Michael Cohen: "Of course" Trump knew hush payments were wrong

By Kathryn Watson

/ CBS News

Legal impact of Trump hush money talks

"Of course" President Trump knew making payments to silence women ahead of the 2016 election was wrong, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said in his first interview since he was sentenced to three years in prison for campaign finance violations.

Cohen, appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," pushed back against President Trump's claim that he never directed Cohen to do anything illegal. Cohen — and prosecutors — believe Cohen made the payments at the direction of Mr. Trump. Cohen said he doesn't think anyone believes the president's denial, and Mr. Trump knows everything that happens at the Trump Organization.

"I don't think there is anybody that believes that," Cohen said. "First of all, nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. 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," Cohen added. "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."

CBS News has confirmed that the president was in the room when Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed paying hush money in August 2015.

Cohen said he lied for Mr. Trump for a decade, something he did out of "loyalty."

"I gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty," Cohen said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York also announced they have reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media, Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer. The media company admitted to "working in concert" with the Trump campaign to pay off a woman who claimed she had an affair with Mr. Trump in order to quash her story.

The president lashed out against Cohen on Twitter Thursday morning. Mr. Trump — who initially told reporters he knew nothing about the payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels — said Cohen should have known the law better.

"I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law," Mr. Trump tweeted " He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called 'advice of counsel,' and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly….stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance."

First published on December 14, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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