Before Donald Trump ever sought the Oval Office, he was preoccupied by its occupant President Barack Obama, publicly questioning his birthplace and privately describing him as “a Manchurian candidate” who obtained his Ivy League degrees only by way of affirmative action, according to a new book by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.
Trump’s disdain for Obama was so extreme that he took his fixation a step further, according to Cohen: Trump hired a “Faux-Bama” to participate in a video in which Trump “ritualistically belittled the first black president and then fired him.”
Cohen’s book, “Disloyal: A Memoir,” doesn’t name the man who was allegedly hired to play Obama or provide a specific date for the incident, but it does include a photograph of Trump sitting behind a desk, facing a Black man wearing a suit with an American flag pin affixed to the lapel. On Trump’s desk are two books, one displaying Obama’s name in large letters.
CNN obtained a copy of Cohen’s book ahead of its Tuesday publication.
As an insider who spent years as Trump’s personal attorney and self-proclaimed “fixer,” Cohen says he is uniquely equipped to unleash on Trump, whom Cohen describes as “a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man” and a person interested in using the presidency exclusively for his personal financial benefit.
But according to federal prosecutors and Cohen’s own guilty pleas, he, too, is a liar and a cheat. In 2018, he pleaded guilty to nine counts of federal crimes, including tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign-finance violations he and prosecutors have said were done at Trump’s direction to help him win the 2016 presidential election.
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. In a statement to the Washington Post, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer, who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies.”
Cohen acknowledges and apologizes for his role in Trump’s rise, saying he was “more than willing to lie, cheat, and bully” to help his long-time boss win the White House. And he recounts the pressure and guilt he experienced as he spoke out against Trump, writing that he considered suicide “as a way to escape the unrelenting insanity” in the weeks prior to testifying to Congress in 2019.
But in the book, he disputes having committed certain crimes to which he has already admitted, portraying himself a victim of the “gangster tactics” of the federal prosecutors of the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
Still, Cohen’s account of Trump’s personal nature and presidency is damning, and during Cohen’s time in prison, he writes, “I became even more convinced that Trump will never leave office peacefully.”
Trump’s model of a man in power, according to Cohen, is Vladimir Putin, and Trump is described as enamored of Putin’s wealth and unilateral influence, and awestruck by what he sees as the Russian president’s ability to control everything from the country’s press to its financial institutions.
“Locking up your political enemies, criminalizing dissent, terrifying or bankrupting the free press through libel lawsuits – Trump’s all-encompassing vision wasn’t evident to me before he began to run for president,” Cohen writes. “I honestly believe the most extreme ideas about power and its uses only really took shape as he began to seriously contemplate the implications of taking power and how he could leverage it to the absolute maximum level possible.”
But he reiterates his belief that Trump and his campaign officials were too disorganized to have coordinated with the Russians during the 2016 election. “What appeared to be collusion was really a confluence of shared interests in harming Hillary Clinton in any way possible, up to and including interfering in the American election – a subject that caused Trump precisely zero unease,” Cohen writes.
He also argues that, with Trump himself expecting to lose the presidential race, Trump’s goal in cozying up to Putin was to position himself to benefit financially from a planned real-estate development in Moscow after the election.
“By ingratiating himself with Putin, and hinting at changes in American sanctions policy against the country under a Trump Presidency,” Cohen writes, “the Boss was trying to nudge the Moscow Trump Tower project along.” (One of the crimes to which Cohen pleaded guilty was lying to Congress about the duration of the negotiations regarding the Moscow development.)
Cohen also portrays Trump as aspiring to have ties to the Russian president. After Trump sold a Palm Beach mansion he purchased for $41 million to a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million in 2008, Cohen says, Trump told Cohen he believed the real buyer was Putin.
Cohen, however, disputes the validity of a rumored videotape depicting Trump during a trip to Moscow, saying, “this claim never occurred, to the best of my knowledge and investigations.”
But Cohen discloses that during the summer of 2016, he received an anonymous call from a man who said he was in possession of a tape matching its description. Cohen told the caller that he would need to see a few seconds of the tape to determine if it was real, and the caller demanded $20 million before hanging up, never to be heard from again.
Blacks & Latinos, ‘They’re not my people’
If Putin is held in the highest regard in Trump’s mind, Cohen writes, Trump’s own voters rank among those in the lowest. Speaking to Cohen after Trump gathered religious leaders at Trump Tower in the lead up to the 2012 presidential race, an encounter during which they asked to “lay hands” on him, Trump asked Cohen, according to the book: “Can you believe that bullsh*t?…Can you believe people believe that bullsh*t?”
In the wake of Trump’s presidential kickoff announcement in 2015, in which he called Mexicans criminals and rapists, he dismissed concerns that he had alienated Latinos. “Plus, I will never get the Hispanic vote,” Trump allegedly told Cohen. “Like the blacks, they’re too stupid to vote for Trump. They’re not my people.” (Trump won 28% of the Latino vote in 2016.)
Trump’s contempt, in Cohen’s telling, extends broadly. Cohen characterizes Trump bluntly as racist, and says that while he never heard Trump use the “N-word,” Trump used other offensive language.
Ranting about Obama after he won office in 2008, Trump said, “Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a sh*thole…They are all complete f*cking toilets,” according to Cohen. After Nelson Mandela died, Trump allegedly said of South Africa that “Mandela f*cked the whole country up. Now it’s a sh*thole. F*ck Mandela. He was no leader.”
Cohen also divulges personal details about Trump, including his hair routine, described as a “three-step” combover designed to disguise “unsightly scars on his scalp from a failed hair-implant operation in the 1980s.”
Writing that he once witnessed Trump shortly after he showered, Cohen recalls that “when his hair wasn’t done, his strands of dyed-golden hair reached below his shoulders along the right side of his head and on his back, like a balding Allman Brother or strung out old ‘60s hippie.”
Many instances of Trump’s alleged deceit have previously been detailed by Cohen and others in recent years: Trump’s alleged inflation of his net worth to publications like Forbes and Fortune and his minimizing of the value of his properties to avoid taxes, Cohen’s pressuring of the New York Military Academy to not release Trump’s high school records to avoid their public disclosure, Cohen paying to rig CNBC and Drudge Report polls in Trump’s favor, Trump campaign officials hiring extras for $50 apiece to attend Trump’s 2015 announcement that he was running for president and the alleged fraudulent Trump University scheme, over which Trump settled a class action lawsuit for $25 million.
Harshest judgment for the media
And a healthy portion of the book is devoted to the incidents perhaps best known at this point: Trump’s and Cohen’s alleged efforts to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump during the 2016 election – campaign finance violations that landed Cohen in prison and led prosecutors to say were done “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual - 1,” otherwise known as Trump.
Trump has denied the affairs and any involvement with the payments.
Cohen provides detailed accounts of the negotiations that led to the payments to two women – adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – efforts that, according to Cohen, deeply involved himself, Trump and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who ultimately cooperated with prosecutors.
Trump specifically authorized Cohen to strike the deal with Daniels, Cohen writes. “It’s only $130,000,” Trump said, according to Cohen. “F*ck it, Michael. Go talk to Allen and figure it all out.” (Cohen, too, mocks the payment, “a sum that seemed almost laughably low.”)
And he recalls Weisselberg allegedly convincing him to front the money to pay Daniels by using Cohen’s home equity line of credit.
On October 27, 2016, after Cohen had wired the $130,000, he called Trump to tell him the transaction was complete, Cohen writes.
In describing the investigation and prosecution, however, Cohen portrays himself as exceedingly cooperative, a notion prosecutors have refuted. With respect to tax evasion charges, he claims he provided his accountant with all of his records, an assertion federal prosecutors have said in court filings is false.
Regarding a count of lying to a bank, Cohen calls it a “fantasy of the federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York.”
“I didn’t lie for the simplest reason: the bank never asked what I wanted the money for,” he writes. But the charge to which Cohen pleaded guilty, according to court documents, stemmed from him repeatedly withholding information from banks or providing them with misleading information about various lines of credit secured by his taxi medallions. (In a sentencing memo to the judge overseeing his case, prosecutors referred to the false statement to a bank charge as “far from an isolated event: It was one in a long series of self-serving lies Cohen told to numerous financial institutions.”)
He writes that New York federal prosecutors “refused” his requests, made through his lawyer Guy Petrillo, to meet with him for four months in advance of his guilty plea and that they threatened to charge his wife if he didn’t agree to plead guilty.
And he says it is “unimaginable” that Trump didn’t have advance knowledge of the FBI raids of his properties, because Trump is “the chief law enforcement officer in the country,” which he is not.
“My lawyers had continually stated that they didn’t see any charges coming,” Cohen writes, “but the truth in this country is that if federal prosecutors want to get you, they will.”
In a section in which he describes reporting to serve his sentence, he laments being “railroaded into prison by federal prosecutors who’d since gone on to high paying white-shoe law firms, with my conviction as their signature achievement at the Southern District.” A spokesman for the Manhattan US Attorney’s office declined to comment.
But in a way perhaps even Trump could appreciate, Cohen reserves some of his harshest judgment for the media, which he blames for falling for Trump’s attention-grabbing tactics and propelling him to office.
“Donald Trump’s presidency is a product of the free press,” he writes. “Not free as in freedom of expression, I mean free as unpaid for. Rallies broadcast live, tweets, press conferences, idiotic interviews, 24-7 wall-to-wall coverage, all without spending a penny. The free press gave America Trump.”
“Right, left, moderate, tabloid, broadsheet, television, radio, Internet, Facebook – that is who elected Trump and might well elect him again.”
CORRECTION: This headline has been updated to correct when Michael Cohen says Trump hired a ‘Faux-Bama’