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Trump knew hush-money payments were wrong: Cohen

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This combination of pictures created on April 11, 2018 shows Michael Cohen (L), President Trump's personal lawyer and US President Donald Trump. (AFP photo)

US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has said that Trump knew it was wrong for Cohen to arrange hush-money payments to women alleging affairs with the billionaire in order to prevent damaging information from surfacing during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Cohen made the remarks in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos aired on Friday a day after Trump claimed he had "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” and pay off adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

"I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law," Trump tweeted on Thursday, after his longtime attorney was sentenced to three years for campaign finance violations and other crimes.

"It is called 'advice of counsel,' and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid."

Cohen told Stephanopoulos that nobody believes Trump’s argument.

“First of all, nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump,” Cohen said. “He directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.”

“He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth,” he continued. “And here is the truth: People of the United States of America, people of the world, don't believe what he is saying. The man doesn't tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.”

Cohen acknowledged that he also knew what he was doing was wrong.

 “I stood up before the world [Wednesday] and I accepted the responsibility for my actions,” he said of his sentencing. Manhattan’s District Judge William Pauley on Wednesday sentenced Cohen to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to eight federal charges.

Cohen paid hush-money on behalf of his client to women alleging affairs with Trump in order to prevent damaging information from surfacing during the 2016 presidential campaign and for lying to Congress about a proposed project in Russia.

Cohen had pleaded guilty on the charges in a plea bargain with investigator for a reduced sentence.

In a follow-up tweets, Trump said Cohen agreed to charges "in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence."

"As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!" the president added.

On Friday Cohen said he was “angry at himself” for what he did but said he was driven by “blind loyalty” to Trump.

“I gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty,” Cohen said in the interview.

On August 21, Cohen pleaded guilty to charges of tax and financial fraud. He also pleaded guilty to violating election campaign finance laws by paying an adult film actress hush money on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Then on November 29, he pleaded guilty to an additional charge of lying to Congress over matters related to an investigation led by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 

The Mueller investigation probed Russia’s alleged collusion with Trump’s 2016 election campaign to influence voters.

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