Cohen Accuses Trump Over WikiLeaks, Moscow Project And Hush Payments

Michael Cohen will testify on Wednesday that Trump knew ahead of time about a leak of emails that would hurt his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen, the former “fixer” and personal lawyer for Trump, will also tell Congress that Trump directed negotiations for a real estate project in Moscow even as he campaigned for the presidency and publicly stated he had no business interests in Russia, according to a draft of Cohen’s planned testimony.

In the text of his planned opening statement before a House of Representatives committee, Cohen calls Trump a “racist”, a “conman” and a “cheat” and said he would be handing over documents to support his assertions. The draft statement was first reported by the New York Times.

Michael Cohen. Image: Getty Images

Cohen says Trump ordered him to pay $130,000 to an adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels in order to cover up an affair in violation of campaign finance laws, and also told Cohen to lie about it to First Lady Melania Trump.

The sweeping claims against Trump from a man who was once a loyal ally come as Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be close to completing his investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russian efforts to interfere in the election.

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Image: Getty Images

Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow, dismisses the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and has said Cohen is a liar and a “rat”.

“He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time,” Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday from Vietnam, where he was to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to break a stalemate over the North’s nuclear weapons.

He has denied knowing ahead of time about the WikiLeaks dump of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the election.

Cohen, in his prepared comments, said he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when Roger Stone, a self-described “dirty trickster” and longtime political adviser to Trump, called the Republican presidential candidate.

Cohen said Stone told Trump he had been speaking with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who told him there would be a dump of emails within a couple of days that would damage Clinton’s campaign.

Julian Assange. Image: Getty Images

On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released internal DNC emails that drove a wedge between supporters of Clinton and her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders. Although Clinton won the nomination, that rift weakened her election bid.

Stone was indicted by Mueller on charges of lying to Congress about his communications with others related to WikiLeaks email dumps.

Stone denies having advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans, although text messages reviewed by Reuters show that during the campaign he made several attempts to make contact with Assange.

Image: AAP

Although Cohen will accuse Trump on a wide range of issues in his testimony on Wednesday, he said in his draft statement that he does not have direct evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia.

“I do not. I want to be clear. But I have my suspicions,” Cohen said.

It is not clear whether Cohen’s testimony will significantly alter public perception of Trump’s business practices or put him in greater legal peril.

Image: Getty Images

READ MORE: Trump Ex-Lawyer Gets Three Years Prison For Illegal Hush-Money Payments

Cohen, 52, was one of Trump’s closest aides and fiercest defenders, working with him on business and personal deals for a decade. But he turned against him last year and is cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

Cohen will start a three-year prison term in May.