President Donald Trump’s 30-minute phone interview with Fox & Friends on Thursday morning covered a lot of ground, from Kanye West to North Korea, but the president angry rant might cause him problems in ongoing federal investigations.
Trump admitted staying overnight in Moscow in 2013 during Miss Universe
That’s hardly a big deal, except the detail lends itself to unsubstantiated claims first made in the Christopher Steele dossier, an opposition research document compiled ahead of the 2016 presidential election that alleged collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
According to the dossier, written by a former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, the Russian government obtained compromising blackmail material on Trump after a stay in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel involving prostitutes.
“I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two,” Trump said. “Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course I stayed.”
While the apparent confirmation of Trump’s stay is hardly an acceptance or final proof of the lewd allegations of sexual antics involving urine, which the president denies, the tweaked narrative runs counter to the story which he allegedly told former FBI director James Comey: that he had not stayed overnight in Russia.
Trump took the opportunity on Thursday to once again blast Comey, who he fired last year, as a liar.
“I went to Russia for a day or so, for a day or two, because I owned the Miss Universe pageant, so I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow,” Trump said. “So I go there to Russia. Now ‘I didn’t go there’—everybody knows, the logs are there, the planes are there, and [Comey] said I didn’t stay there at night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course I stayed. Well his memos said, ‘I left immediately.’ I never said that!”
However, regardless of the Trump-Comey subplot, federal investigators looking into the allegations of campaign collusion may keen to look a little closer at what exactly happened and whether the controversial research dossier might be accurate in its claims.
Trump said Cohen represented him through the ‘crazy Stormy Daniels deal’
Trump also tried to distance himself from his attorney Michael Cohen, whose office was recently raided by federal authorities as part of a corruption investigation.
“I don’t know his business, but this doesn’t have to do with me,” Trump said in the interview. “Michael is a businessman, he’s got a business.”
When hosts pointed out that Trump had utilized Cohen’s services for many years, the president claimed that the lawyer only performed “a tiny, tiny fraction” of the billionaire business man’s legal work.
Trump did acknowledge, however, for the first time, that Cohen had represented him throughout the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.” Cohen reportedly made a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels one month before the presidential election in 2016, part of a maneuver that was an attempt to cover up an alleged affair she’d had a decade earlier with Trump.
“[Cohen] represented me with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” Trump admitted. “He did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Trump has always claimed that he did not know about any hush payment, and had repeatedly deferred questions to Cohen.
The porn star’s lawyer Michael Avenatti, currently assisting her in legal proceedings against Trump and Cohen, described the comment as “hugely damaging” on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“Another gift from the heavens in this case,” he said. “They keep coming. I don’t know how I’ve fallen into such good luck in this case, but I’m going to take it.”
Trump threatened to throttle the Russia investigations
When asked to rate his presidency, before awarding himself an A+, Trump denounced the ongoing investigations against him and complained that federal authorities should be concentrating on the misdeeds of his political enemies.
“A horrible group of deep-seated people are coming up with all sorts of phony charges against me and they’re not bringing up real charges against the other side,” he said.
Then, he hinted that he might just seize the Justice Department in a bid to stop its current priorities in investigating collusion and interference allegations to divert those energies in a way that would suit his own political agenda.
“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it’s a disgrace,” he ranted. “And our Justice Department—which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t—our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me and everyone knows it.”
Luckily for Trump, Fox News ushered him off air before he could say any more. Arguably their intervention came a little too late.