Michael Cohen's book says Trump held 'low opinions of all black folks'

Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

Posted at Sep 07 2020 10:53 AM

President Donald Trump routinely referred to Black leaders of foreign nations with racist insults. He had an abiding admiration for President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to treat Russia like a personal business. And he was consumed with hatred for President Barack Obama.

Those are the descriptions that Michael Cohen, a former personal lawyer and self-described fixer for Trump, lays out in his book, “Disloyal: A Memoir,” which paints the president as a sordid, moblike figure willing to engage in underhanded tactics against anyone opposing him.

“As a rule, Trump expressed low opinions of all Black folks, from music to culture and politics,” Cohen writes in the book, to be released Tuesday. He describes Trump calling Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule, “no leader.”

“Tell me one country run by a Black person that isn’t a shithole,” Cohen quotes Trump as saying. He also alleges that Trump called Kwame Jackson, a Black contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice,” a homophobic slur, and that he had deep disgust with Black leaders in addition to celebrities and sports figures.

He also was obsessed with Obama, Cohen writes. The book describes Trump hiring “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 — until he did the functional equivalent in the real world.”

The video Cohen describes appears to be a recording that was supposed to be shown the first night of the Republican National Convention in 2012, when Trump had endorsed the party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and insisted on having time during the programming.

Among the revelations from Cohen, who worked for Trump for more than a decade, are descriptions of the negotiations during the 2016 campaign with a key official at the Trump Organization about how to pay off an adult-film actress who said she had had an affair with Trump. Cohen also explains in detail how The National Enquirer became a weapon working in tandem with Trump to damage the businessman’s opponents in the 2016 Republican primary.

Asked about the many claims in the book, which The New York Times obtained an advance copy of, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, was dismissive.

“Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer who lied to Congress,” she said in a statement. “He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies.” A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In Cohen’s telling, his lies were on behalf of Trump, whether it was in investigations or in trying to win him good headlines. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to a handful of financial crimes and a campaign finance violation related to the payments to the former adult-film actress, Stephanie Clifford, who went by the stage name Stormy Daniels.

Cohen is defiant about those actions in the book, maintaining that he is innocent of some of the crimes he pleaded guilty to and that he was a victim of “the conviction machine” of the U.S. government, which also threatened his wife. He writes in detail about how he was released from a minimum security prison in Otisville, New York, to serve the rest of his sentence at home, only to be thrown back in prison because he would not initially sign a document prohibiting him from publishing the book. A judge later ruled that the move by the government was retaliatory, and Cohen was released to home confinement for the remainder of his sentence.

He sheds little new light on what he shared with Robert Mueller, the former special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and maintains that Trump’s soft spot for Putin is mostly about possible business deals and a general admiration for authoritarian power, as well as a shared hatred of Hillary Clinton.

Trump loved Putin for his audacity “to take over an entire nation and run it like it was his personal company — like the Trump Organization, in fact,” Cohen writes.

The possibility of a Trump Tower project in Moscow was enticing to his boss, Cohen writes, saying that the businessman’s children did not favor Felix Sater, a felon and consultant with deep ties to Russia who had brought in the project. So Cohen handled it, he writes. That project became something that was examined by Mueller.

Cohen describes the Trump Organization as loosely reminiscent of the mafia, with Trump as the would-be family don.

“As I’ve been saying since the beginning, Trump was a mobster, plain and simple,” Cohen writes when describing how he helped coordinate a softball interview between Megyn Kelly, then of Fox News, and Trump after the candidate had spent days attacking her and creating a security risk for her.

At another point, Cohen details how he and David J. Pecker, who was then in charge of The National Enquirer and a friend of Trump’s, ginned up a story — with Trump’s knowledge — that intimated a connection between the father of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who was then a primary rival, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Cohen describes the allure of working for Trump as being like a drug, one he could not stop consuming. Cohen describes, with a sense of shame, his own need to please Trump.

He writes that he and Trump took a trip to Las Vegas, where the president owns a hotel, in 2013, to meet the Agaralovs, a billionaire Russian father and son involved in promoting the Miss Universe party in Moscow. In Las Vegas, Cohen describes how he and Trump watched a sex show with a number of acts.

In some of the newest information, Cohen describes discussions he says he had with the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, about how to fund payments to Clifford. At one point, Cohen writes, Weisselberg suggested routing the payment to her through an invoice for one of Trump’s golf courses or by selling a Mar-a-Lago membership to someone whom Cohen knew. Eventually, they agreed that Cohen would pay it, he writes.

Cohen writes that he told Trump about the payment and that his boss was pleased. After the election, when Trump dragged his feet on reimbursing Cohen, the two men came to an arrangement for Cohen to be reimbursed monthly amid other payments.

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