CAPITOL HILL - President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress and the world Wednesday that the president is a "racist, a con man and a cheat."
For nearly six hours, Cohen told the story of his decade as Trump's personal attorney during dramatic testimony to a House committee Wednesday.
The picture he painted of President Trump was not a flattering portrait.
"Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation, only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. ...," Cohen said. "I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listen to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is."
Cohen said nothing happened within the Trump Organization without Trump knowing about it.
He told lawmakers Trump knew his campaign adviser, Roger Stone, was in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails damaging to his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton before WikiLeaks released them to the public.
Cohen said Trump secretly directed negotiations for a Moscow real estate deal, while publicly claiming during the campaign that he had no business interests in Russia, which would have posed a conflict.
Trump repeatedly lied to voters about not having any business dealings with the Russians because he never expected to win the election and didn't want to pass up landing a lucrative real estate deal in Moscow, according to Cohen.
Cohen said that while Trump did not directly tell him to give false testimony to Congress about the Moscow negotiations, the president made clear "that he wanted me to lie."
Cohen detailed reimbursements from Trump for hush money Cohen paid weeks before the election to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet about an affair she alleges she had with Trump more than a decade ago.
Cohen provided the committee a copy of one check for $35,000 that he said Trump personally signed from his personal bank account while he was president. He said the check was one of 11 installment checks.
Trump is a racist, a con man, and a cheat, Cohen alleged.
"The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries 'shitholes.' In private, he is even worse," Cohen testified.
"He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a 'shithole.' This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States. While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid," according to Cohen.
He said Trump once arranged for a fake bidder at an auction to pay $60,000 for a portrait of Trump, then reimbursed the bidder out of funds from Trump's charitable foundation so Trump could hang the painting at one of his country clubs.
"It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes," Cohen said.
When it came to the question the country wants answered — did Trump collude with Russia to turn the 2016 election in is favor, Cohen said he did not have direct evidence but said, "I have my suspicions."
He said he witnessed a conversation between Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., which Cohen believes was about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian lawyer tied to the Kremlin.
Cohen's testimony comes about two months before he begins a three-year prison term after pleading guilty to financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. He also has been disbarred and can no longer practice law in the state of New York.
Republicans zeroed in on Cohen as someone who cannot be believed because he lied to Congress before and is going to prison for it. They also described Cohen as someone who is angry because he did not get a White House job he allegedly coveted and is interested in the millions of dollars he could collect from book, movie and television deals.
They claimed Cohen and the Democrats are out to destroy Trump and that he is seeking a lesser prison sentence for his crimes.
?Cohen briefly spoke to reporters after the hearing, saying he is "humbled." He thanked House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings "for giving me the opportunity today to tell my truth."
Cummings said after hearing Cohen speak, he believes Trump committed a crime while in office, saying Wednesday was the beginning of a process and that Americans want accountability.
He dismissed Republican charges that the hearing was a circus and travesty, saying this was all about the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches members of Congress are constitutionally bound to uphold.
Cohen is the highest-profile witness since the 1970s Watergate scandal to testify in Congress against a sitting American president.
The last time the United States witnessed anything like this was in 1973, when former White House Counsel John Dean delivered a dramatic testimony that implicated President Richard Nixon and others in a cover-up effort in the Watergate affair. A year later Nixon became the first and only American president to resign.
Cohen pleaded guilty last year to eight criminal charges, including campaign finance violations in connection with the payments to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also alleges she had an affair with Trump.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress about the Trump Organization's efforts to negotiate a deal to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow.