By Katie Reilly
Updated: February 27, 2019 11:08 AM ET

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of President Donald Trump, testified publicly Wednesday that the President is “a racist,” “a con man” and “a cheat,” in remarks before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is,” Cohen said Wednesday in his opening statement. “He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.”

In his dramatic testimony, Cohen accused Trump of indirectly encouraging him to lie to Congress about the timeline for work on a Trump Tower project in Moscow that continued through the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen said. “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.”

Cohen presented a personal check for $35,000 signed by Trump in 2017, reimbursing him “for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf.” Cohen had previously implicated Trump in the hush money payments to two women, aimed at keeping them quiet about alleged affairs during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Ahead of the House hearing, the White House has condemned Cohen and downplayed his longtime connection to the President. In a statement on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called him a “disgraced felon.” Trump, who is currently in Vietnam for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, accused Cohen of “lying in order to reduce his prison time.” Meanwhile, House Republicans have already questioned whether the testimony will be credible, given that Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress in previous testimony.

Read Cohen’s full opening statement here:

With reporting from Alana Abramson.

Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com.

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