In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” President Donald Trump claimed that he knew about payments his former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen made to silence adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (better known as Stormy Daniels) and Playboy model Karen McDougal but says that these payments did not come from campaign coffers and thus do not constitute a campaign finance violation.
“Later on I knew, later on,” Trump told Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt. “But you have to understand Ainsley, what he [Cohen] did, and they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing, that’s a much bigger thing, “Did they come out of the campaign?” and they didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me, and I tweeted about it. I don’t know if you know but I tweeted about the payments.”
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 22, 2018
Insisting once again that the payments did not “come from the campaign,” the president said that “the first question” he asked when he heard about the payments was, “Did they come out of the campaign?”
“Because that could be a little dicey,” he added, “and they didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big,” continuing: “But they weren’t––it’s not even a campaign violation. If you look at President [Barack] Obama, he had a massive campaign violation, but he had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot differently.”
Trump’s statements indicate he misunderstands just why the payments themselves are so important. Speaking under oath to a federal judge yesterday as he pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts––five charges of felony tax evasion, two counts of campaign finance violations, and one count of bank fraud––Cohen said that he made the payments at Trump’s behest to influence the election.
In fact, as he pleaded guilty to the campaign finance violations, he said he had paid Clifford and McDougal hush money “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office… for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
It does not matter whether the money to pay these women came from the campaign or not: That the women were paid off for the explicit purpose of boosting Trump’s chances of winning the 2016 presidential election is precisely why the scandal has received so much airtime, even as salacious details of Trump’s proclivities during his affairs with both Clifford and McDougal have also nabbed front page headlines.
It was an expectedly weak about-face for a president who once so vehemently denied both having any knowledge of these payments and any suggestion that he and his personal attorney ran afoul of campaign finance laws.
And he was immediately called out.
Everytime I hear Trump say the words,"you have to understand", I know he is telling a whopper of a lie.
— Patrice (@patrice_noonan) August 22, 2018
The fact that payments to @StormyDaniels "didn't come out of the campaign, they came from me" is basically the reason the Justice Department concluded that they were felonies.
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) August 22, 2018
Donald Trump had sexual intercourse with women during his marriage to Melania, then hurriedly paid the women off in the closing hours of the campaign to keep his serial infidelities out of the news. In so doing he committed felonies. That's who this guy is.
— Chuck Graef (@chuckgraef) August 22, 2018
So according to Trump — his lawyer plead guilty and is facing jail time for a crime that isn’t a crime. Cohen plead guilty to a crime, that isn’t a crime, and a federal judge, prosecutor and Cohen’s own lawyer signed off on. How STUPID does he think we all are?
— Katie Girl (@BuckBrook) August 22, 2018
Nor did it escape public notice that Trump had lied from the top of the interview when he claimed he only knew about the payments Cohen made after the fact. Trump can be heard on a tape Cohen released last month discussing paying the two women off.
He is on tape discussing how to pay her off ! Sorry! You ain’t wiggling out of this one chief!
— Danagal (@DanagalCo) August 22, 2018
Fox was also accused of “aiding and abetting” the president.
Shocking (🙄) that Ainsley didn’t ask about the recording Cohen made where he & Cohen are discussing how the payments are being set up. That was in September, 2016.
He knew then & is still LYING.
Fox propaganda news is letting it happen, promoting Trump fiction. Appalling!
— Laura Ehrig 🌎💙 (@LauraEhrig) August 22, 2018
Do you not vet anything he says. You’re basically allowing him the opportunity to rewrite reality. He freaking admitted to a crime. Again. Your shit network is aiding & abetting federal crimes. Ffs can anyone put a stop to this
— Seth Willis (@bayouboy19) August 22, 2018
According to Lanny Davis, who represents Michael Cohen, if Cohen is guilty of campaign finance violations, then the president is too.
“Today he [Cohen] stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election,” Davis said yesterday in a statement following Cohen’s plea. “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama is guilty of the same crime as Cohen also doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.