President Donald Trump, amid the worst week of his presidency, sat down for a friendly interview with “Fox and Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt to make his case. As so often happens when Trump is backed into a corner, he lashed out at, well, everyone.
I went through the transcript of the interview Fox released this morning. Trump’s quotes – and my thoughts on them – are below.
1. “And I guess you could say that our numbers in winning whether it’s for the Senate, or for Congress, or for governor has been very good.”
And away we go! To be clear: Every traditional predictor of election outcomes suggest Republicans will take a battering in the House and at the governors level. The Senate, because the playing field is heavily tilted toward Republicans, could be more favorable to Trump’s side.
2. “I’ve always had controversy in my life and I’ve always succeeded. I’ve always won. I’ve always won.”
Two notes here: a) he’s right – his entire life has been controversial and b) he only sees things through the lens of winning or losing. There is no other measure of success or failure. If you win, you were right.
3. “They like to cover nonsense.”
Trump is talking about the media here, insisting the press doesn’t cover the good economic news of his administration. (Not true!) Earhardt’s response to that attack on the media – of which she is, theoretically, a part? “Right.” Good times.
4. “Well I don’t know if he was a fixer. I don’t know where that term came from.”
Well, Michael Cohen, at the direction of Trump, set up a shell company and negotiated payoffs to two women – Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal – who alleged they had affairs with Trump. And remember that the way Cohen and Trump met was Cohen took Trump’s side in a dispute with tenants in one of his buildings. You could say Cohen has “fixed” more than one problem for Trump.
5. “But he was somebody that was probably with me for about 10 years and I would see him sometimes.”
This is a dramatic underplaying of Cohen’s closeness to Trump over that decade, according to what we know about the two men’s relationship. Anytime Trump had a problem that needed fixing – and that happened fairly frequently – he turned to Cohen to fix it. Cohen was involved therefore in some of the most delicate situations in Trump’s world – including paying hush money to women making allegations about affairs.
6. “He made the deal. He made the deals.”
This is Trump’s response to Earhardt asking him whether he directed Cohen to make the payments to Daniels and McDougal. Which, of course, isn’t a denial at all. The issue is not who “made the deals,” but who directed the deals to be made.
7. “Those two counts aren’t even a crime. They weren’t campaign finance.”
What Trump doesn’t know about campaign finance law is, um, a whole lot. He seems to believe that because he didn’t give money to Cohen from the 2016 campaign account that it was totally fine to dole out tens of thousands of dollars to silence women making allegations about a candidate for president. Which it isn’t. What Trump did is effectively make a campaign loan to Cohen to handle a problem for him. He never disclosed that loan. And we know for a fact that Cohen has testified that Trump “directed” and “coordinated” him to make the payments for the express purpose of influencing the election.
8. “Later on I knew. Later on.”
Trump’s “later on” response about when he found out about the payments that Cohen made to Daniels and McDougal simply doesn’t jibe with what he has said in the past. In April, on Air Force One, Trump had this exchange with a reporter:
Like what you're reading?
Reporter: “Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”
Reporter: “Then why did Michael Cohen make [the payment], if there was no truth to her allegations?”
Trump: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael.”
Reporter: “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”
Trump: “No I don’t know.
What’s remarkable is Earhardt’s follow-up to this clear lie by the President of the United States is “Why is Cohen doing this?” Really knocking it out of the park.
9. “If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation but he had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot differently.”
Apples and oranges. Or, more accurately, apples and kumquats. Like, not even in the same universe.
It is true that Obama’s campaign was fined a hefty $375,000 by the FEC in 2013 for failure to file 48-hour contribution reports – donations made within the final weeks of a campaign – that totaled $1.3 million. The oversight was discovered in an audit of the Obama campaign.
Compare that fine to what is alleged here: A candidate for president directed the end-run of campaign finance laws in hopes of suppressing allegations made by women about romantic dalliances. He did so, according to Cohen, with the express purpose of influencing the election.
Yes, so, no.
10. “But what Michael Cohen pled to weren’t even campaign related. They weren’t crimes.”
Again, Trump simply doesn’t understand – or is choosing not to understand – campaign finance laws. Simply because the money he paid to Cohen wasn’t from the campaign’s coffers doesn’t mean it wasn’t a crime. Cohen literally pleaded guilty to two campaign finance crimes on Tuesday. Like, does Trump not think the Southern District of New York is aware of what the laws surrounding campaign finance are? [Narrator voice: They are.]
11. “And they put the two counts of campaign violations in there but a lot of lawyers on television and also lawyers that I have say, they’re – they’re not even crimes.”
Name one. Seriously.
12. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they – they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”
“According to a 1981 FBI memo, Trump offered to ‘fully cooperate’ with the bureau, proposing that FBI agents work undercover in a casino he was considering opening in Atlantic City. FBI agents even prepared an ‘undercover proposal concerning the TRUMP casino’ that senior agents and Trump planned to discuss, according to the document.”
13. “It – it a