Trump: “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 the big thing. 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. You know, I put — I don’t know if you know but I tweeted about the payments. But they didn’t come out of 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. But they weren’t — that’s not a — it’s not even a campaign violation. If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation but he had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot differently.”
There’s so much wrong here. Let’s go through it point by point.
1. Trump says he knew about the payments — $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, $150,000 from American Media Inc. to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal — “later on.” That runs directly counter to what Trump said in April when asked about the Cohen payment to Daniels. Here’s that exchange:
Reporter: “Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”
Reporter: “Then why did Michael Cohen make [the payment], if there was no truth to her allegations?”
Trump: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael.”
Reporter: “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”
Trump: “No I don’t know.”
If you can’t figure out how all of these statements can be true, I’ll solve it for you: They can’t.
Compare that fine to what is alleged here: A candidate for president directed the end-run of campaign finance laws in hopes of suppressing allegations made by women about romantic dalliances. He did so, according to Cohen, with the express purpose of influencing the election. That’s not even in the same universe as a candidate’s campaign being fined for not correctly reporting $1.3 million in donations from the final days of an election.
The Point: Trump, at some level deep down, knows that Cohen’s plea deal — specifically as it relates to the hush money payoffs — is a big, big problem for him. But he also knows one tactic when backed into a corner: Fight like hell with whatever you can lay your hands on. That’s what this response to Fox News amounts to. Unfortunately for Trump, none of these punches land. In fact, he whiffs badly on them all.