Michael Cohen tells Congress Trump directed lies

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has claimed Mr Trump wanted him to lie about a property deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.

During Wednesday’s testimony, Cohen said Mr Trump directed covert plans for a Trump hotel, even while he denied having any business in Russia.

He also said Mr Trump knew about a leak of hacked Democratic emails, and called him a “racist”, “conman” and “cheat”.

Mr Trump accused Cohen of “lying in order to reduce his prison time”.

And speaking after Thursday’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam, the US president reiterated that Cohen “lied a lot” during his congressional testimony.

But Mr Trump said his former lawyer provided no evidence about alleged collusion between the Trump campaign with Russia during the 2016 US presidential elections.

“He didn’t lie about one thing. He said, no collusion with the Russian hoax. And I said, I wonder why he didn’t lie about that, too, like everything else,” Mr Trump said.

Cohen, 52, will start a three-year prison term in May for the campaign finance violation of paying hush money to one of Mr Trump’s alleged mistresses, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

What did Cohen say about the Moscow project?

In his public testimony to the House of Representatives Oversight Committee on Wednesday, he said Mr Trump “knew of and directed” plans for a Trump Tower Moscow, while stating publicly that he had no dealings in Russia.

“At the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him,” Cohen testified, “he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.”

“He wanted me to lie,” the witness added.

However, Cohen has been convicted of lying to Congress when he testified in 2017 that attempts to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow had stopped by January 2016.

He has since acknowledged negotiations actually continued until June 2016 in the midst of the election campaign, though the real estate project ultimately did not go ahead.

Cohen apologised on Wednesday for his earlier false statements to Congress, which he claimed were “reviewed and edited” by Mr Trump’s lawyers.

Jay Sekulow, counsel to President Trump, said in a statement after the hearing: “Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the president edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false.”

Cohen also suggested federal prosecutors in New York are investigating some unspecified crime involving Trump.

What did Cohen say about the email leak?

Cohen said he was in Mr Trump’s office in July 2016 when Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser, called the then-Republican presidential candidate.

The witness said Mr Stone rang Mr Trump to let him know he had been speaking to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who told him there would be a “massive dump” of emails within a couple of days that would politically embarrass Hillary Clinton’s White House campaign.

Cohen said Mr Trump responded along the lines of “wouldn’t that be great”.

Mr Trump has denied having prior knowledge about Wikileaks’ disclosure of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the election.

The messages – which US authorities say were hacked by Russian intelligence – caused a damaging rift among Democrats by exposing how party officials preferred Mrs Clinton over her challenger for the presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders.

Mr Stone, a self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, is currently facing charges of lying to Congress about his communications with Wikileaks and witness tampering.

BBC