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


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

Cohen spoke with 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 says.

"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."

Watch more of NBC's interview with Cohen on Tuesday on "TODAY" and the "Nightly News with Lester Holt" at 6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. CT.

Cohen said Trump's backers have to defend his "indefensible" actions, mentioning The Atlantic report last week in which several sources with firsthand knowledge of Trump's remarks said he referred to American soldiers 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, Cohen mentioned several instances in which Trump made remarks his former lawyer considered to be racist, including when he was driving with Trump through a predominantly Black Chicago neighborhood and his former boss 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 that 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 he worked to create the public perception that Trump was not bothered by Obama's ribbing at the 2011 White House Correspondent's Dinner, Cohen revealed the president was quite upset.

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

Cohen recalled an Obama impersonator Trump hired to take part in a video with him designed to mock the president 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."

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 following a conviction for financial crimes and lying to Congress. He was released in July to serve the rest of that sentence from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. The longtime fixer 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.

Originally published