ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen told the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that Trump is a "racist," a "conman" and a "cheat" who knew in advance about a release of emails by the WikiLeaks website aimed at hurting his 2016 Democratic presidential rival.
Cohen, Trump's onetime "fixer," said Trump directed negotiations for a real estate project in Moscow during the White House race even as Trump publicly said he had no business interests in Russia, according to Cohen's prepared testimony.
The hearing before a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee got off to a contentious start when the panel's top Republican tried but failed to postpone the session, complaining about the timing of Cohen providing his written testimony to the panel.
In his opening statement, Cohen said he would hand over documents to support his assertions.
"I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty - of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him," Cohen said in his opening statement.
"I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.
He is a racist.
He is a conman.
He is a cheat." Trump ordered him to pay $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair in violation of campaign finance laws, and also told Cohen to lie about it to first lady Melania Trump, according to Cohen's statement.
Although many accusations against Trump emerged in news reports during his 2016 campaign and since he took office, the televised congressional testimony of a former loyalist provides a detailed public record with the potential to influence a large U.S. audience.
The sweeping claims against Trump, from a man who once said he would take a bullet for his boss, come as Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be close to completing his investigation into possible collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign team and Russian efforts to sway the vote.
Trump, who has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow, has called the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt" and has called Cohen a liar trying to reduce his prison time and a "rat."