President Donald Trump joined Fox News host Harris Faulkner for an interview Thursday afternoon in no small part to defend himself against the accusation that he was implicated in a crime when his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced for campaign finance violations. One of the things he threw out there was the idea that Cohen pleaded guilty to keep his wife and “rich” father-in-law out of legal trouble.
As The New York Times‘ Michael Grynbaum noted, Trump provided “zero evidence” for his claims.
The Southern District of New York (SDNY) and Cohen have both said that Trump “directed” Cohen to commit campaign finance violations by arranging hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump echoed what he had said in earlier Thursday tweets, claiming that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law” and that Cohen was “supposed to know the law.” Trump said that, actually, no crimes were committed and that Cohen pleaded guilty to “embarrass” him.
“Whatever he did, he did on his own,” Trump said of Cohen. Then came the allegation that Cohen was protecting his wife and her “rich” father from legal trouble by pleading guilty. For what it’s worth, Cohen was not entirely forthcoming with the SDNY and did not have a formal cooperation agreement, which could be because he wanted to avoid being prosecuted for more crimes — or didn’t want others to be implicated (Cohen claimed he didn’t want to be bound by a long-term agreement that would burden his family).
In any case, Trump went there.
“His father-in-law’s a very rich guy, I hear,” Trump said, speculating that maybe Cohen was trying to keep “his wife [and her father] out of trouble.”
It’s not the first time Trump has asserted this publicly without backing it up.
“‘Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.’ You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free,” he tweeted on Dec. 3, 2018. “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”
Cohen did say when he “flipped” on the president he was doing so to “put his family and country first.”
[Image via Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images]