President Donald Trump, incensed over a deal his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen cut with prosecutors, says it might be better if “flipping” were illegal because people “just make up lies.”
Trump, in a television interview that aired Thursday, downplayed his relationship to Cohen, who claims the president directed a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of two women who say they had affairs with him.
The president argued Cohen only worked for him part-time and accused him of making up stories to reduce his legal exposure.
“I know all about flipping,” Trump told “Fox and Friends,” which taped the interview with him Wednesday at the White House. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they — they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”
Trump made the comments as his White House struggled to manage the fallout from Cohen’s plea deal and the conviction of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial charges.
The president suggested that Cohen’s legal trouble stemmed from his other businesses, including involvement with the New York City taxi cab industry.
The back-to-back legal blows have raised speculation that Democrats would launch impeachment proceedings if they win the House of Representatives this fall. Trump argued the move could have dire economic consequences.
“If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor,” Trump said. He added: “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
“Without this thinking,” said Trump as he pointed to his head, “you would see, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.”
Trump did not say if he would pardon Manafort, but expressed “great respect” for him and argued that some of the charges “every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.”
Cohen, who says he won’t seek a pardon from Trump, pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight charges, including campaign finance violations that he said he carried out in coordination with Trump.
Behind closed doors, Trump has reportedly expressed worry and frustration that a man intimately familiar with his political, personal and business dealings for more than a decade had turned on him.
In the interview, Trump argued that the hush-money payouts weren’t “even a campaign violation” because he subsequently reimbursed Cohen for the payments personally instead of with campaign funds. Federal law restricts how much individuals can donate to a campaign, bars corporations from making direct contributions and requires the disclosure of transactions.
Cohen had said Tuesday he secretly used shell companies to make payments used to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.
As Trump vented his frustration, White House aides sought to project a sense of calm. Used to the ever-present shadow of federal investigations, numbed West Wing staffers absorbed near-simultaneous announcements Tuesday of the Cohen plea deal and the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial charges.
Both cases resulted, at least in part, from the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s attempts to sway voters in the 2016 election.
Trump, in turn, praised Manafort as “a brave man!” raising speculation the former campaign operative could become the recipient of a pardon. He contended the prosecution was an overreach by the Justice Department and he revived his criticism of the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Manafort had tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Cohen, he refused to “break,” Trump said.
Democrats are eagerly anticipating gaining subpoena power over the White House — and many are openly discussing the possibility of impeaching Trump — should they retake control of the House in November’s midterm elections.
Debate swirled inside and outside the White House about next steps and how damaging the legal fallout was for the president.
Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer stressed that the revelations may be sordid but do not meet the constitutional bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
“Having an affair and lying about it with a porn star and a Playboy bunny is not impeachable,” Fleischer said. “It’s Donald Trump.”
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