Michael Cohen's testimony

'He lied' and 'no collusion', says Trump

Michael Cohen said during his congressional testimony on Wednesday that he had no direct knowledge that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia in the 2016 US election, but that he had suspicions.
Michael Cohen said during his congressional testimony on Wednesday that he had no direct knowledge that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia in the 2016 US election, but that he had suspicions.PHOTO: NYTIMES

US President tries to discredit former fixer, who did not provide proof of 'smoking gun'

HANOI • United States President Donald Trump sought again to discredit his former long-time lawyer Michael Cohen yesterday after Cohen's bombshell congressional testimony in which he called Mr Trump a racist and a conman.

"He lied a lot," Mr Trump told a press conference in Vietnam after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Trump insisted that Cohen's testimony to the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee on Wednesday had provided no evidence the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia in the 2016 US election.

Cohen, who also worked as Mr Trump's fixer, told lawmakers he had no direct knowledge of collusion but that he had suspicions.

"I wouldn't use the word colluding," Cohen said of Mr Trump's dealings with Russia, adding that there was "something odd" about the President's good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Trump emphasised that his former lawyer said no collusion had taken place.

"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," said Mr Trump.

"I was a little impressed by that. He could have gone all out. He went 95 per cent instead of 100 per cent. The fact is, there is no collusion," Mr Trump added.

Possible collusion is a key theme of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, which has dogged the President during his two years in office.

Mr Trump has denied the allegation, as has the Kremlin, and he has repeatedly called the investigation into possible collusion with Moscow a "witch hunt".

Cohen, 52, was a close aide of Mr Trump for years and his testimony could increase the legal and political pressure on the Republican President, although he did not appear to disclose a "smoking gun" that could sink his former boss.

The President, however, did not address any of Cohen's specific, damning allegations about his decade of working with Mr Trump.

Cohen on Wednesday called Mr Trump a "conman" who knew in advance about the release of stolen e-mails by WikiLeaks that were aimed at hurting his Democratic rival, Mrs Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election campaign.

Cohen said the President directed him last year to lie about hush payments made to a porn actress to silence her claims of an affair with Mr Trump.

He said Mr Trump had also ordered him to make threats on his behalf about 500 times over the last 10 years.

And Cohen asserted that personal lawyers for Mr Trump and his family reviewed and edited his written testimony to Congress in 2017 in which he lied about a Moscow real estate deal that was negotiated through the presidential campaign.

Cohen was one of Mr Trump's fiercest defenders, working with him on business and personal deals for a decade.

But he turned against the President last year and is cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

He will begin serving a three-year prison sentence in May.

Democrats took control of the House after last year's congressional elections and called Cohen to testify.

Republican lawmakers at the hearing tried to undermine Cohen, portraying him as an irredeemable liar and saying the hearing was an opening gambit in a Democratic push to impeach Mr Trump.

Cohen was mostly calm and contrite under the heated questioning from Republicans, and cautioned them not to make the same mistake he did in protecting Mr Trump.

After the dramatic public testimony on Wednesday, Cohen was expected to face his third and final Capitol Hill session this week, with a meeting later yesterday with a congressional panel investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

He was expected to talk behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee probing the Russian election meddling.

Democratic House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said in a tweet on Wednesday that he planned to dig into the Trump Moscow project, the revelations about WikiLeaks and any White House role in Cohen's prior false statements.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline ''He lied' and 'no collusion', says Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe