With Michael Cohen facing a criminal investigation and asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, it stood to reason Donald Trump would have something to say about his personal attorney during his Fox News interview this morning.
The president, however, probably wasn’t supposed to say this.
“I don’t know his business, but this doesn’t have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business. He also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something having to do with his business,” Trump said during a lengthy phone interview with “Fox and Friends.” “I have nothing to do with his business, I can tell you.”
Asked about Cohen’s work representing him, Trump claimed that Cohen only handled “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work…. “He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” the President continued, referencing Cohen’s payment to Daniels and work negotiating a hush agreement with the porn actress. “You know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this, which would have been a problem.”
There’s a lot to this, but let’s consider three of the key elements to Trump’s comments.
First, prosecutors have suggested that while Michael Cohen is an attorney, his work with Trump hasn’t strictly been in a legal capacity. The president seemed eager to bolster this point this morning, emphasizing repeatedly that Cohen is principally “a businessman.”
Second, the official line from Trump World has been that the president had nothing to do with the Stormy Daniels controversy. He wasn’t involved in the pre-election hush-money payoff, the argument went, and the president is completely in the dark when it comes to the whole sordid affair.
Trump suggested this morning that this narrative is false, making clear that Cohen represented him in the “deal” with the porn star, and asserting that he knows campaign funds weren’t used to buy Daniels’ silence.
And third, Trump is apparently of the opinion that if campaign funds didn’t finance the hush money, then there was nothing wrong with the payoff. That’s not even close to being true. In fact, there are all kinds of lingering questions about in-kind contributions and possible fraud that have nothing to do with whether campaign funds were used or not.
Michael Avenatti was apparently delighted to see Trump blurt out all of this useful information on national television this morning, describing the president’s on-air comments as “another gift from the heavens in this case.”
Trump’s own words have been used against him repeatedly in court. I have a hunch it’s about to happen again.