Breaking News Emails
President Donald Trump appeared to acknowledge Thursday for the first time that his attorney Michael Cohen represented him as part of a payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
"He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. And from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong," Trump said in a phone interview on "Fox and Friends."
Trump's mention of the scandal engulfing Cohen was part of a breathless and nearly half-hour free-flowing rant on the cable news show, in which the president touched on everything from North Korea to rapper Kanye West to Dr. Ronny Jackson, who had moments earlier withdrawn his nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Meanwhile, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti responded to Trump's comment as a "hugely damaging admission." He said he plans to use the revelation in his case against Trump and Cohen, and expects federal prosecutors, who are investigating Cohen, to do so as well.
"Another gift from the heavens in this case," Avenatti said. "They keep coming. I don't know how I've fallen into such good luck in this case, but I'm going to take it."
Prosecutors in New York quickly referenced Trump's comments on Fox in a court filing later Thursday to suggest that there are not large amounts of documents that would be protected by attorney-client privilege that were seized by the FBI earlier this month from Cohen's office and hotel room.
"Trump reportedly said on cable television this morning that Cohen performs 'a tiny, tiny little fraction' of his overall legal work. These statements by two of Cohen's three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here," said the filing by the U.S. Attorneys Office ahead of a court hearing on Thursday.
The president denied on "Fox and Friends" having anything to do with Cohen's business after the attorney's office and hotel room were raided this month by the FBI.
But it's Cohen's $130,000 payment to Daniels shortly before Election Day in 2016 that may be of interest to investigators.
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One this month that he was not aware of any payment by Cohen to Daniels, and saying: "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael."
Daniels claims that Cohen paid her the money as part of a "hush agreement" not to talk about what she describes as a one-time sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
She believes the agreement with Trump is invalid because even though she and Cohen signed it, Trump never did. The agreement refers to Trump throughout as "David Dennison" and Clifford as "Peggy Peterson."
The true identity of "DD" is blacked out, but Avenatti has said that individual is Trump. The signature line on the agreement for "David Dennison" is blank.
Trump on Thursday was adamant that whatever federal authorities are investigating, "I've been told I'm not involved."
Trump was interested in being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team this month, but the meeting was derailed as a result of the raid, which angered the president, NBC News reported.
An interview, however, may still be on the table after a new lawyer on Trump's team, Rudy Giuliani, expressed interest this week in reopening negotiations for a meeting, according to The Washington Post.
When asked on "Fox and Friends" if he would talk to Mueller, Trump said simply, "Well, if I can."
The president, meanwhile, went full tilt on other topics — barely allowing the Fox News hosts to get a word in.
He began by mentioning that Thursday is the 48th birthday of his wife and first lady, Melania Trump, and that's why he was calling in. He admitted: "Maybe I didn't get her so much. I got her a beautiful card."
He ping-ponged from issue to issue:
On North Korea: Trump said that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated to be secretary of state, wasn't supposed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but that "they arranged ... while he was there to say hello."
On rapper West, who tweeted positively about the president: "I have known Kanye a little bit, and I get along with Kanye ... but Kanye looks and sees black unemployment at the lowest it's been at the history of our country. He sees Hispanic unemployment at the lowest it has been in the history of our country. He sees, by the way, female unemployment, women unemployment, the lowest it has been in now almost 19 years. He sees that stuff and he is smart."
On fired FBI Director James Comey: "He is guilty of crimes," and added that the Justice Department's investigation into Russian collusion is "a witch hunt against the president of the United States."
On whether he stayed overnight in Moscow: Trump said he did spend the night in Moscow during a 2013 trip and accused Comey of lying about it. The president said "of course I stayed there" when he went to the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned. Comey says in his new book that Trump told him he did not sleep overnight in Russia.
On watching the media: "Now frankly, I don't have time for two reasons. It's too much and I don't have time, but I would watch whether it's good or bad. I always watch."
On what grade he should get after a year in office: "I would give myself an A-plus. Nobody has done what I have been able to do, and I did it — despite the fact that I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn’t exist."