Donald Trump's true character, according to Michael Cohen

There was one particular phrase from Michael Cohen's testimony on Thursday morning (NZ time) sparked headlines worldwide: "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat."

But US President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer said so much more, painting a portrait of a man desperate to be seen as the best, even if it means trampling over the law, other people and the United States itself.

Cohen was a party to much of it - doing Mr Trump's alleged dirty work is why he's about to spend time behind bars - but says he's no longer going to "blindly follow" his demands.

"My loyalty to Mr Trump has cost me everything - my family's happiness, friendships, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honour, my reputation and soon my freedom. And I will not sit back, say nothing, and allow him to do the same to the country."

Mr Trump hit back on Twitter, saying Cohen was lying.

"Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also. He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked's lawyer!"

Here are the most damaging claims against the US President from Cohen's statement to Congress.

He's a racist

Mr Trump's first term has been marred by race-related controversies. He infamously said in 2017 a group of white nationalists - including a man who'd later be convicted of murdering a protester - included "some very fine people"; and was reported last year to have said many immigrants come from "shithole countries".

"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," Cohen explained.

"While we were once driving through a struggling neighbourhood 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."

He's not very bright

Mr Trump has claimed be a genius with a "very high IQ", and frequently uses "low IQ" as an insult against critics and opponents. Cohen begged to differ.

"I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores," said Cohen, providing Congress with the letters he was ordered to send.

He's a chicken

Mr Trump was in his 20s as the Vietnam War raged, but didn't have to go after getting a medical deferment from the draft in 1968 for his "bone spurs".

Cohen says he asked for medical records and was told there were none because there was no treatment.

"You think I'm stupid? I wasn't going to Vietnam," he reportedly told Cohen.

Mr Trump targeted the late John McCain during the 2016 Republican primaries over the fact he spent years in a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam, saying he likes people who don't get captured.

Michael Cohen.
Michael Cohen. Photo credit: Reuters

He's a showman, not a statesman

"Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great," said Cohen.

"He had no desire or intention to lead this nation - only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the 'greatest infomercial in political history'.

"He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign - for him - was always a marketing opportunity."

He's not as rich as he claims to be

"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," said Cohen.

Mr Trump has long said he can't release his tax returns, as is typical for US presidential candidates, because he's undergoing a long-term audit. Cohen said he doesn't think that's true - it's because he "didn't want an entire group of think tanks, who are tax experts, to run through his returns".

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump. Photo credit: Reuters

He's vain

"Mr Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons event," said Cohen.

"The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000.

"Mr Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organisation, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself."

He gets a kick out of ripping people off

"One of my more common responsibilities was that Mr Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr Trump of my success, he actually revelled in it."

He lies to his wife

Cohen says Melania Trump had no idea about her husband's alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.

"He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly - and she did not deserve that."

Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr. Photo credit: Getty

He trash talks his own children

"Mr Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr would never set up any meeting of any significance alone - and certainly not without checking with his father."

He talks like a mobster

"By coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurrilous attacks by the President and his lawyer - trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel," said Cohen.

"Mr Trump called me a 'rat' for choosing to tell the truth - much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government."

He doesn't believe in democracy, despite being President

"I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power," Cohen said. "To those who support the President and his rhetoric as I once did, I pray the country doesn't make the same mistakes that I have made or pay the heavy price that my family and I are paying."

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz