WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, on Friday said Trump knew it was wrong to pay for the silence of two women alleging they had extramarital affairs with him, but he did it to help his election chances.
Contradicting the president’s version of events, Cohen said in an ABC News interview aired Friday morning that Trump directed him to facilitate the $280,000 in hush-money payments that they knew were in violation of campaign finance laws.
“He directed me to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters,” Cohen said in the interview. “Of course” Trump knew they were wrong, he said.
Cohen said that Trump wanted to buy the women’s silence just weeks before Election Day in 2016 to protect his campaign for president, especially after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged he could kiss and touch women without their consent.
“So, yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election,” said Cohen, who often showed emotion as he spoke.
“I am done with the lying,” Cohen said. “I am done being loyal to President Trump.”
Cohen sat for the interview late Thursday after Trump’s tweets and Fox News interview put the blame on him for the payoffs a day after a New York federal judge sentenced him to three years in prison for his plea on that campaign finance violation and other offenses.
“I never directed him to do anything wrong,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday. “Whatever he did, he did on his own.”
Cohen, though, said that “nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me to make the payments.”
Cohen said Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., negotiated directly over a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. “I just reviewed documents, in order to protect him,” Cohen said.
American Media Inc. on Wednesday entered into a cooperation deal with Manhattan federal prosecutors and admitted it had negotiated with Cohen and at least one other campaign official to “suppress the woman’s story” and “prevent it from influencing the election.”
Pecker and his company also tipped off Cohen that porn actress Stormy Daniels intended to tell her claim about a tryst with Trump a month before the election, leading to Cohen’s negotiated deal to pay her $130,000 for her silence, according to federal prosecutors.
“The truth is, I told the truth. I took responsibility for my actions,” Cohen said.
“He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth. 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,” Cohen said.
“And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds,” he said.
After the interview aired, Trump did not mention Cohen in tweets on other topics. But White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley questioned why anyone would give “credence to a convicted criminal," and added, “he's a self-admitted liar."
Cohen said he should be believed now because of his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “There is a substantial amount of information that they possessed that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth,” Cohen said.
Cohen said Trump is not telling the truth about Russia, but he said nothing more to avoid jeopardizing the investigations and because he’s still cooperating with Mueller’s team.
Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges, including attempting to hide Trump’s Russia dealings, committing bank and tax fraud, and lying to Congress. The judge ordered Cohen to report for prison on March 6.