Trump says he knew about payments ‘later’
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump said he found out "later on" that his lawyer Michael Cohen paid two women he allegedly had affairs with to keep quiet before the 2016 election.
Mr Trump told Fox & Friends that he was not a criminal because the money came out of his own pocket and not campaign finances.
"They didn't come out of the campaign. In fact, my first question, when I heard about it, [was] 'Did they come out of the campaign because that could be a little dicey,'" Mr Trump said. "It is not even a campaign violation."
"They didn't come out of the campaign; they came from me," he said.
Asked if he knew about the payments, Mr Trump responded that "later on I knew ... later on."
Mr Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis said in an interview on MSNBC that Mr Trump was "misstating the law."
"Donald Trump tweeted that it only is illegal if it's campaign funds, not if it's personal funds. That is completely false under the law," Mr Davis said.
"The interviewer didn't say, wait a minute, Mr President, it doesn't matter whether it's a campaign contribution, which you said is dicey, or whether you write a personal check," he said. "The campaign limitations under the law apply the same."
Mr Trump's critics have argued the case being made by the president that the payments to Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal were personal do not hold up given the timing - only weeks before the election.
Mr Trump took to his favourite social media platform to express some loaded remarks about Mr Cohen, tweeting that he would not recommend his former personal lawyer.
This comes as Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.
If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Mr Cohen's admission has thrown Mr Trump's presidency into crisis and raises questions about the President's own legal jeopardy.
TMZhas reported Mr Cohen will lose his right to practice law and will be disbarred in New York, after pleading guilty on eight federal counts, including tax evasion and campaign law violations.
Spokesperson for the Southern District of New York, Nicholas Biase, said "Mr. Cohen does lose his law license upon conviction, which technically does not occur until sentencing."
Perhaps more damaging for Mr Trump, though, is that Mr Cohen is reportedly willing to speak with Special Counsel Robert Mueller that his former boss knew about a "conspiracy to collude" with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"Mr Cohen wants to tell Mr Mueller that Mr Trump knew of an infamous 2016 meeting at Trump Tower and the Russian hacking of Democratic institutions before they took place", Mr Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis told MSNBC.
"Mr Cohen has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows," Mr Davis told the network.
"Not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on."
Mr Cohen's lawyer took to Twitter to accuse Mr Trump of inciting his client's crime.
"Today he (Cohen) stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election," Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, said on twitter.
"If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?"
Mr Trump and the White House have previously denied knowing about any of the payments organised by Mr Cohen.
Mr Davis said his client's guilty plea draws on a letter that Mr Trump's current lawyers sent special counsel Robert Mueller admitting the president "directed" Mr Cohen to make the Stormy Daniels hush-money payoff.
MICHAEL COHEN'S LAWYER ON WHAT HE KNOWS
"Let me make 100 per cent clear: the evidence was provided definitively by Donald Trump's lawyers," Mr Davis said. "It's not a dispute. It's not about credibility. It's his lawyers in a letter used the word directed."
Mr Cohen's plea in federal court in New York on Tuesday came at nearly the same moment that Trump's one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted by a jury in Virginia of financial crimes.
In a series of Tweets, the US President had nothing but praise for his former campaign chief.
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” - make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Manafort faces separate charges in September in the District of Columbia that include acting as a foreign agent.
Mr Trump has repeatedly denounced the probe as a "witch hunt."
The previous night, at a political rally in West Virginia, the president mostly ignored the legal developments and insisted that his administration was still "winning."
Mr Cohen and Manafort played prominent roles in Mr Trump's political rise in 2016.
Mr Cohen was known as Mr Trump's longtime private "fixer" and once he'd take a bullet for Mr Trump.
Mr Cohen released a secretly recorded audio of Mr Trump discussing a payout made via a third party to Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal who says she had a sexual relationship with Mr Trump in 2006.
Such a payment could be regarded as an illegal campaign expenditure if the money was clearly meant to influence the 2016 election.
In a deal with federal prosecutors, Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including tax evasion. He could get about four to five years in prison at sentencing December 12.
Manafort was convicted of eight felony counts, including charges of filing false tax returns and failing to report foreign bank accounts.
Prosecutors will decide whether to retry him on 10 other charges.
Manafort was a well-connected Republican consultant and lobbyist who prosecutors say made $60 million in foreign money working for Russia-backed politicians in Ukraine. He was campaign chairman for months during the Republican nomination battle in 2016.
At the West Virginia rally, he focused on developments on trade, taxes, North Korea and his plans for a space force.
"Where is the collusion?" he asked.
His supporters chanted Mr Trump's campaign staples "Drain the swamp!" and "Lock her up!" The White House is trying to keep the focus on the November election, when control of Congress is at stake.
This article was originally published in the New York Post and has been reproduced here with permission.