President Trump acknowledged Thursday for the first time that his longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen represented him in efforts to silence Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who has alleged a sexual encounter with Trump more than a decade ago.
Trump earlier this month denied any knowledge of the $130,000 payment to Daniels that was arranged by Cohen and is subject of a federal investigation, telling reporters: “I don’t know” about the payment or where Cohen got the money. And the White House repeatedly has insisted that Daniels’ allegations that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 were false.
But in an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning, Trump appeared to reveal that he had knowledge of Cohen’s payment to Daniels.
“Michael represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said. “And from what I’ve seen, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this.”
Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, weighed in a few minutes later on MSNBC and said that Trump had made a “hugely damaging admission.”
Trump’s comments came during a wide-ranging telephone interview with the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” the pro-Trump morning show that the president regularly watches and praises.
Cohen is under criminal investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Earlier this month, FBI agents raided Cohen’s home, office and a hotel room where he had been staying and seized records relating to numerous issues, including Cohen’s work on Trump’s behalf to negotiate the settlement with Daniels.
On Wednesday, Cohen told a federal judge that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a lawsuit brought by Daniels. Asked on Fox for his reaction to Cohen’s plea, Trump said: “He’s a good person.”
Trump went on to attempt to distance himself from Cohen, in keeping with the president’s tendency to claim he has little to do with associates once they get into trouble. Cohen has handled Trump’s most sensitive legal and personal affairs for more than a decade, but the president told the Fox hosts that he is more of a businessman than a lawyer.
“This doesn’t have to do with me,” Trump said. “Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business. He also practices law. I would say, probably, the big thing is his business. I have nothing to do with his business.”
Trump described Cohen as one of many members of his legal network.
“I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said.
And asked how much of his legal work Cohen is responsible for, Trump said: “As a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny fraction.”