President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE on Thursday distanced himself from his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, saying a federal criminal investigation is focused on Cohen’s business dealings and not his work for the president.
“This has nothing to do with me,” Trump said during a telephone interview on “Fox & Friends,” a show he frequently watches. “I’m not involved and I’ve been told I’m not involved.”
Trump, however, admitted Cohen worked on his behalf to reach a nondisclosure agreement with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. The White House has repeatedly denied the president slept with Daniels.
Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 just before the 2016 presidential election as part of the agreement, a payment of which Trump previously said he had no knowledge.
“Like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me and you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this,” Trump said.
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said on MSNBC that Trump’s comments are “hugely damaging” because they appear to reveal that the president had some knowledge of the payment.
“No,” Trump told reporters earlier this month when asked if he knew about the payment, adding that “I don’t know” the source of the money.
The Daniels payment is said to be under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, who are looking at a wide range of Cohen’s business activities.
The FBI raided Cohen’s office, hotel room, house and safe deposit box on April 9 and agents reportedly seized reams of documents related to Cohen’s work for Trump.
But Trump insisted that his legal exposure is not large as many people believe.
“Michael is a businessman, he’s got a business, he also practices law,” Trump said. “They're looking at something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business.”
The president said he has many lawyers and that Cohen handled just a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work.
Cohen has argued in federal court that documents seized in the FBI raid related to his work for the president should be protected by attorney-client privilege, a claim that could be undercut by Trump’s comments.
Federal prosecutors in New York filed paperwork shortly after Trump’s interview citing his statements as evidence “the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents.”
While Trump tried to distance himself from Cohen, some of his allies believe the probe poses great legal risks for Trump.
He has employed Cohen as a lawyer and fixer for more than a decade, making him privy to many details about the president’s past.
Cohen also worked as an executive at the Trump Organization on business deals, some of which have come under scrutiny in the Russia investigation.
Trump spoke after Cohen said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a lawsuit involving Daniels, something the president once said only the “mob” does.
Asked why Cohen would plead the Fifth, Trump said he was likely trying to protect his businesses interests and acting on the advice of his attorneys.
Trump snapped at a reporter earlier this week who asked whether he would consider pardoning Cohen, calling it a “stupid question.”
This story was updated at 12:38 p.m.