WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s longtime fixer may remain far from his former boss’ good graces, but the president said Thursday that he was “impressed” that Michael Cohen didn’t lie about Russian collusion during his appearance before lawmakers.
“He lied a lot, but it was very interesting because he didn’t lie about one thing. He said no collusion with the Russian hoax. And I said, ‘I wonder why he didn’t just lie about that, too, like he did about everything else?’,” Trump said during a press conference in Hanoi. “I mean, he lied about so many different things, and I was actually impressed that he didn’t say, ‘Well, I think there was collusion for this reason or that.’”
“He could’ve gone all out,” Trump added. “He only went about 95 percent instead of 100 percent.”
Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, testified Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee.
Describing his former boss as a “racist,” “con man,” and “cheat,” Cohen painted the picture of Trump as a ruthless and corrupt businessman.
While he did not specifically allege collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the subject of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing probe, he gave a less definitive answer than the president claimed.
“I don’t know if Trump colluded with Russia but I have my suspicions,” Cohen said.
When pressed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Cohen said Trump would be capable of such an act.
“Mr. Trump’s desire to win would have him work with anyone,” Cohen said.
The former attorney also cited Trump’s rosy portrayal of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘colluding.’ Was there something odd about the back-and-forth praise with President Putin? Yes.”
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing during his campaign.
Addressing reporters at the close of a two-day summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Trump ran through a litany of complaints over the hearing, which he claimed detracted from the talks in Vietnam.
“I think having a fake hearing like that, and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing,” Trump said. “[The committee] could’ve made it two days later or next week, and it would’ve been even better. They would’ve had more time. But having it during this very important summit is sort of incredible.”
Trump said that he tried to watch as much of the hearing as he could, but jokingly added that he “wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy.”
Cohen returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday for his third straight day of testimony before members of Congress. He is testifying in a closed-door hearing before the House Intelligence Committee.
Last November, Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress, acknowledging he misled lawmakers about a planned Trump Tower project in Moscow.
Six months earlier, Cohen pleaded guilty to two campaign finance violations for payments he arranged for two women in exchange for their silence over alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen told prosecutors that he delivered the payments at the behest of the then-candidate.
On Dec. 12, 2018, a federal judge sentenced Cohen to three years in prison for his crimes and also fined him $2 million. Cohen was scheduled to report to federal prison on March 6 but a judge postponed the sentence to begin in May so that Cohen could would have more time to arrange testimony as well as recover from shoulder surgery.
The two-day summit between Trump and Kim ultimately proved to be fruitless, with no agreement reached to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
The president said the U.S. was unable to reach an agreement over lifting sanctions levied against North Korea.
“For this particular visit, we decided we had to walk and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said.
Trump added that he was told North Korea will not pursue missile tests and that the relationship between the two leaders remains in good standing.