Cohen: “Of Course” Trump Knew Hush-Money Payments Were Wrong

He also said that the special counsel’s office has “substantial” evidence corroborating his claims.

In his first interview after being sentenced to three years in prison, Michael Cohen said that President Donald Trump personally directed him to arrange hush-money payments out of concern over how Trump’s alleged affairs would affect the 2016 presidential election if they were made public.

“Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump,” Cohen told ABC News in an interview that aired Friday morning. “He directed me to make the payments,” Cohen continued. “He directed me to become involved in these matters, including the one with [former Playboy model Karen] McDougal, which was really between him and David Pecker and then David Pecker’s counsel. I just reviewed the documents in order to protect him.”

When asked if Trump knew the payments were wrong at the time, Cohen replied, “Of course.” Cohen emphasized the timing of the payments, which happened mere weeks before the election and after the Washington Post published a bombshell Access Hollywood recording that captured Trump bragging about groping women without their consent.

“You have to remember at what point in time that this matter came about, two weeks or so before the election, post the Billy Bush comments,” Cohen said. “So, yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election.”

Cohen’s interview comes in response to Trump’s latest claims that he never directed his former personal attorney and fixer of more than 10 years to “break the law.” The president on Wednesday offered a host of reasons for Cohen’s damaging testimony against him. They included accusations that Cohen was making claims to receive a more lenient sentencing, “embarrass” the president, and protect his father-in-law and wife.

Cohen denied all this, telling ABC News that the special counsel’s office possessed “substantial” evidence corroborating his claims.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend