Donald Trump knew he was doing wrong when he directed hush money to be paid to two women during the 2016 presidential election to keep them silent about their alleged affairs with him, the President’s former lawyer Michael Cohen said in a television interview.
“Trump was very concerned about how this would affect the election if their allegations of affairs became public,” Cohen told the ABC News in the interview that was broadcast on Friday.
“He directed me to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters,” Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this week over campaign finance and other charges, told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Cohen’s comments were his first since being sentenced for financial crimes, lying to Congress and two campaign finance violations in connection with the deals with the women — Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels — who claim past affairs with Trump.
“I knew what I was doing was wrong. I stood up before the world (Wednesday) and I accepted the responsibility for my actions.”
Asked if Trump also knew it was wrong to make the payments, Cohen said: “Of course,” adding that the purpose was to “help (Trump) and his campaign.”
However, the President said on Thursday that he never directed Cohen to break the law. Trump had also claimed in an interview that he “did nothing wrong” and said prosecutors had cooked up the charges to embarrass him.
Responding to Trump’s claims, Cohen said: “… Nothing at the Trump organisation was ever done unless it was run through Trump. He directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.
“Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the President. He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth.
“And here is the truth: People of the US, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying. The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.”
The former lawyer said that he was “angry at himself” for his role in the deals, but that he did it out of “blind loyalty” to Trump. “I gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty,” he said.
Cohen admitted in August that on the eve of the 2016 presidential election he made a $130,000 payment to porn actor Daniels and arranged for a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model McDougal.
He pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes and later pleaded guilty to an additional count of lying to Congress.
Cohen is now cooperating with authorities and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has said he helped in their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
He is due to report to prison on March 6.