Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, and Members of the
Committee, thank you for inviting me here today.
I have asked this Committee to ensure that my family be protected from Presidential threats, and that the Committee be sensitive to the questions
pertaining to ongoing investigations. Thank you for your help and for your
I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee’s questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.
I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It
is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement
documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you
will hear is accurate and truthful.
Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to
work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a
campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret
the day I said “yes” to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave
him along the way.
I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for
them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.
I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty – of the things I did
for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.
I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts
rather than listening to my own conscience.
I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.
He is a racist.
He is a conman.
He is a cheat.
He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking
with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National
I will explain each in a few moments.
I am providing the Committee today with several documents. These
– A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank
account – after he became president – to reimburse me for the
hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult
film star and prevent damage to his campaign;
– Copies of financial statements for 2011 – 2013 that he gave to
such institutions as Deutsche Bank;
– A copy of an article with Mr. Trump’s handwriting on it that
reported on the auction of a portrait of himself – he arranged for
the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the
account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture
now hanging in one of his country clubs; and
– Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened
his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his
grades or SAT scores.
I hope my appearance here today, my guilty plea, and my work with law
enforcement agencies are steps along a path of redemption that will restore
faith in me and help this country understand our president better.
Before going further, I want to apologize to each of you and to Congress as
The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump.
Today, I’m here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.
I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow
Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January
– That was false – our negotiations continued for months later during
Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he
In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was
actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell
me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American
people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.
There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in
January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me “How’s it going
in Russia?” – referring to the Moscow Tower project.
You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited
my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower
negotiations before I gave it.
To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow
negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it
because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it
because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow
real estate project.
And so I lied about it, too – because Mr. Trump had made clear to me,
through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and
through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it
clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I
gave it to Congress.
Over the past two years, I have been smeared as “a rat” by the President of
the United States. The truth is much different, and let me take a brief
moment to introduce myself.
My name is Michael Dean Cohen.
I am a blessed husband of 24 years and a father to an incredible daughter
and son. When I married my wife, I promised her that I would love her,
cherish her, and protect her. As my father said countless times throughout
my childhood, “you my wife, and you my children, are the air that I breathe.”
To my Laura, my Sami, and my Jake, there is nothing I wouldn’t do to
I have always tried to live a life of loyalty, friendship, generosity, and
compassion – qualities my parents ingrained in my siblings and me since
childhood. My father survived the Holocaust thanks to the compassion and
selfless acts of others. He was helped by many who put themselves in
harm’s way to do what they knew was right.
That is why my first instinct has always been to help those in need. Mom
and Dad…I am sorry that I let you down.
As many people that know me best would say, I am the person they would
call at 3AM if they needed help. I proudly remember being the emergency
contact for many of my children’s friends when they were growing up
because their parents knew that I would drop everything and care for them
as if they were my own.
Yet, last fall I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the
direction of, and in coordination with Individual #1.
For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump.
It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times. It is even
more painful to admit that many times I ignored my conscience and acted
loyal to a man when I should not have. Sitting here today, it seems
unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing
to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.
For that reason, I have come here to apologize to my family, to the
government, and to the American people.
Accordingly, let me now tell you about Mr. Trump.
I got to know him very well, working very closely with him for more than 10
years, as his Executive Vice President and Special Counsel and then
personal attorney when he became President. When I first met Mr. Trump,
he was a successful entrepreneur, a real estate giant, and an icon. Being
around Mr. Trump was intoxicating. When you were in his presence, 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. That was my job.
Always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life. At first, I
worked mostly on real estate developments and other business
transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life
and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and
bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking
office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of
behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of
generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is
Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to
make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation –
only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would
often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in
He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the
general election. The campaign – for him – was always a marketing
I knew early on in my work for Mr. Trump that he would direct me to lie to
further his business interests. I am ashamed to say, that when it was for a
real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. As the
President, I consider it significant and dangerous.
But in the mix, lying for Mr. Trump was normalized, and no one around him
questioned it. In fairness, no one around him today questions it, either.
A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the
release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of
time. The answer is yes.
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the
WikiLeaks drop of emails.
In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s
office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone.
Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump
that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr.
Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a
massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”
Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white
supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries
In private, he is even worse.
He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that
wasn’t a “shithole.” This was when Barack Obama was President of the
While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago,
he commented that only black people could live that way.
And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they
were too stupid.
And yet I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a cheat.
As previously stated, I’m giving the Committee today three years of
President Trump’s financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to
Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to
Forbes. These are Exhibits 1a, 1b, and 1c to my testimony.
It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served
his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in
Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.
I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are
examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit
his financial interests. These are Exhibit 2 to my testimony.
As I noted, I’m giving the Committee today an article he wrote on, and sent
me, that reported on an auction of a portrait of Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit
3A to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him
that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to
ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for
the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased
by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation,
which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder,
despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.
And it should come as no surprise that one of my more common
responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners,
many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their
services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be
coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a conman.
He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and
to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my
biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly – and she
did not deserve that.
I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from
me to Ms. Clifford’s attorney during the closing days of the presidential
campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about
her affair with Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 4 to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a Home Equity
Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could
negatively impact his campaign. I did that, too – without bothering to
consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right
thing to do or how it would impact me, my family, or the public.
I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that
payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.
As Exhibit 5 to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000
check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank
account on August 1, 2017 – when he was President of the United States –
pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to
reimburse me – the word used by Mr. Trump’s TV lawyer — for the illegal
hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check
installments that was paid throughout the year – while he was President.
The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the
payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign
finance laws. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr.
Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of
So picture this scene – in February 2017, one month into his presidency,
I’m visiting President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time. It’s truly
awe-inspiring, he’s showing me around and pointing to different paintings,
and he says to me something to the effect of…Don’t worry, Michael, your
January and February reimbursement checks are coming. They were FedExed
from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White
House system. As he promised, I received the first check for the
reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter.
When I say conman, I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant
but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College
Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.
As I mentioned, I’m giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at
Mr. Trump’s direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal
actions if Mr. Trump’s grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without
his permission. These are Exhibit 6.
The irony wasn’t lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly
criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades. As you can see in
Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared “Let him show his records” after calling
President Obama “a terrible student.”
The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led
me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact, he did
When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees’ salaries in half –
including mine – he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax
refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government
was for giving “someone like him” that much money back.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he did not consider Vietnam Veteran,
and Prisoner of War, Senator John McCain to be “a hero” because he likes
people who weren’t captured. At the same time, Mr. Trump tasked me to
handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the
Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for
medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told
me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply
the fact that he received a medical deferment.
He finished the conversation with the following comment. “You think I’m
stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”
I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that
Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be
clear. But, I have my suspicions.
Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had
been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others
from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian
government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, “Dirt
on Hillary Clinton.” Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the
room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something
peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his
father’s desk – which in itself was unusual. People didn’t just walk behind
Mr. Trump’s desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father
and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: “The
meeting is all set.” I remember Mr. Trump saying, “Ok good…let me
What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between
Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and
others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the
world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any
significance alone – and certainly not without checking with his father.
I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign,
without Mr. Trump’s knowledge and approval. So, I concluded that Don
Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on
Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad’s
desk that day — and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was
talking about when he said, “That’s good…let me know.”
Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching. I see now
that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with
the bad decisions I made.
To you, Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, the other
members of this Committee, and the other members of the House and
Senate, I am sorry for my lies and for lying to Congress.
To our nation, I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth
about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.
For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand. I
have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad
man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your “fixer,” Mr. Trump.
I am going to prison and have shattered the safety and security that I tried
so hard to provide for my family. My testimony certainly does not diminish
the pain I caused my family and friends – nothing can do that. And I have
never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.
And, by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal,
scurrilous attacks by the President and his lawyer – trying to intimidate me
from appearing before this panel. Mr. Trump called me a “rat” for choosing
to tell the truth – much like a mobster would do when one of his men
decides to cooperate with the government.
As Exhibit 8 shows, I have provided the Committee with copies of Tweets
that Mr. Trump posted, attacking me and my family – only someone burying
his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they are:
encouragement to someone to do harm to me and my family.
I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my
family – and unleash his TV-lawyer to do the same. I hope this committee
and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will make it clear:
As a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before
congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.
I wish to especially thank Speaker Pelosi for her statements in Exhibit 9 to
protect this institution and me, and the Chairman of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff and Chairman Cummings for
likewise defending this institution and my family against the attacks by Mr.
Trump, and also the many Republicans who have admonished the
President as well.
I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not proud of, and I will live
with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life.
But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I
attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to
change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.
Thank you for your attention. I am happy to answer the Committee’s