Michael Cohen calls Trump 'a con man' while Sarah Sanders praises the president as a 'fighter' in new books
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump allegedly wanted to install a new U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York over fears he would be indicted and needed to be in a position to pardon himself if necessary, according to his former self-described fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
Cohen joined a long list of people to write a book about his former boss in "Disloyal, a Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump," which was released Tuesday.
"The reason the President wanted a new head prosecutor in the Southern District, I knew better than anyone, was so that while in office, he could arrange to be federally indicted. In the event he loses the election in November, he could then pardon himself, as he’s long claimed to be his right," Cohen wrote.
"The reason behind that unprecedented and serpentine thinking was that Trump knows perfectly well that he is guilty of the same crimes that resulted in my conviction and incarceration."
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia and, in a separate case, to paying off an adult film star and a former Playboy model who said they had sexual affairs with Trump before he was elected.
He insisted he acted at the direction of Trump, who has denied both affairs. Cohen is serving the remainder of a three-year sentence in home confinement after he was released because of the coronavirus pandemic.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany dismissed Cohen's allegations.
"Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies," she said.
In the book, Cohen said he knew Trump "better than even his family did" and was able to bear witness "to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man."
Cohen outlines a series of anecdotes of his own upbringing, how he came to work for Trump as a young lawyer, his work to suppress media stories about his boss and women, the former businessman's habits and Trump's growing interest in presidential politics over the years.
Here are some other highlights from the book:
The Stormy Daniels payoff
Cohen confirmed he put up the money to pay ex-porn star Stormy Daniels and buy her silence about a past dalliance with Trump right before the 2016 election.
The president reimbursed Cohen via monthly payments disguised as "legal fees," according to the book.
Cohen alleged Trump told him: “It never pays to settle these things, but many, many friends have advised me to pay. If it comes out, I’m not sure how it would play with my supporters. But I bet they’d think it’s cool that I slept with a porn star.”
The initial plan was to keep Trump's role in the payments secret, he said: "I wasn’t going to reveal the fact that I had been repaid the money by Trump, in the form of fake legal fees, or that I had done everything at the direction of the President of the United States, needless to say."
But "sex was only part of the story," Cohen wrote. For the New York businessman, it was about damage to his brand.
"Saying he wasn’t as rich as he pretended to be was, in many ways, worse than calling him a sexual predator; calling out his buildings or branded products as third-rate was far more damaging, in his mind, than a story about grabbing women," Cohen wrote, referring to the Access Hollywood tape in which the president is heard bragging about groping women.
Cohen suggested Trump improperly inflated or deflated the value of holdings in financial documents to secure loans or pay lower tax bills, depending on the circumstances. Trump's valuation tactics are reportedly the subject of an investigation in New York state.
Holding up a $10 million check for a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service, Trump supposedly said: “They are so stupid!”
Then there was Trump's habit of not paying bills, according to Cohen.
"If Trump could screw a law firm, or a paint vendor, or a salesperson, he’d do it almost as a matter of principle," the book said. "It was like paying taxes: that was only for the little people."
Trump has been dismissive of many of his supporters, the book says.
After a 2016 meeting with evangelicals, Trump told Cohen, according to the book: "Can you believe that bulls---? Can you believe people believe that bulls---?"
That includes members of his own family. Cohen wrote the president had expressed a low regard for Donald Trump Jr.
“'Don has the worst f------ judgment of anyone I have ever met,' Trump would often tell me, adding that he’d been reluctant to bestow his first name on his first-born son," Cohen writes. "He didn’t want to share his name with a 'loser,' if that was what his son turned out to be."
Trump and the news media benefited from each other, Cohen wrote, and the media played a big role in Trump's success as a political candidate.
"He screams about fake news and reporters being the enemies of the people, like a tin-pot dictator," Cohen writes, "but the truth was that the media’s psychotic fascination with Trump was one of the biggest – maybe the biggest – cause for his rise to power."
Cohen also said that "Donald Trump’s presidency is a product of the free press – not free as in freedom of expression, I mean free as unpaid for."
He adds: "Rallies broadcast live, tweets, press conferences, idiotic interviews, 24-7 wall-to-wall coverage, all without spending a penny. The free press gave America Trump."
The National Enquirer
Cohen writes at length about Trump's cozy relationship with the tabloid The National Enquirer, which published stories favorable to Trump and killed stories potentially damaging to the candidate.
The Enquirer engaged in a practice known as "catch and kill" – buying the rights to a person's story and then burying it – and the tabloid allegedly did that with Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who claimed to have had an affair with Trump.
The Enquirer also ran a story that tried, falsely, to link 2016 Republican presidential primary candidate Ted Cruz to the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy.
Cohen claims the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, told him “he’d intervened and done what he had done for years: called Trump in order to conspire to cover it up, or catch and kill, as it’s known.”
“To say it would be a low blow would be an insult to low blows; can you think of another politician, ever, who would stoop this low?" Cohen wrote.
Trump and women
Sexual comments about women were a way of life for Trump, according to his former lawyer.
Cohen said Trump once described contestants in the Miss Universe contest, which he once owned, as “the finest pieces of ass from every state and country."
Reflecting on a pageant week, Cohen wrote that Trump told him: "'Michael, wait until you see the production they put into this event. Depending on where they are in the rehearsals, maybe we can catch a few of them in the back getting dressed. They are truly the best of the best.'"
Trump once made a crack about Cohen's 15-year-old daughter, not realizing who it was.
“Look at that piece of a--,” Trump said, according to Cohen. “I would love some of that.”
After Cohen identified the girl as her daughter, he wrote, Trump responded: “That's your daughter? When did she get so hot?”
'Like the Blacks, they're too stupid to vote for Trump'
After his 2015 speech announcing his candidacy, Trump dismissed his family's concerns over his harsh denunciation of migrants from Mexico, according to the book.
“I will never get the Hispanic vote,” Cohen quoted Trump as saying. "Like the blacks, they’re too stupid to vote for Trump."
Cohen also said the president expressed disdain for Black people.
"As a rule, Trump expressed low opinions of all Black folks, from music to culture and politics," Cohen wrote.
In his diatribes against former President Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, Trump would say he got into Columbia University and Harvard Law School because of "f----ing affirmative action."
Trump's contempt extended to Black foreign leaders, according to the book. Cohen quotes him as saying, “tell me one country run by a Black person that isn’t a shithole."
Trump's most venomous comments were reserved for his predecessor.
"There were really no words to describe Trump’s hatred and contempt for Barack Hussein Obama – always all three names and always with a disdainful emphasis on the middle," Cohen wrote.
"This was when I started to witness the increasingly reactionary and unhinged Archie Bunker racism that defined Trump and his views on modern America."
Cohen claims he even hired an Obama impersonator during the 2016 campaign so the former host of "The Apprentice" could "fire" the commander-in-chief.
"We even hired a Faux-Bama, or fake Obama, to record a video where Trump ritualistically belittled the first black president and then fired him, a kind of fantasy fulfillment that it was hard to imagine any adult would spend serious money living out," Cohen wrote.
Trump embraced the conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States in order to attack him and promote his own political standing with conservatives.
Trump never cared if the conspiracy theory was true, Cohen writes: "What he cared about was identifying an issue that he could exploit to his advantage, no matter how divisive – in fact, the more divisive, the better, because it would arouse strong feelings for those who took his side."
Cohen also writes: "Birtherism was one of Trump's most successful early Big Lie gambits."
Cohen and Trump
Cohen acknowledges he did little to confront Trump about his racism and other behavior he outlines throughout the book.
“Don’t ask me how I squared this kind of racism with his qualifications to be president. I wanted power, as I’ve confessed, and that blinded me to just about everything awful and true and dangerous about Trump," Cohen said.
He noted the president is reinforced by the people around him (including, at one time, Cohen).
"No one ever tells Trump the truth about his behavior and beliefs, or the consequences of his conduct and ignorance and arrogance, in business or in his personal life and now in politics," he wrote.
"Trump truly is the boy in the bubble, impervious to the thoughts and feelings or others, entirely and utterly focused on his own desires and ambitions.”
Russia and Vladimir Putin
Trump admires Putin for his wealth and power, Cohen writes, and didn't mind at all if the Russians wanted to help him win election.
"Trump loved Putin because the Russian had the balls to take over an entire nation and run it like it was his personal company – like the Trump Organization, in fact," Cohen wrote in the book.
"An entire society and civilization bent to the will of a single man was how Trump viewed the ideal historical form of government – with him as the man in charge, of course," Cohen said.
Trump, Cohen wrote, also figured he was setting himself up for business opportunities in Russia if he lost the 2016 election.
There was no formal cooperation between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, Cohen writes – for one thing, the Trump campaign was too disorganized.
“What appeared to be collusion was really a confluence of shared interests in harming Hillary Clinton in any way possible, up to and including interfering in the American election – a subject that caused Trump precisely zero unease,” Cohen writes.
Strzok book out Tuesday as well
Cohen's tell-all is not the only book about Trump out Tuesday.
Peter Strzok, the former FBI deputy in charge of its Counterintelligence Division, describes Trump as a national security danger in a book called "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump."
Strzok writes that Trump's claims during the campaign that he had no business interests in Russia put him in a compromised situation and made him vulnerable to pressure from Putin.
"Putin knew he had lied," the former FBI agent says. "And Trump knew that Putin knew – a shared understanding that provided the framework for a potentially coercive relationship between the president of the United States and the leader of one of our greatest adversaries."
Trump has described Strzok as one of the architects of the "witch hunt" against him over Russia.
Strzok was removed from the Russia investigation in the summer of 2017 after the Justice Department discovered texts between him and then-FBI attorney Lisa Page criticizing Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The FBI fired Strzok in 2018. He has sued the Justice Department, claiming his termination came because of political pressure from Trump.
Trump gets better treatment in another book released Tuesday. Former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised Trump as a "fighter" in “Speaking for Myself: Faith, Freedom, and the Fight of Our Lives Inside the Trump White House.”
“President Trump isn’t perfect, he isn’t always easy, but he loves the American people and is willing to fight for them even if that means fighting alone,” she wrote.