Former lawyer claims Trump knew about WikiLeaks email dump

Former lawyer claims Trump knew about WikiLeaks email dump

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Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer is planning to tell a US congressional committee that the president knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, and that he is a “racist”, a “conman”, and a “cheat”.

Michael Cohen suggests in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press that Mr Trump also implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow real estate project.

Mr Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to US congress about the project, which he says Mr Trump knew about as Mr Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the election.

Mr Cohen is set to brand the president a racist, a conman and a cheat

The lawyer says in his testimony that Mr Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but “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”.

Mr Cohen said that “in his way, he was telling me to lie”.

He added that lawyers for Mr Trump had “reviewed and edited” the statement in which Mr Cohen falsely said a proposal for a Trump Tower in Moscow had been abandoned in January 2016.

Mr Cohen has since acknowledged he continued pursuing the project for months after that.

In the prepared testimony, Mr Cohen apologises for his actions. “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” he said.

Ahead of his appearance, Mr Cohen said on Tuesday that the American people can decide “exactly who is telling the truth” when he testifies before the US House Oversight and Reform committee.

Mr Cohen will claim the president knew about the WikiLeaks email dump concerning his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton

This sets the stage for an explosive public hearing that threatens to overshadow Mr Trump’s summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On WikiLeaks, Mr Cohen said in the prepared testimony that he was in Mr Trump’s office in July 2016 when longtime adviser Roger Stone called his client. Mr Trump put Mr Stone on speakerphone, and Mr Stone told him that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign”, according to Mr Cohen.

Mr Trump responded by saying “wouldn’t that be great?” Mr Cohen says.

That month, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee’s server.

Mr Cohen says in his testimony: “A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time.

“The answer is yes.”

Mr Cohen said he does not have direct evidence that Mr Trump colluded with the Russian government during the election, but that he has “suspicions”.

Of a meeting in Trump Tower between campaign advisers, including Mr Trump’s oldest son and a Russian lawyer, Mr Cohen says that Mr Trump had frequently told him that Donald Trump Jr “had the worst judgment of anyone in the world” and he “would never set up any meeting of any significance alone — and certainly not without checking with his father”.

Mr Cohen said he had lied to the US first lady out of ‘blind loyalty’ to Mr Trump

Mr Cohen, once the president’s loyal attorney and fixer, has turned on his former boss and cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

He begins a three-year prison sentence in May after he pleaded guilty to lying to US congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while he was working for Mr Trump.

He met the US senate intelligence committee for more than nine hours behind closed doors on Tuesday.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels

Federal prosecutors in New York have said Mr Trump directed Mr Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign.

Mr Cohen told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty”.

He says in his prepared testimony that he lied to the first lady, Melania Trump, about the affairs. Mr Trump has denied that he had the affairs.

“Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets,” Mr Cohen says. “She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she did not deserve that.”

On the matter of racism, Mr Cohen says the president made racist comments “disparaging African-Americans, saying at one point that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid”.

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