President Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Thursday that his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is representing him with regards to legal matters involving Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she had an affair with Trump.
On Cohen, the President both solidified his link with Cohen on the Stormy Daniels matter and distanced himself from his personal attorney, whom Trump said has overseen “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work. But in the process, the President may have inadvertently boosted the arguments of prosecutors who have said that communications between the two men shouldn’t be considered confidential under attorney-client privilege provisions.
“He has a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction, but Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. You know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
The revelation, which came after Cohen asserted his Fifth Amendment rights in the matter, was just one snippet of a rambling, half-hour long phone interview on “Fox & Friends,” during which the President railed against the FBI and his own Justice Department, rehashed issues involving Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign and addressed plans for a summit with the North Korean leader.
The President appeared animated and agitated during much of the interview, which was reminiscent of his frequent phone-in interviews during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump was especially animated about the developments involving his attorney and the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian interference in 2016 and the saga involving his nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson.
“Doc Ronny – you know, we call him Doc Ronny, we call him Admiral Ronny. He’s an admiral, highly respected, a real leader,” Trump said Thursday. “You know, these are all false accusations that were made. These are false and they’re trying to destroy a man. By the way, I did say welcome to Washington. Welcome to the swamp. Welcome to the world of politics.”
From there, Trump jumped to slamming the former FBI director James Comey as a “leaker” and a “liar,” before pivoting to slamming CNN as “fake news” and accusing the Justice Department – which is led by his political appointees – of not “doing their job.”
“I’m very disappointed in my Justice Department but because of the fact that it’s going under, and I think you’ll understand this, I have decided that I won’t be involved. I may change my mind at some point because what’s going on is a disgrace,” Trump said.
Federal prosecutors quickly seized on Trump’s comments in a court filing Thursday morning, arguing that because Cohen preformed only a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of Trump’s legal work, the documents seized by FBI officials earlier this month are “unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents.”
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, also seized on Trump’s comments shortly after the interview concluded.
“Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen previously represented to the American people that Mr. Cohen acted on his own and Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement with my client, the $130k payment, etc. As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false,” Avenatti tweeted.
Trump suggested that a lawyer probably advised Cohen to plead the Fifth, adding, “I hope he’s in great shape.”
Cohen filed court papers Wednesday indicating he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the Daniels case. He cited FBI raids of his residence, office and hotel room and the seizure of “various electronic devices and documents in my possession,” in his filing in US District Court in Los Angeles.
Cohen and his attorney, Brent Blakely, have argued that the Daniels civil case should ultimately be sent to private arbitration.
Cohen has acknowledged paying Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an alleged affair between her and Trump. The White House has said Trump continues to deny that he had an affair with Daniels and the President told reporters earlier this month that he didn’t know about the payment.
Trump also addressed preparations for his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, revealing that his CIA Director Mike Pompeo was not initially scheduled to meet with Kim when he headed to Pyongyang earlier this month to lay the groundwork for the summit.
“He wasn’t supposed to meet with Kim Jong-Un, but he did,” Trump said. “They got along. They were with each other for, you know, more than an hour. They spoke and he also spoke with his counterparts in North Korea. They had a great meeting. He then left.”
Trump said the timing and location of the summit has yet to be finalized, with five locations and “three or four dates” under consideration.
CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz and Evan Perez contributed to this report.