By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump knew in advance that Wikileaks would publicly release a trove of emails that he believed would be damaging to his then-Democratic rival, his former long-time personal lawyer told Congress Wednesday.
Michael Cohen told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee he was in the room when Trump was informed of the then-looming disclosure by Roger Stone, who is awaiting trial on seven criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Stone has pled not guilty.
Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organization, released thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in the run-up to the 2016 Democratic National Convention when Hillary Clinton received the party's candidacy.
Mueller is continuing to probe Russian activities to swing the 2016 election in Trump's favor and possible Trump campaign collusion with that effort.
But the disclosure Trump knew of the Wikileaks email drop before it was carried out is just one of a multitude of bombshell allegations Cohen made before the committee as he painted a picture of his former boss replete with tales of greed, deception and illegality befitting a mob boss.
Cohen, who worked for Trump for roughly a decade, tore into his former boss whom he is now at odds with, calling Trump a "racist," a "conman" and a "cheat." Cohen alleged that the Trump organization is staffed by people tasked with ensuring the president's protection.
That included him, he said appearing regretful while recounting some of the tasks he carried out for Trump.
One such task, making hush money payments to two women who alleged affairs with Trump in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, was carried out at Trump's direction, Cohen said, producing a copy of a check written by the president to him allegedly for reimbursement for the payments.
That was one of several payments made to him over the course of 12 months by Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Alan Allen Weisselberg, under the cover of a non-existent retainer agreement, Cohen said, as "part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws."
Cohen pled guilty to campaign finance violations tied to the payments to Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, and other crimes last year, including lying to Congress about an effort to build a Trump Tower in Russia and financial violations.
Trump, Cohen said, suggested his political campaign would be the "greatest infomercial in political history” and would serve to advance his business interests in the future.
Much of Cohen's testimony was wrapped in partisanship with Republicans consistently seeking to undercut his statements by repeatedly bringing up that Cohen is headed to jail, in part, for lying to the federal legislature, and has a history of lying.
"You’re a pathological liar. You don't know truth from falsehood," congressman Paul Gosar said during a heated exchange.
Cohen retorted: "Are you referring to me or the president?"
The former attorney is set to serve three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a raft of charges, and is expected to report to prison in May.