United States President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen on Wednesday claimed that as a Republican presidential candidate in 2016, Trump knew beforehand that Wikileaks would release hacked Democratic National Committee emails. In a congressional testimony before the US House of Representatives committee, Cohen accused Trump of being “a racist”, “a conman” and “a cheat”.

The testimony is part of an investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is looking into ties between Trump’s campaign officials and Russia. It is also looking into other ways Russia may have influenced the 2016 presidential polls. Russia is also accused of attempting to meddle in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

In December 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for multiple offences, including lying to the US Congress and for facilitating bribes to two women who allegedly had affairs with Trump. In August 2018, Cohen had pleaded guilty in a New York court to eight counts of tax crimes, making illegal campaign contributions and admitted that he made pre-election payments.

Cohen claimed that Trump’s longtime political advisor Roger Stone in July 2016 had told him that he had been speaking to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and that there would be “massive dump” of emails that would affect Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton’s, presidential campaign.

He also claimed that Trump wanted him to lie about a property deal in Moscow amid his presidential campaign for 2016 elections. “At the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing,” Cohen said. “In his way, he was telling me to lie.”

Cohen claimed that Trump had also asked him to pay off an adult film star, Stephanie Clifford, with whom Trump had had an affair, Reuters reported. Cohen submitted a copy of $130,000 wire transfer made during the closing days of the presidential campaign to Clifford, whose screen name is Stormy Daniels.

Cohen said while Trump has publicly courted white supremacists and bigots, “in private, he is even worse”. “He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole’,” he told the committee, according to BBC. “This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.”

He claimed Trump had also said that black people would never vote for him “because they were too stupid”. Since becoming the president, Trump has become the worst version of himself, Cohen said, adding that Trump is “fundamentally disloyal”.

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen said. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.”

Meanwhile, the US president, who is currently in Vietnam to attend a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, hit back at Cohen saying the lawyer was “lying in order to reduce his prison time”.