The president directed his former lawyer to make hush money payments on his behalf during the 2016 election and knew that it was wrong, Michael Cohen said in his first interview since he was sentenced to three years in prison.
“Nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump,” Cohen told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired Friday. “He directed me, as I said in my allocution and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.”
Cohen — who was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for tax fraud, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress — said the president knew what he was doing was wrong but that Trump was “very concerned about how this would affect the election.”
Prosecutors had said Cohen committed some crimes on behalf of Trump, while others were directed by Trump himself.
The campaign finance charges include arranging payments to prevent porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal from discussing their affairs with Trump ahead of the election.
The payment to McDougal was facilitated by tabloid publisher AMI. As part of a non-prosecution agreement with the Southern District of New York, AMI admitted to paying McDougal $150,000 and that “its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”
Cohen has said that he acted out of “blind loyalty” to the president.
“I am done being loyal to President Trump, and my first loyalty belongs to my wife, my daughter, my son, and this country,” he told ABC News.
The president has denied any wrongdoing, telling Fox News’ Harris Faulkner on Thursday that he “never directed [Cohen] to do anything wrong.”
“Whatever he did, he did on his own,” Trump said.
In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump distanced himself from Cohen by saying that “Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis.”
President Trump accused Cohen of pleading guilty to the campaign finance charges only to embarrass the president and to receive a reduced sentence.
“Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president of the United States of America. The truth is, I told the truth. I took responsibility for my actions,” Cohen said before blasting the president for his own lies.
Cohen said he feels like he’s gotten his “freedom back” and warned the American people not to believe the president.
“The people of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying. The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds,” Cohen said.
When asked if he thinks the president is telling the truth about everything related to the Russia investigation, Cohen said “no,” but did not go into further detail on that matter.
“I am angry at myself because I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Cohen said, adding, “I should not be the only one taking responsibility for his actions.”