US President Donald Trump has told Fox that his former lawyer Michael Cohen “flipped” on him because he “made a great deal,” and has also played down the idea that Cohen’s testimony will be harmful to his presidency.
In an interview that aired on Fox & Friends Thursday morning, Trump said that Cohen – who testified that he paid hush money at Trump’s direction to two women prior to the 2016 election – was not somebody who he spent a lot of time with and that the lawyer “didn’t do big deals” during the ten years that he was one of his legal representatives.
Asked by Ainsley Earhardt if it was true that he had directed Cohen to pay off the women in an effort to keep them quiet before the election, Trump said he only found out about the payments “later on” and stressed that the money had not come out of campaign funds, which, he admitted, would be a “much bigger thing.”
Trump claimed the reason Cohen had flipped on him was because he had “made a great deal” to lessen his sentence for other financial crimes, including bank fraud and tax evasion – a phenomenon the President said “almost ought to be illegal.”
“For thirty, forty years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get ten years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is,” he said, adding that he always found Cohen to be “a nice guy” and that the decision was one many people would make in that position.
“If somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get ten or twenty years in jail, but you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made – in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” he said. “They just make up things – and they go from ten years to national hero – it’s not a fair thing, but that’s why he did it.”
Trump also sought to play down speculation over Cohen’s claims the payments were illegal campaign contributions, saying that campaign violations “are considered not a big deal, frankly.”
When it came to Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager who is facing up to 80 years in prison for financial crimes, Trump said he had “great respect” for him and that some of the things lawyers threw at him are things that “every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.”
“I didn’t know Manafort well, he wasn’t with the campaign long, they got him with things totally unrelated to the campaign — and by the way, they got Cohen on things unrelated to the campaign — I’m not involved, I wasn’t charged with anything,” he said, stressing that no proof of any collusion with Russia had come from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“What’s come out of Manafort? No collusion. What’s come out of Michael Cohen? No collusion,” he said.
Trump also took aim at the Department of Justice, saying that nothing was done for the longest time about Peter Strzok and his colleague Lisa Page, former FBI employees who exchanged anti-Trump text messages while having an affair. Strzok was fired earlier this month, almost nine months after his conduct became public.
Democrats are “very strong in the Justice Department” because his Attorney General Jeff Sessions “never took control,” Trump said in the interview.
Sessions disagreed with that claim on Thursday afternoon, announcing before a scheduled meeting with Trump that he took control “the day I was sworn in,” and arguing the DOJ has had “unprecedented success at effectuating the president’s agenda.”
Asked how he dealt with the level of controversy in his life, Trump said it was nothing new to him. “I’ve always had controversy in my life and I’ve always succeeded. I’ve always won,” he said.
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