Cohen calls President Trump 'racist,' 'con man' during testimony before Congress

WASHINGTON — In a damning depiction of Donald Trump, the president's former lawyer on Wednesday cast him as a racist and a con man who used his inner circle to cover up politically damaging allegations about sex, and lied throughout the 2016 election campaign about his business interests in Russia.

[PHOTOS: Michael Cohen's highly-anticipated testimony]

Michael Cohen, who previously pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, told lawmakers that Trump had advance knowledge and embraced the news that emails damaging to Hillary Clinton would be released during the campaign. But he also said he had no "direct evidence" that Trump or his aides colluded with Russia to get him elected, the primary question of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Cohen, shaking off incessant criticism from Republicans anxious to paint him as a felon and liar, became the first Trump insider to pull back the curtain on a version of the inner workings of Trump's political and business operations. He likened the president to a "mobster" who demanded blind loyalty from underlings and expected them to lie on his behalf to conceal information and protect him - even if it meant breaking the law.

"I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore," Cohen declared.

His matter-of-fact testimony about secret payments and lies unfolded as Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, offering stark TV counterprogramming to the president's official duties. At a Vietnam hotel and unable to ignore the drama thousands of miles away, Trump lashed out on Twitter, saying Cohen "did bad things unrelated to Trump" and "is lying in order to reduce his prison time."

As Republicans blasted him as a convicted liar, a mostly unrattled Cohen sought to blunt the attacks by repeatedly acknowledging his own failings. He called himself a "fool," warned lawmakers of the perils of blind loyalty to a leader undeserving of it and pronounced himself ashamed of what he'd done to protect Trump.

"You make mistakes in life and I've owned them and I've taken responsibility for them, and I'm paying a huge price, as is my family," Cohen said during testimony that spanned roughly seven hours.

Cohen will soon report to prison for a three-year sentence. At the same time, he is seen as a vital witness for federal prosecutors because of his proximity to the president during key episodes under investigation and their decade-long professional relationship.

Cohen delivered biting personal commentary on a president he said never expected to win in the first place.

"He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election," Cohen said. "The campaign - for him - was always a marketing opportunity."

Here is a minute-By-minute look at the testimony:

5:46 p.m.: President Trump's attorney released a statement following Cohen's testimony:

5:20 p.m.: The hearing has adjourned.

5:10 p.m.: Chairman Cummings gave an empassioned closing statement.

5:07 p.m.:

Michael Cohen gives some closing remarks to the committee.

4:48 p.m.:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Cohen about Trump allegedly deflating the value of a Florida golf course to try to reduce his tax bill.

Cohen said, "It's identical to what he did at Trump National Golf Club and at Briarcliff Manor."

4:38 p.m.:

Cohen asked if President Trump could be blackmailed over his tax returns.

Cohen says he has seen them but never went through them.

4:22 p.m.:

Testimony gets back underway with Michael Cohen after a recess.

3:12 p.m.:

Stormy Daniels releases statement about today's Cohen testimony:

3:10 p.m.:

The Trump presidential campaign has released a statement about Michael Cohen's testimony today:

2:33 p.m.:

The hearing has adjourned for a break.

2:20 p.m.:

Cohen asked about fears over social media attacks. When asked what he thinks the president can do to him, Cohen responded, "A lot."

2:09 p.m.:

Cohen says he discussed with Corey Lewandowski days to potentially go to Russia.

2:04 p.m.:

Rep. Kelly Armstrong pushes Cohen for his willingness to turn over recordings of clients.

"Just trying to co-operate, sir," Cohen responds to him

1:25 p.m.:

Michael Cohen testifies that Pres. Trump "speaks in a code, and I understand the code, because I've been around him for a decade."

1:08 p.m.:

Michael Cohen says he expects to ask for a reduced sentence.

"There are ongoing investigations currently being conducted...that I am assisting in, and it is for the benefit of a Rule 35 motion."

12:36 p.m.:

Michael Cohen to GOP Rep. Jim Jordan: "I just find it interesting, sir, that between yourself and your colleagues, that not one question so far...has been asked about President Trump. That's actually why I thought I was coming today."

12:05 p.m.:

Rep. Paul Gosar: "You're a pathological liar! You don't know truth from falsehood."

Michael Cohen: "Sir, I'm sorry, are you referring to me or the president?"

11:53 a.m.:

Republican Rep. James Comer: "Mr. Cohen, you called Donald Trump a cheat in your opening testimony. What would you call yourself?"

Michael Cohen: "A fool."

11:38 a.m.:

"Shame on you, Mr. Jordan."

Michael Cohen clashes with Rep. Jim Jordan during dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill.

11:15 a.m.:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, former chair of the DNC: Did Mr. Trump have "advance knowledge of the Russia Wikileaks release of the DNC's emails?"

Michael Cohen: "He had advance notice that there was going to be a dump of emails.

11:01 a.m.:

One reimbursement check Michael Cohen provided as evidence was dated March 17, 2017, signed by Donald Trump Jr, and Allen Weisselberg CFO of the Trump Organization.

10:50 a.m.:

Michael Cohen said he does not know of any direct evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia.

10:43 a.m.:

Michael Cohen said "lying to the First Lady" is one of his biggest regrets.

10:41 a.m.:

Michael Cohen says he is also provided Congress with "copies of letters Iw rote at Mr. Trump's direction that threatened his high school, colleges and his college board not to release his grades or SAT scores."

10:38 a.m.:

Michael Cohen: "Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history. He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign – for him – was always a marketing opportunity."

10:30 a.m.:

Michael Cohen: "The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump.
Today, I'm here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump."

10:28 a.m.:

In his opening statement, Michael Cohen said, "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. And he is a cheat."

10:14 a.m.:

House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings: "We are in search of the truth."

"The president's made many statements of his own, and now the American people have a right to hear the other side. They can watch Mr. Cohen's testimony and make their own judgement."

10:08 a.m.:

Rep. Mark Meadows moves to postpone Michael Cohen's testimony, saying evidence was submitted too late: "It was an intentional effort by this witness and his advisors to once again show his disdain for this body."

10:00 a.m.:

A congressional hearing is underway featuring the much-anticipated public testimony from Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer.

Cohen is expected to detail before the House Oversight and Reform Committee what he believes is Trump's lying, racism and cheating, and possibly even criminal conduct.

Cohen, who was Trump's longtime fixer, is the first high-profile witness called before the committee as newly empowered Democrats pursue an aggressive effort to investigate the president.

Cohen played a pivotal role in buying the silence of a porn actress and a former Playboy Playmate who both alleged they had sex with Trump. The president has denied their claims.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations connected to the payments and to lying to Congress.

He's set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May.