank. a copy of an article with mr. trump's handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself. that he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs. and copies of letters i wrote at mr. trump's direction that threatened his high school, colleges and the college board not to release his grades or s.a.t. scores. i hope my appearance here today, my guilty plea and work with law enforcement agencies are steps along a path of redemption that will restore faith in me and help this country understand our
president better. and before going further, i want to apologize to each member, to you as congress as a whole. the last time i appeared before congress i came to protect mr. trump. today, i am here to tell the truth about mr. trump. i lied to congress when mr. trump stopped negotiating the moscow tower project in russia. i stated that we stopped negotiating in january of 2016. that was false. our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign. mr. trump did not directly tell me to lie to congress. that's not how he operates. in conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time i was actively negotiating in russia for him, he would look me
in the eye and tell me, there is no russian business. and then go on to lie to the american people by saying the same thing. in his way, he was telling me to lie. there were at least a half dozen times between the iowa caucus in january of 2016 and the end of june when he would ask me, how is it going in russia, referring to the moscow tower project? you need to know that mr. trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to congress about the timing of the moscow tower negotiations before i gave it. so to be clear, mr. trump knew of and directed the trump moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. he lied about it, because he never expected to win.
he also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the moscow real estate project. and so i lied about it too. because mr. trump had made clear to me through his personal statements to me that we both knew to be false. and threw his lies to the country that he wanted me to lie. and he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before i gave it to congress. over the past two years i have been smeared as a rat by the president of the united states. the truth is much different. and let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. my name is michael dean cohen. and i am a blessed husband of 24 years and a father to an incredible daughter and son.
when i married my wife, i promised her that i would love her. i would cherish her, and i would protect her. as my father said countless times throughout my childhood, you my wife and you my children are the air that i breathe. so my laura and to my sami and to my jake, there is nothing i wouldn't do to protect you. i have always tried to live a life of loyalty, friendship, generosity and compassion. it's qualities my parents ingrained in my siblings and me since childhood. my father survived the holocaust. thanks to the compassion and selfless acts of others. he was helped by many who put themselves in harm's way to do what they knew was right. and that is why my first instinct has always been to help those in need. and mom and dad, i am sorry i
let you down. as the many people who that know me best would say, i am the person that they call at 3:00 a.m. if they needed help. and i proudly remember being the emergency contact for many of my children's friends when they were growing up, because their parents knew that i would drop everything and care for them as if they were my own. yet last fall i pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of and in coordination with individual number one. and for the record, individual number one is president donald j. trump. it is painful to admit that i was motivated by ambition at
times. it is even more painful to admit that many times i ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when i should not have. sitting here today, if seems unbelievable that i was so mesmerized by donald trump, that i was willing to do things for him that i knew were absolutely wrong. for that reason, i have come here to apologize to my family, to my government, and to the american people. accordingly, let me now tell you about mr. trump. i got to know him very well, working very closely with him for more than ten years hayes executive vice president and special counsel. and then as personal attorney when he became president. when i first met mr. trump, he was a successful entrepreneur, a real estate giant.
and an icon. being around mr. trump was intoxicatesing. . when i were in his presence you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself. that you were somehow changing the world. i wound up touting the trump narrative for over a decade. that was my job. always stay on message. always defend. it monopolized my life. at first, i worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. shortly there after, mr. trump brought me into his personal alive and private dealings. over time, i saw his true character revealed. mr. trump is an enigma. he is complicated, as am i. he is both good and bad, as do we all. but the bad four outweighs the
good. and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. he is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. he is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. he is capable of being loyal. but he is fundamentally disloyal. donald trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. he had no desire or intention to lead this nation, only to market himself and build his wealth and power. mr. trump would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial political history. he never expected to win the primary, never expected to win the general election. the campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity.
i knew early on in my work for mr. trump that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests. and i am ashamed to say that when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector i considered it trivial. as the president, i consider it significant and dangerous. but in the mix, lying for mr. trump was normalized and no one around him questioned it. in fairness, no one around him today questions it either. a lot of people have asked me about whether mr. trump knew about the release of the hacked documents, democratic national committee e-mails ahead of time. and the answer is yes. as i earlier stated, mr. trump knew from roger stone in advance about the wikileaks drop of emails. in july of 10u6r, days before
the democratic convention, i was in mr. trump's office when his secretary nounsed that roger stone was on the phone. mr. trump put mr. stone on the speaker phone. mr. stone told mr. trump that he had just gotten off the phone with mr. assange. and mr. assange told mr. stone that within a couple of days there would be a massive dump of email that is would damage hillary clinton's campaign. mr. trump responded by stating to the effect, wouldn't be that great. mr. trump is a racist. the country has seen mr. trump court white supremacists and bigots. you have heard him call poorer countries "shithole"s. s in private he is worse. he asked me if i could name a country run by a black person
that went a "shithole." this was when barack obama was president of the united states. and while we were driving through a struggling neighborhood in chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. and he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid. and yet, i continued to work for him. mr. trump is a cheat. as previously stated, i am giving to the committee today three years of mr. trump's personal financial statements from 2011, 2012 and 2013 which he gave to deutsche bank to choir about a loan to buy the buffalo bills and to forbes. these are exhibits 1 a, 1 b and 1 c to my testimony.
it was my experience that mr. trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes. such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in forbes and deflate the his assets to reduce his real estate taxes. i am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of mr. trump inflating and deflating his assets, as i said, to suit his financial interests. niece are exhibit 2 to my testimony. as i noted, i am giving the committee today an article he wrote on and sent to me that reported on an auction of a portrait of mr. trump. in is exhibit 3 a to my testimony. mr. trump directed me to find a straw bidder of him to purchase a portrait of him being axed off
at a art hamptons event. the objective was to ensure the portrait auctioned last would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. the portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. mr. trump directed the trump foundation which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. and please see exhibit 3 b to my testimony. and it should come as no surprise that one of my more common responsibilities was that mr. trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom are small businesses, that were owed money for services and told them that no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. when i asked mr. trump -- when i told mr. trump of my success, he
actually reveled in it. and yet, i continued to work for him. mr. trump is a conman. he asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair and to lie about it to his wife, which i did. and lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets, because she is a kind, good person. and i respect her greatly. and she did not deserve that. and i am giving the committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to miss clifford's attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by miss clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with mr. trump. and this is exhibit 4 to my testimony. mr. trump directed me to use my
own personal funds from a home equity line of credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. and i did that too. without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right thing to do or how it would impact me, my family or the public. and i am going to jail in part because of my decision to help mr. trump hide that payment from the american people before any voted a few days later. as exhibit 5 a to my testimony shows, "i" providing a copy of a $35,000 check that president trump personally signed from his personal bank account on august 1st of 2017. when he was president of the
united states. pursuant to the cover-up which was the basis of my guilty plea to reimburse me the word used by mr. trump's tv lawyer for the illegal hush money i paid on his behalf. this $35,000 check was one of 11 check stlam mts that was paid throughout the year while he was president. other checks to reimburse me for the hush money payments were signed by donald trump jr. and allen weisselberg. and see for that example 5 b. the president of the united states thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. and you can find the details of that scheme directed by mr. trump in the pleadings in the
u.s. district court for the southern district of new york. so picture in scene. in february of 2017, one month into his presidency, i'm visiting president trump in the oval office for the first time. and it's truly you a inspiring. he is showing me all around and pointing to different paintings. and he says to me something to the effect of, don't worry, michael, your january and february reimbursement checks are coming. they were fedexed from new york. and it takes a while for that to get through the white house system. as he promised, i received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long there after. when i say conman, i'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his
colleges, and the college board to never release his grades or s.a.t. scores. as i mentioned, i'm giving the committee today copies of a letter i sent at mr. trump's direction, threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if mr. trump's grades or s.a.t. scores were ever disclosed without his permission. and these are under exhibit 6. the irony wasn't lost on me at the time that mr. trump in 2011 had strongly criticized president obama for not releasing his grades. as you can see in exhibit 7, mr. trump declared, let him show his records. after calling president obama a terrible student. the sad fact is that i never heard mr. trump say anything in private that led me to believe
he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. in fact, he did the opposite. when telling me in 2008 or 2009 that he was cutting employees salaries in half, including mine, he showed me what he claim was a $10 million irs tax refund and said he couldn't believe how stupid the government was for giving someone like him that much money back. during the campaign, mr. trump said he did not consider vietnam veteran and prisoner of war senator john mccain to be a hero because he likes people who weren't captured. at the same time, mr. trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the vietnam
draft. mr. trump claimed it was because of a bone spur. but when i asked for medical records, he gave me none. and said that there was no surgery. he told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply, the fact that he received a medical deferment. he finished the conversation the following comment, you think i'm stupid? i'm not going to vietnam. and i find it ironic, mr. president, that you are in vietnam right now. and yet, i continued to work for him. the questions have been raised about whether i know of direct evidence that mr. trump or his campaign colluded with russia. i do not. and i want to be clear. but i have my suspicions. sometime in the summer of 2017 i read all over the media that
there had been a meeting in trump tower in june of 2016 involving don junior and others from the campaign with russians including a representative of the russian government and an e-mail setting up the meeting with the subject line, "dirt on hillary clinton." something clicked in my mind. i remembered being in a room with mr. trump probably in early june of 2016, when something peculiar happened. donald trump, jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk, which in and of itself was unusual. people just didn't walk behind mr. trump's desk to talk to him. i recall don junior leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which i could clearly hear, and saying, the meeting is all set and i remember mr. trump saying, okay, good. let me know.
what struck me as i looked back and thought about the exchange between don junior and his father was first, that mr. trump had frequently told me and others that his son don junior had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. and also, that don junior would never set up any meeting of significance alone, and certainly not without checking with his father. i also knew that nothing went on in trump world, especially the campaign, without mr. trump's knowledge and approval. so i concluded that don junior was referring to that june 2016 trump tower meeting about dirt on hillary with the russian representatives when he walked behind his dad's desk that day and that mr. trump knew that was the meeting don junior was talking about when he said, that's good, let me know.
over the past year or so, i have done so real soul searching. i see now that my ambition and the intoxication of trump power had much to do with the bad decisio decisions in part that i made. to you, chairman cummings and ranking member jordan and the other members of this committee, the members of the house and senate, i am sorry for my lies and for lying to congress. and to our nation, i am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth about mr. trump when you needed it most. for those who question my motives for being here today, i understand. i have lied, but i am not a liar. i have done bad things, but i am not a bad man. i have fixed things, but i am no
longer your fixer, mr. trump. i am going to prison and have shattered the safety and security that i tried so hard to provide for my family. my testimony certainly does not diminish the pain that i have caused my family and friends, nothing can do that. i have never asked for, nor would i accept, a pardon from president trump. and by coming today, i have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurry lus attacks by the president and his lawyer, trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel. mr. trump called me a rat for choosing to tell the truth, much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government. as exhibit 8 shows, i have
provided the committee with copies of tweets that mr. trump posted, attacking me and my family, only someone burying his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they are -- encouragement to someone to do harm to me and my family. i never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family, and unleash his tv lawyer to do the same and i hope this committee and all members of congress on both sides of the aisle make it clear that as a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable. i wish to especially thank speaker pelosi for her statements in exhibit 9 to protect this institution and me,
and the chairman of the house permanent select committee on intelligence adam schiff and you, chairman cummings, for likewise defending the institution and my family against the attacks by mr. trump and also the many republicans who have admonished the president as well. i am not a perfect man. i have done things that i am not proud of and i will live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life. but today, i get to decide the example i set for my children and how i attempt to change how history will remember me. full committee hearing -- hearing the testimony of michael cohen. former attorney to president