Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, testified before Congress on Wednesday that the president reimbursed him for payments he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels to maintain her silence about an alleged affair with Trump before the 2016 election.
“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,” Cohen said in his opening statement before the House oversight committee, referring to Melania Trump. “Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets, because she is a kind, good person and I respect her greatly and she did not deserve that.”
As part of his explosive testimony, Cohen submitted to Congress copies of two checks that were part of the $130,000 he received for his reimbursement of the Stormy Daniels payment. Trump and White House officials have previously denied Trump ever had an affair with Daniels, who is legally known as Stephanie Clifford.
One check for $35,000 was signed by Trump himself on Aug. 1, 2017, while he was in office. Another check for $35,000 was signed by Trump’s son, Don Jr., and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg on March 17, 2017.
Trump has long denied having any knowledge about the payments. Cohen, however, testified on Wednesday that Trump knew about the payments and was kept informed about negotiations with Clifford’s attorneys at the time.
“Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a home equity line of credit in order to avoid that it could be traced back to him,” Cohen said.
“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,” he added.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this year for crimes that included arranging the payments to Clifford. He is to report to prison in May.
Republicans reacted to Cohen’s testimony by attacking his credibility, accusing him of speaking out now to gain wealth and fame.
“Cohen just wants to be famous. He always wanted his own TV show and the limelight and when he couldn’t get it one way he had to try another,” Trump Jr. tweeted at one point during Wednesday’s hearing.
GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill also brushed off Cohen’s remarks as old news.
“Is that a shock to anybody that there was a payment?” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told HuffPost on Wednesday when asked about the check signed by Trump. “I mean, that was released by the special prosecutor stuff. What’s he out doing? A book deal or a movie deal?”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) similarly dismissed Cohen’s implicating of Trump in a campaign finance scheme.
“I’m no campaign finance expert, I just know Trump’s paid a bunch of women in the past and if you’re a famous person this is probably the world you live in,” Graham said. “If you’re trying to hide a crime, you probably wouldn’t write a check.”
Graham further argued that Wednesday’s hearing would not change Trump’s standing with the American public.
“If you liked Trump before, you probably don’t care what Cohen says,” Graham said. “If you didn’t like Trump, you believe every word of it.”
This story has been updated to include Burr and Graham’s comments.