President Donald Trump on Thursday placed all the blame on his former personal attorney Michael Cohen for any campaign finance violations that may have resulted from hush money payments during his 2016 election campaign.
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Trump tweeted. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. ... That is why they get paid.”
Federal prosecutors said in a court filing last week that during the campaign, Trump directed Cohen to pay off women who alleged they had sex with Trump while he was married to his wife, Melania.
The first payment in question ― $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels ― violated campaign finance laws against donations of more than $2,700 in a general election, according to prosecutors.
The second payment under legal scrutiny is $150,000 made by American Media Inc. to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal, which prosecutors say constituted an illegal corporate donation to Trump’s campaign. The National Enquirer’s parent company was chaired at the time by Trump’s longtime confidante, David Pecker.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors revealed American Media has admitted that “its principal purpose” in paying McDougal was to “suppress” her story about an alleged affair with Trump for the explicit purpose of influencing the election.
On Thursday, Trump denied the payments were related to “campaign finance,” though both Cohen and American Media have told federal prosecutors the payments were meant to improve the then-candidate’s chances of victory in the 2016 election.
“Those charges were just agreed to by [Cohen] in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did,” Trump tweeted.
Later Thursday, Trump sat for an interview with his favorite TV network, Fox News, in which he was asked why he hired Cohen in the first place.
“First of all, [Cohen did] very low-level work,” Trump claimed. “He did more public relations than he did law. ... He was OK at television.”
The president explained that he brought Cohen on as his personal “fixer” about 12 or 13 years ago, after serving on a condominium committee together.
“He was so responsive and so good, and I said, ‘He’s a nice guy,’” Trump told Fox News. “He was very supportive, and I liked him, and he was a lawyer, and because of that I [hired him]. And you know what? In retrospect, I made a mistake.”
This article has been updated to include Trump’s comments to Fox News.