Adviser: Trump 'probably right' on disputed 9/11 claim

Story highlights

  • Cohen said the argument over numbers of people celebrating is misplaced, and that Trump was making a broader point about enemies within the U.S.
  • The Trump aide also issued a warning to the Republican Party over trying to go after real estate mogul

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump and his camp are standing behind disputed claims the presidential candidate made about people in New Jersey celebrating after the 9/11 attacks, with a top aide saying Tuesday that the mogul is "probably right" about what happened.

Trump over the weekend and through Monday repeatedly said that he saw on TV American Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on Sept. 11, 2001, as the Twin Towers fell, a claim that fact-checking publications have called false. Though there were some reports of celebrations investigated by police, there is no record of any such footage being aired on television or anything to suggest "thousands" celebrated, as Trump suggested.
    On Tuesday, Trump's chief counsel, Michael Cohen, stood by the comments, even as he was pressed by CNN's Chris Cuomo on the fact that there's no evidence to back up the claims and that accuracy matters in a presidential race.
    "He's probably right," Cohen said of Trump on "New Day." "There's no way to say that it wasn't."
    Cohen said the argument over the number of people celebrating is misplaced, and that Trump was making a broader point about enemies within the United States.
    "Whether it's thousands and thousands or 1,000 people or even just 1 person, it's irrelevant. To celebrate this tragedy ... it's wrong," Cohen said. "What the exact number is, I don't know, and I don't think it's relevant. What's important is that there are bad people among us."
    Cohen also pointed to social media as backing up Trump, saying an immeasurable number of Trump's "millions and millions of followers" on social media have said they recall seeing the same thing. He also noted the FBI has confirmed there are investigations into ISIS suspects in all 50 states.
    Trump has been widely countered by politicians from New York and New Jersey. And on Monday his presidential opponent Ben Carson stepped into his own media kerfuffle when he claimed at a midday event that he also recalled seeing the footage of Americans celebrating only to walk that back later in the day and claim he was confused.
    Footage did air on television of celebrations overseas, which is what Carson later said he was referring to.
    Cuomo and Cohen did not discuss Trump's claim on Monday that he was able to see people jumping from the World Trade Centers from his home more than 4 miles uptown.

    Warning for the RNC

    As Trump continues to dominate the GOP primary in virtually every poll, Cohen issued a warning to the Republican Party over trying to go after Trump.
    Super PACs are reportedly stepping up their spending to oppose Trump, and Cohen and Trump have indicated they could consider that effort a nullification of Trump's pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee and forgo an independent run if it's not him.
    "It changes everything," Cohen said.
    Cohen said Trump demands to be "treated fairly," and said that even if the Republican National Committee isn't directly behind the negative advertising, it could be held responsible.
    "(Chairman) Reince Priebus has an obligation to Donald Trump in order to treat him fairly, make sure the process treats him fairly, and if they don't, this will be a very, very bad thing for the Republican Party," Cohen said.