President Donald Trump acknowledged Thursday that his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is representing him in a hush money deal involving porn star Stormy Daniels and the President, while distancing himself from Cohen’s decision to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the matter.
But by insisting in a “Fox & Friends” interview that Cohen did “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work, the President may have inadvertently boosted the arguments of prosecutors who have said that communications between the two men shouldn’t be considered confidential under attorney-client privilege provisions.
During a half-hour call-in appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Trump said he has been told he is “not involved” in the case against Cohen. Thursday’s comments are the first time Trump has publicly acknowledged that Cohen is representing him in the Daniels case. Previously, Trump deferred questions on the matter to Cohen.
“He has a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction, but Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. You know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Prosecutors have argued in federal court that because Cohen has few clients and has done little legal work, there wouldn’t be a lot of privileged information in documents seized by the FBI earlier this month.
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, seized on Trump’s comments shortly after the interview concluded.
“Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen previously represented to the American people that Mr. Cohen acted on his own and Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement with my client, the $130k payment, etc. As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false,” Avenatti tweeted.
Trump suggested that a lawyer probably advised Cohen to plead the Fifth, adding, “I hope he’s in great shape.”
Cohen filed court papers Wednesday indicating he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the Daniels case. He cited FBI raids of his residence, office and hotel room and the seizure of “various electronic devices and documents in my possession,” in his filing in US District Court in Los Angeles.
Cohen and his attorney, Brent Blakely, have argued that the Daniels civil case should ultimately be sent to private arbitration.
Cohen has acknowledged paying Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an alleged affair between her and Trump. The White House has said Trump continues to deny that he had an affair with Daniels and the President told reporters earlier this month that he didn’t know about the payment.