In an in-depth interview with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt on Thursday, President Trump spoke at length about the legal cases that formed the bulk the media’s diet this week: The conviction of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and the plea deal negotiated by Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer. In the interview, Trump pointed out that neither case implicated his campaign or himself personally in any crimes. While he had nothing but praise for Manafort, Trump was disdainful when it came to Cohen, whom he said was a “flipper” telling tales out of school to save himself from years of prison time.
“He makes a better deal when he uses me, like everybody else,” Trump said of Cohen. “And one of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial—you know they make up stories. People make up stories. This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. 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.”
On the implication that Cohen’s payment to Stormy Daniels (and Trump’s eventual reimbursement) constituted campaign finance fraud, the president was dismissive.
“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly,” he said. “But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two or three years, which is the deal he made.
“In all fairness,” he continued, “most people are going to do that. I’ve seen it many times. You get 10 years in jail, but if you say bad things about somebody in other words, make up stories if you don’t know. Make up. They just make up lies. I’ve seen it many times.”
Trump acknowledged that he found out about the payment Cohen made to Daniels at a later time but insisted that neither the original money nor the reimbursement funds came out of the Trump campaign’s treasury.
“Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me,” Trump said. “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. And they didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big. But that’s not even a campaign violation.”
Whether it was or it wasn’t remains to be determined, but Trump is right in saying that it’s not a terribly big deal either way. The feds made it into a big deal in the case of Cohen because they want to pressure him into turning over on his former boss and they want to convince the media that the witch hunt is actually a legitimate investigation that reaches all the way into the Oval Office. They were successful on both counts, it would appear.
Whether they will successfully convince the American people, however, is quite another matter.