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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Video: Cohen vs. Trump

Our latest collaboration with CNN’s Jake Tapper is on Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony and instances where he contradicted past statements made by President Donald Trump. 

Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, said he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when Roger Stone was on speaker phone talking about WikiLeaks and its plan to publicly release hacked emails damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great,'” Cohen testified at the Feb. 27 hearing.

This directly contradicts statements made by Trump and Stone, Trump’s informal adviser and longtime friend. 

Trump has denied ever having a conversation with Stone about WikiLeaks. In a statement after Cohen’s testimony, Stone said Cohen’s “statement is not true.” What we do know is that the special counsel’s office alleges that on “multiple occasions” Stone “told senior Trump Campaign officials about materials possessed by Organization 1 and the timing of future releases,” as laid out in the indictment against Stone. The indictment refers to WikiLeaks as “Organization 1.” (See “Timeline of Russia Investigation” for more details on Russia’s influence campaign and WikiLeaks’ role in it.)

Cohen also testified about a proposed real estate deal that Trump and his company was pursuing in Moscow, well into the 2016 presidential campaign, from October 2015 to June 2016. Cohen told the House oversight committee that Trump “knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it.”

During the campaign, Trump never mentioned the project and denied having any business interest in Moscow. For example, Trump said in a July 27, 2016 interview: “I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.” The public didn’t learn about the project until the Washington Post broke the story in August 2017 — about seven months into the Trump presidency.

On Nov. 29, 2018, Trump said that he “wasn’t trying to hide anything.” He falsely claimed that the Moscow project was “a very public deal” that “everybody knew about” and “was written about in newspapers.” 

In his testimony, Cohen also provided a copy of a $35,000 check that he received from Trump in August 2017 — one of 11 payments that Cohen maintained he received as reimbursement for the $130,000 he paid in “illegal hush money” to porn star Stormy Daniels. The payment was made in late October “to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign,” Cohen said. Trump initially denied knowing anything about the payment, telling a reporter in April 2018 that he didn’t know where Cohen got the money to pay Daniels. 

But that false narrative was exposed on Aug. 21, when Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for arranging —  “in coordination and at the direction of” Trump — payments of $130,000 to Daniels and $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has since acknowledged the payment, but has maintained that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.” Trump has rejected the notion that it was a campaign finance violation. Trump called it a “simple private transaction,” not an illegal campaign contribution.

For more about these and other statements made by Cohen at the House hearing, please see our Feb. 28 story, “Cohen, Trump at Odds.” Visit our website for more videos that we have done with Tapper and CNN’s “State of the Union.”