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Trump knew about email hack, Cohen tells Congress.

US President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has claimed Trump knew beforehand about a leak of hacked Democratic emails.

In congressional testimony, Cohen also said Trump directed plans for a Moscow skyscraper even during his White House campaign.

In a blistering opening statement, Cohen branded Trump a "racist", a "conman" and a "cheat".

Trump hit back: "He is lying in order to reduce his prison time."

The US president took time out from preparing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday to lash out in a tweet at his former fixer.

Cohen, 52, will start a three-year prison term in May for the campaign finance violation of paying hush money to one of Trump's alleged mistresses, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

In his public testimony to the House of Representatives Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Cohen said he was in Trump's office in July 2016 when Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser, called the then-Republican presidential candidate.

Cohen said Stone rang Trump to say he had been speaking to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who told him there would be a "massive dump" of emails within a couple of days that would politically embarrass Hillary Clinton's White House campaign.

The witness said Trump responded along the lines of "wouldn't that be great".

Trump has denied having prior knowledge about Wikileaks' disclosure of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the election.

The messages caused a damaging rift among Democrats by exposing party officials' preference of Mrs Clinton over her challenger for the presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders.

Stone, a self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, is currently facing charges of lying to Congress about his communications with Wikileaks and witness tampering.

Anyone who's met Michael Cohen recently will tell you that he's burning with anger at having to take the blame for crimes he says were instigated by Trump.

It seems he's spent weeks being intensively prepped by his lawyers for this moment and intends to do the President fatal damage.

The White House talking points - farmed out to surrogates such as Donald Trump Jr - are that he's a "disgraced liar" and "convicted perjurer".

Cohen certainly knows he has - as he says in his testimony - a credibility problem.

That's why he's attempting to wield a stiletto, not swing an axe, each charge backed up by what he calls "documents that are irrefutable" - hence the dramatic production of a cheque apparently signed by Trump (the alleged refund for paying off Stormy Daniels).

He won't talk much about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. In fact, he says he has no direct knowledge of collusion.

He will, though, say he witnessed Trump in a telephone conversation during the campaign that showed he knew in advance Wikileaks was about to publish emails hacked - by Russia - from the Democrat Party.

That would be hugely significant, if true. Trump has always denied it.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Feb 27, 2019
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