President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer said that “of course” Trump knew it was wrong to order hush-money payments to two women weeks before the 2016 elections.
In an interview with ABC News recorded one day after he was sentenced to three years in prison, Cohen said that Trump had directed him to buy the silence of the women, who claimed to have had affairs with the then-presidential candidate, because “he was very concerned about how this would affect the election.”
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal charges including breaking campaign finance laws and tax evasion. In November, he also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. He must report to federal prison to begin serving his time in March.
In the sit-down interview, Cohen said that it was Trump who brokered the deal with David Pecker – the owner of AMI, publisher of the National Enquirer – to “catch and kill” the story of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump.
Cohen, who began working for the Trump Organization in 2007, said Trump also directed him to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels, who also said she had an affair with Trump.
“Nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump,” Cohen told ABC. “He directed me to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters.
“Including the one with McDougal, which was really between [Trump] and David Pecker and then David Pecker’s counsel. I just reviewed the documents … in order to protect [Trump].”
Trump has denied he directed Cohen to break the law, claiming in an interview with Fox news on Thursday that he “did nothing wrong” and that prosecutors were attempting to “embarrass” him with fabricated charges.
Trump has also repeatedly denied having affairs with McDougal and Daniels and called the payouts “a simple private transaction.”
Federal prosecutors said that AMI admitted as part of a plea deal that McDougal’s $150,000 payout was arranged “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign” with the intent of influencing the elections.
Cohen said his testimony was not the only evidence that prosecutors had of Trump’s involvement in the payments.
“There’s a substantial amount of information that they possess that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth,” he said.
Cohen said he felt like he “[had his] freedom back” after taking responsibility for actions.
“I’m done with the lying, I’m done with being loyal to president Trump. I will not be the villain of his story.”