A former attorney of the president of the United States said Wednesday that his then-boss was aware in mid-2016 that one of his advisers was in contact with WikiLeaks concerning the disclosure of thousands of Democratic Party emails.
Michael Cohen, who will begin a three-year prison term in May after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws, made the accusations against Donald Trump during sworn congressional testimony.
"(Trump) was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails," Cohen told the US House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Cohen also will appear before Congress on two other occasions this week, although that testimony will be private.
"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," Cohen testified.
In that conversation, Assange told Stone that in a couple of days WikiLeaks would release e-mails that "would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign," he added.
"Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of 'wouldn't that be great,'" Cohen said.
On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released e-mails from the DNC and from the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, John Podesta.
The content of those e-mails showed attempts by the DNC to undermine Clinton's main Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and caused embarrassment to the DNC and to Clinton, who ended up losing the November 2016 election to Republican nominee Trump.
US intelligence officials concluded that Russia intervened via cyberattacks to steal the e-mails in a bid to help Trump win the presidential contest, though Assange, WikiLeaks' founder, has said that Russia was not the source of the material he published.
During his testimony, Cohen also showed a check dated Aug. 1, 2017, that Trump signed in the amount of $35,000.
He said that check was a partial payment he had received from the president as reimbursement for the $130,000 he paid porn star Stormy Daniels (born Stephanie Clifford) in October 2016 to buy her silence about her alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier.
"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," Cohen testified.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty last year to, among other charges, making hush-money payments to two women, including Daniels, for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.
He said then that Trump had directed him to make the payments as part of a scheme to boost his bid for the presidency.
Cohen's accusations against the president were deeply personal.
"He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat," he said in his opening remarks.
Trump, who learned of Cohen's prepared remarks because they had been obtained ahead of time by the US media, responded to the allegations on Twitter prior to his former attorney's testimony.
"Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also," Trump wrote in Vietnam, where he is taking part in a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. "He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time."