Cohen: Trump Knew He Was Breaking Law With Payments

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Former presidential attorney Michael Cohen claims that President Donald Trump knew he was violating the law when he instructed his attorney to arrange two payments to women alleging affairs with him during the 2016 presidential campaign, in a Friday morning interview with ABC News.

“Of course,” Cohen replied when asked if Trump had knowledge of the payments and their illegality. Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to a litany of charges, including two related to allegedly circumventing campaign finance law at the direction of Trump.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Cohen declared.

“COHEN made or caused two separate payments to women to ensure that they did not publicly disclose their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate in advance of the election,” the Department of Justice said in its sentencing release.

Trump directly refuted Cohen’s claims in court on Twitter, saying Thursday:

Trump later claimed in a Fox News interview that Cohen had agreed to the guilty plea in order to embarrass him. “Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president. He knows the truth. I know the truth,” Cohen said in response.

The president’s tweets lay out Trump’s likely legal strategy in combatting Cohen’s claims to the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York. The president maintains that if any laws were broken they were at the direction of Cohen without his own knowledge and that he did not knowingly or willingly violate any laws.

DOJ also revealed Wednesday that it had a cooperation agreement with American Media Inc. (AMI), the organization which owns the National Enquirer. DOJ noted that “AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.”

AMI’s cooperation with DOJ indicates that the Southern District of New York is interested in pursuing a legal case against Trump.