President Trump gave his first television interview in the aftermath of the Paul Manafort verdict and the Michael Cohen guilty plea. The president sat down with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt Wednesday, August 22 at the White House. The full interview aired on Fox & Friends Thursday, August 23.
1. Trump: ‘I Don’t Know How You Can Impeach Somebody Who’s Done a Great Job,’ Predicts a Stock Market Crash if He Was Impeached
Ainsley Earhardt asked President Trump about the 2018 midterm elections. There is a chance the Democrats could regain control of the House of Representatives. She asked him if he was concerned that Democrats would try to impeach him, if they take back the majority. But the president did not appear overly concerned about that possibility. He laid out his argument:
“I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job. I’ll tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor. Because without this thinking, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe, in reverse… Even before the tax cut, right from the first day I got rid of regulation. I approved the pipelines, 48,000 jobs. I did a lot of things. Had Hillary and the Democrats gotten in, had she been president, you would have had negative growth.”
2. President Trump Insisted That Payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal Were Not Made with Campaign Funds
On Tuesday, August 21, Trump’s former lawyer and so-called “fixer” Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts. The charges included tax fraud, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations. Cohen explicitly implicated the president in court with this plea deal.
Cohen discussed the payments he made to two women who claimed to have affairs with Donald Trump: adult film star Story Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. He admitted that the payments were intended to influence the 2016 election, by keeping the alleged affairs quiet. Cohen told the court the hush payments were made “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” meaning Donald Trump.
In April 2018, President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he was not aware of the $130,000 payment Cohen made to Stormy Daniels. That story changed in May after Rudy Giuliani revealed to Sean Hannity on Fox News that Trump had reimbursed Cohen. The president attempted to clarify, by explaining that he paid Cohen a monthly retainer. Then in July, Cohen released a recording of a conversation with Trump, in which the two were discussing buying McDougal’s story.
The narrative changed again when President Trump sat down with Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News on August 22. Trump said Cohen arranged the payments to Daniels and McDougal. Earhardt then asked him directly if he had known about those payments. Trump answered:
“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 much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come out of the campaign.
They came from me and 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. And they didn’t come out of the campaign. And that’s big. It’s not even a campaign violation.”
Earhardt also asked about Trump’s relationship with Michael Cohen. The president downplayed their professional relationship, and criticized Cohen’s abilities as a lawyer.
“He was a lawyer for me for, one of many. They always say ‘the lawyer,’ and then they like to add ‘the fixer.’ I don’t know him as a fixer. I don’t know where that term came from. He’s been a lawyer for me. Didn’t do big deals, did small deals.
Not somebody that was with me that much. They make it sound like I didn’t live without him. I understood Michael Cohen very well. Turned out he wasn’t a very good lawyer, frankly. But he was somebody that was probably with me for about 10 years and I would see him sometimes.”
3. President Trump Expressed Sympathy for Paul Manafort But Did Not Specify Whether He Would Grant Manafort a Pardon
President Trump also discussed Paul Manafort during this exclusive interview. Earhardt asked if he would consider issuing a pardon for Manafort. He did not give a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Trump responded that he has great respect for Manafort, and that investigators “got him on things unrelated to the campaign.” He added that there was also no evidence of collusion.
To review: a federal jury found Paul Manafort guilty on eight of 18 counts on Tuesday, August 21. Manafort, who previously served as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, was convicted on five tax fraud charges, two counts of bank fraud and one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts. The judge declared a mistrial on the other 10 counts. Manafort is 69 years old, meaning he could spend the rest of his life behind bars for these crimes. But a sentencing hearing was not yet scheduled because Manafort’s trial battle is only half over.
Manafort has another case ahead of him in September. He’ll face a different jury in Washington, D.C. on charges that include conspiracy, lying to the FBI and failing to register as a foreign agent.
4. Trump: The Only Reason I Gave Jeff Sessions the Attorney General Job Was Because of Loyalty
President Trump slammed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Trump said to Earhardt:
“Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was gonna recuse himself, and then you wouldn’t have put him in. He took the job and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, what kind of a man is this? And by the way, he was on the campaign. The only reason I gave him the job, was because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter. He was on the campaign. He knows there was no collusion.”
5. Trump Referenced the Murder of ‘Beautiful Young Girl’ Mollie Tibbetts and That ‘We’re Building the Wall’
The president talked about the murder of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts. The suspect accused of killing her, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, has been identified as an illegal immigrant. President Trump said this was an example of why the United States needs to build a wall and strengthen immigration laws. Trump said:
“Mollie is this beautiful young girl… She was killed by a horrible person that came in from Mexico, illegally here, found by ICE, whose abused by Democrats and the left. Without them, you might not be sitting here so comfortably right now. I just think it’s so sad. We’re building the wall, it’s already started. We’ve spent $3.2 billion on it. We’re asking for $5 billion in this year’s funding. The wall is going up, a lot of people don’t know it. I’d like to build it even faster but dealing with the Democrats is very tough. The immigration laws are horrible. We’re doing an incredible job, we’re doing a record-breaking job but we have bad laws. You know, when you have bad laws you can do good but you can do a lot better if you have good laws.”