Donald Trump’s attempt to limit the damage from the explosive Manafort and Cohen court cases has backfired after his “gibberish” response essentially amounted to an admission of committing a federal crime.
Speaking to his news network of choice, Fox News, on Wednesday the President once again tried to explain exactly what he knew about payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both paid to stay quiet about alleged affairs.
During the trial of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer”, Cohen said Trump authorised the payments so they wouldn’t hurt his chances of becoming president.
Despite previously insisting he knew nothing about the payments, Trump admitted to Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt that he was involved but because the money came from his own pocket it’s “not even a campaign violation”.
The exchange went (emphasis added:
EARHARDT: “Did you know about the payments?”
TRUMP: “Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did ― and they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing. That’s a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They came from me. I tweeted about it. I don’t know if you know, but I tweeted about the payments.
“But 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. They didn’t come out of the campaign, and that’s big. It’s not even a campaign violation.”
But if the money came from Trump’s own pocket then it amounts to an illegal loan to his campaign as he did not report the payment.
There’s also the issue that his latest statement contradicts an already long and contradictory series of statements from himself and his team about how much he knew about the payments.
He’s on tape denying all knowledge back in April...
However, in July Cohen released an audio recording of Trump discussing the payments before they were made.
Behind closed doors, Trump is said to have expressed worry and frustration that a man intimately familiar with his political, personal and business dealings for more than a decade had turned on him.
At a White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted at least seven times that Trump had done nothing wrong and was not the subject of criminal charges.
She referred substantive questions to the president’s personal counsel Rudy Giuliani, who was at a golf course in Scotland.