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Cohen: Lying for Trump became norm

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US President's ex-lawyer describes shaming decade under 'mobster' Trump

WASHINGTON: His modus operandi is to deal with problems through payoffs, threats or lawsuits, and he demands absolute loyalty from underlings, who constantly lie for him.

Michael Cohen on Wednesday painted a picture of the sometimes intoxicating but ultimately shaming decade he spent working as a lawyer for US President Donald Trump, whom he likened to a "mobster"

"He had no desire or intention to lead this nation - only to market himself and to build his wealth and power," Cohen said in stunning congressional testimony.

Cohen recounted his time as Mr Trump's personal lawyer and right-hand man at the real estate tycoon's Trump Organisation, saying that, now that he has been sentenced to three years in prison for crimes in part related to that work, he is "ashamed" of it.

"Being around Mr Trump was intoxicating when you were in his presence," he said.

"You felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself, that you were somehow changing the world. I wound up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade."

But "everybody's job at the Trump Organisation is to protect Mr Trump".

"Every day, most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something, and that became the norm."

One of his jobs, he said, was "catch and kill": to pay off the National Enquirer tabloid to stifle stories that would be unflattering to Mr Trump.

That also extended to arranging hush payments to silence women who Cohen said had affairs with Trump.

If that did not work, Cohen said, he would threaten lawsuits. During his time as Mr Trump's fixer, he said he may have issued 500 such threats to ward off problems, business disputes and media reports.

Cohen recalled that, as Mr Trump began his run for the White House, he ordered him to threaten Mr Trump's former high school and universities with lawsuits if they released any of the future president's school records and scores.

Mr Trump was brashly proud of his deceits, Cohen said.

Cohen said that Mr Trump, who regularly praises and promotes the US military, was likewise proud to have avoided being sent to fight in the Vietnam War by claiming he had bone spurs on his feet.

"You think I'm stupid? I wasn't going to Vietnam," Mr Trump said, according to Cohen.

And Mr Trump "revelled" in his practice of stiffing small suppliers and contractors to save money, Cohen noted.


Cohen also recounted how Mr Trump wanted to elevate his image by getting a high price - the highest price - at an art auction for a portrait of himself.

Cohen was delegated to find a straw bidder for the painting, who offered US$60,000 (S$81,000) for it.

The buyer was then repaid by Mr Trump's charity and Mr Trump had the painting installed in one of his golf courses.

"It's all about ego," Cohen said.

Cohen was convicted for lying to Congress about negotiations in 2016, during the presidential election, for a Trump Tower deal in Moscow.

He said he had no direct evidence that Mr Trump or his campaign colluded with Moscow during the election.

Mr Trump, speaking at a news conference in Vietnam said: "He lied a lot, but it was very interesting because he didn't lie about one thing, he said no collusion with the Russian hoax."

He said: "I wonder why he didn't lie about that too like he did about everything else. I was actually impressed that he didn't say, 'well, I think there was collusion for this reason or that.' He didn't say that." - AFP, REUTERS

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