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Cohen calls Trump a racist 'cult leader,' says he disparaged Obama, Black leaders, Chicago

The president's former lawyer spoke out in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Lester Holt.

President Donald Trump's ex-fixer, Michael Cohen, told NBC News in an exclusive interview that he believes his former boss is a racist "cult leader" who would be wise to resign before he's faced with potential criminal charges.

Cohen spoke with NBC News' Lester Holt ahead of the release Tuesday of his new book, "Disloyal: a Memoir," which discusses his experience working for Trump.

"In the book, obviously, I describe Mr. Trump as a cult leader, and I was in this cult," Cohen said.

"So one of the purposes of writing the book is really from one former cult member to the current ones," he continued. "I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Open your eyes as I have. And I want you to appreciate that Donald Trump cares for no one or anything other than himself."

Cohen said Trump's backers have to defend his "indefensible" actions, mentioning The Atlantic's report last week in which several sources with firsthand knowledge of Trump's remarks said he referred to American service members killed in combat as "losers" and "suckers." Trump has repeatedly denied the accuracy of the story, as have administration officials and allies.

"I mean, who could possibly accept this?" Cohen said of Trump's reported remarks. "But when you're in the Trump cult, you have no choice but to accept it."

In the interview, he mentioned several instances in which Trump made remarks that Cohen considered racist, one of them when he was driving with Trump through a predominantly Black Chicago neighborhood and Trump said, "Only the Blacks could live this way."

"I, of course, said to him, 'Well that's not really true,'" Cohen continued. "He goes, 'No, only the Blacks could live this way.'"

After former South African President Nelson Mandela died in 2013, Cohen said, Trump "asked me if I had known of any country that's run by a Black that's not an s---hole."

"And I said, 'Well, how about America?'" Cohen responded. "To which he gave me the proverbial f---you."

Cohen also spoke about Trump's "hatred" for former President Barack Obama. Cohen said the disdain "basically starts and with the fact that he's Black and that he was the first Black president in this country."

And while Cohen said Trump worked to create the public perception that he was not bothered by Obama's ribbing at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association dinner, Cohen revealed that Trump was quite upset.

"Lester, not only did it bother him, it really irritated him," Cohen said.

Cohen recalled that Trump hired an Obama impersonator to take part in a video with him to mock Obama in 2012. Cohen described the effort as "Project Faux-Bama."

"Of course, you know, the script being written, Obama did not come out looking good in this script," Cohen said. "And this was supposed to go out on Trump's social media platform. It was ultimately decided that it was not a smart move for him to do. And this, of course, was all going on during the birther — 'Birther-gate,' as we'll call it."

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If he could speak with Trump now, Cohen said, he "would tell him he should resign now, let Mike Pence pardon you from any and all potential crimes that will come out against you, and that would be my recommendation to you."

Cohen began serving a three-year prison sentence last year after a conviction for financial crimes and lying to Congress. He was released in July to serve the rest of the sentence from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cohen turned on Trump as he was under federal investigation in 2018 and later gave dramatic testimony before Congress lambasting the president.

The White House has dismissed Cohen's book as "fan fiction."

"He readily admits to lying routinely but expects people to believe him now so that he can make money from book sales," White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said in a statement.

Cohen has said he lied for the president's benefit.