US President Donald Trump directed the payment of hush money to two women shortly before the 2016 US presidential election and knew that doing so was wrong, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen says.
“He directed me to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters,” Cohen told the ABC television program Good Morning America on Saturday (Friday local time).
Cohen was referring to the $US150,000 ($208,919) paid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the $US130,000 ($181,063) paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Both women have said they had sexual relationships more than a decade ago with Mr Trump, which the president and his representatives have denied.
Cohen, a former member of Mr Trump’s inner circle who, in the past called himself the president’s “fixer,” was sentenced on Wednesday in federal court in New York to three years in prison.
He was sentenced for campaign finance law violations related to the payments and other crimes to which he pleaded guilty.
Asked if Mr Trump knew the payments were wrong, Cohen said: “Of course.”
“I will not be the villain of his story.
“Nothing at the Trump organisation was ever done unless it was run through Mr Trump.
He bristled at Mr Trump’s accusation that he was trying to embarrass the president and protect his own family.
“Here is the truth: The people of the United States of America, the people of the world don’t believe what he’s saying,” Cohen said.
“The man doesn’t tell the truth, and it’s sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.
“I gave loyalty to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty.”
Watch the full interview here:
Mr Trump has lashed out at Cohen as “weak” and accused him of lying.
The Republican president told Fox News on Thursday Cohen did only “low-level work” for him, mostly in public relations.
Cohen, in his first televised interview since he was sentenced, said Mr Trump was worried about the potential impact on the election if voters learned about the two women’s account of the alleged affairs.
Cohen said Mr Trump told him to pay them to keep quiet.
The payments were made “about two weeks or so before the election”, he said.
They followed the release of a recording of Mr Trump boasting to celebrity interviewer Billy Bush years earlier about grabbing the genitals of women.
“So yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election,” Cohen said in the interview, which was taped on Thursday. local time.
He added that the payments were intended “to help him (Trump) and the campaign”.
Mr Trump’s explanations of the payments have shifted over time.
After earlier saying he knew nothing of the payments, Mr Trump on Thursday local time said he never told Cohen to break the law.
I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2018
Cohen on Wednesday was sentenced to prison for the payments to the women as well as separate crimes of tax evasion, misleading banks and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Friday faulted the news media for “giving credence to a convicted criminal”, and called Cohen “a self-admitted liar”.