WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said in an interview released Wednesday that he found out “later on” that his former personal attorney Michael Cohen paid two women to keep quiet about alleged affairs with Trump, contradicting Cohen’s statements in court a day earlier.
Cohen said in a statement while formally pleading guilty to fraud charges and campaign finance violations that he oversaw one payment to porn film actress Stormy Daniels and another to former Playboy model Karen McDougal “at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” widely understood to be Trump.
But when asked by “Fox and Friends” anchor Ainsley Earhardt in an interview, a clip of which was released Wednesday, whether he knew about the payments, Trump responded that “later on I knew…later on.”
Trump argued that because the payments did not come from the campaign itself, there was no violation of campaign finance laws. He also told Earhardt he paid Cohen back personally, though prosecutors said Cohen was reimbursed by the Trump Organization.
“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,’” Trump said. “It is not even a campaign violation.”
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said in an interview on MSNBC that Trump was “misstating the law.”
“Donald Trump tweeted that it only is illegal if it’s campaign funds, not if it’s personal funds. That is completely false under the law,” Davis said.
“The interviewer didn’t say, wait a minute, Mr. President, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a campaign contribution, which you said is dicey, or whether you write a personal check,” he said. “The campaign limitations under the law apply the same.”
The documents describing the charges to which Cohen pleaded guilty say that he broke federal law by exceeding the limit of $2,700 for personal campaign contributions because the hush money was intended to influence the election.