President Trump made two significant legal errors during a Fox & Friends phone interview on Thursday morning, during which he became audibly agitated about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — at one point yelling about FBI raids on his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
First, Trump claimed that Cohen — his longtime personal lawyer and fixer — only represented him in “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work.
“Michael is in business — he’s really a businessman, a fairly big business as I understand it, I don’t know his business but this doesn’t have to do with me,” Trump said, attempting to distance himself from Cohen. “Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business, he also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something to do with his business. This doesn’t have to do with me. I have many attorneys — sadly, I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t even believe it.”
Trump’s comments come a day after a lawyer representing him told a federal judge that Trump himself “is ready to help recommend what materials seized from his personal attorney that relate to him should be withheld from federal investigators because of attorney-client privilege,” according to the Associated Press.
The day after the raid on his longtime personal attorney, Trump suggested that it shouldn’t even have happened because of attorney-client privilege.
Attorney–client privilege is dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
But Trump’s claim that Cohen only deals with “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work will likely complicate his lawyers’ efforts to shield seized documents from federal investigators in prosecutors.
Separately, Cohen told the judge he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to a civil lawsuit brought by Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who says she had an affair with Trump and is trying to nullify a $130,000 payment she received for for her silence just days before the 2016 election.
Trump acknowledged during the Fox & Friends interview that Cohen did represent him during his dealings with Daniels. Trump recently claimed he had no knowledge of the payment at the time.
“Michael would represent me and represent me on some things,” Trump said. “He represented me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. He represented me and you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
But Cohen’s story about the secret Daniels hush payment — which may have been illegal if it was meant to help Trump’s campaign — is that he made it from his personal funds, without Trump being looped in at all. Trump’s acknowledgement that Cohen “represented me” in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal” undermines the repeated public claims of his own lawyer.
At another point, Trump accused former FBI director James Comey of lying in memos he wrote about his interactions of Trump before he was fired. In them, Comey claims that Trump repeatedly told him he didn’t spend a single night in Moscow during his November 2013 trip there — a claim that if true, would represent an alibi for a salacious claim in an intelligence dossier about Russia having evidence that Trump engaged in sex acts with Russian sex workers during that trip.
“Those memos were about me and they’re phony memos, Trump said on Fox & Friends. “He didn’t write those memos accurately, he put a lot of phony stuff — for instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant. So, I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia. Now, everybody knows — the logs are there, the planes are there — he said, I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course I stayed. Well his memo said I left immediately — I never said that. I never said I left immediately.”
Trump was clearly agitated throughout the interview. After his ill-considered comments about Cohen, Fox & Friends hosts quickly steered him to talking about his bromance with Kanye West. But by the end of the interview, the conversation drifted back to Mueller and Trump’s frustrations with the ongoing investigation into himself and his campaign became clear once again.
“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI — it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t — our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me and Russia, and everybody knows it.”
Trump appeared to want to continue talking but the Fox News hosts, seemingly sensing he was doing himself no favors, cut him off and ended the interview.