Michael Cohen explains why Trump likes Putin and what Trump really thinks of his supporters

Trump praised Putin in 2016 because he assumed he'd lose the election, writes Cohen, and wanted to make sure he could borrow money from Russian sources.
Image: Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer and longtime fixer, leaves federal court in New York.
Michael Cohen leaves federal court in New York on Aug. 21, 2018.Andres Kudacki / Redux Pictures

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By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is an authoritarian, racist sexual predator, according to a new book by his former lawyer and confidant, who says Trump admires ruthless dictators and openly mocks the working-class Americans he has duped into supporting him.

In "Disloyal: A Memoir," the lawyer, Michael Cohen, writes that he believes his longtime client won't leave office willingly if he is defeated in the November election.

While Cohen's book is filled with such stark warnings, he doesn't offer any major new revelations about alleged Russia ties, sexual assaults or racism. He said he doesn't know whether Russia has financial leverage over Trump, has never heard Trump use the N-word and isn't in a position to know for sure whether the sexual assault allegations against Trump are true or false.

Cohen, who served prison time for lying to Congress and doesn't expect readers to like him, paints a more subtle portrait of moral decrepitude.

White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern responded in a statement to NBC News: "Michael Cohen's book is fan fiction. He readily admits to lying routinely but expects people to believe him now so that he can make money from book sales. It's unfortunate that the media is exploiting this sad and desperate man to attack President Trump."

Cohen said Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign because he assumed he would lose and wanted to make sure he could borrow money from Russian sources for his real estate empire.

Michael Cohen delivers remarks in behalf of Donald Trump during a campaign stop in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on Sept. 21, 2016.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

As previously detailed in court records, Trump also had dispatched Cohen to try to build a Trump Tower Moscow, a 120-story building in Red Square with a free penthouse apartment for Putin.

"The whole idea of patriotism and treason became irrelevant in his mind," Cohen writes. "Trump was using the campaign to make money for himself: of course he was."

It wasn't a new concept, Cohen writes. When a Russian oligarch bought Trump's mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, in 2008 for nearly double what Trump paid for it — a $50 million profit — Trump believed Putin was secretly funding the deal, Cohen writes.

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As he told Congress, Cohen says he was present when Trump discussed a WikiLeaks dump of hacked Democratic emails before their release, and he says he heard Trump talking with his son about hosting Russians in Trump Tower before the notorious June 2016 meeting. Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller that he didn't recall discussing either subject.

Cohen says the Trump campaign didn't need to conspire with the Russian election interference effort. All the candidate had to do was sit back and reap the benefits. The fact that the help came from a foreign adversary was of no consequence to him, Cohen says.

"What appeared to be collusion," Cohen writes, "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."

With Putin, it wasn't just self-interest — Trump genuinely admires the Russian leader, Cohen says.

Trump worships wealth and power, Cohen writes.

"Everyone other than the ruling class on earth was like an ant, to his way of thinking, their lives meaningless and always subject to the whims of the true rulers of the world," he writes.

"The cosmic joke was that Trump convinced a vast swath of working-class white folks in the Midwest that he cared about their well-being. The truth was that he couldn't care less."

Cohen writes in detail about the episode that helped land him in prison — his role in paying off the porn star known as Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election to cover up allegations of an affair with Trump. Trump has denied the allegations of an affair.

But his role in silencing women goes back to 2007, when he first joined the Trump Organization, Cohen writes, and National Enquirer executive David Pecker called to ask him to handle a sexual assault allegation by Jill Harth, a makeup artist.

"It's not about the truth. ... Mr. Trump told me to call you, that you and I will work together and handle these problems together," Cohen quotes Pecker as saying.

Harth's ex-husband alleged that Trump lunged at Harth at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's resort in Florida, in the early 1990s, "trying to force himself on her, pushing her into Ivanka's bed and grabbing her genitals," Cohen recounts.

The ex-husband was looking to sell the story to the National Enquirer, and Pecker got wind of it and called Trump "to conspire to cover it up or catch and kill," Cohen says.

The allegation resurfaced when Trump ran for president, and Cohen quotes Trump as saying, "She was really great looking back then."

Cohen writes that he has no doubt that Trump "stuck his hands between her legs and groped her," as Trump once bragged on tape of doing to women in general.

Trump assistant Rhona Graff "kept a file cabinet filled with files on women who had alleged that Trump assaulted them," Cohen writes.

Trump has denied sexually assaulting women.

When Cohen's daughter was 15, he writes, Trump saw her finishing up a tennis lesson.

"Look at that piece of a--," Trump said, according to Cohen. "I would love some of that."

When Cohen told Trump she was his daughter, he played it off, Cohen writes.

"You better watch out because in a few years I'll be dating one of your friends," Cohen quotes Trump as telling the 15-year-old girl.

"Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump," by Michael Cohen.Skyhorse Publishing via AP

Throughout the book, Cohen expresses regret for his complicity in all this behavior, portraying himself as a deluded member of a Trump cult. He also acknowledges that many people won't view him as credible, although he points out that Mueller's office believed and used his testimony.

In an exclusive interview "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt, Cohen said: "Donald Trump will do anything and everything ... to win. And I believe that includes manipulating the ballots."

Trump already has invited foreign interference in the fall election, Cohen said, echoing the impeachment charge made by House Democrats about the president's request that Ukraine investigate his opponent, as well as the words of former national security adviser John Bolton, who says Trump asked the Chinese leader to help him win.

"I believe that he would even go so far as to start a war in order to prevent himself from being removed from office," said Cohen, who began working for Trump in late 2006 and once said he would take a bullet for his boss. "My biggest fear is that there will not be a peaceful transition of power in 2020."