In a fiery call-in appearance on Fox & Friends Thursday morning, President Trump sounded off on multiple controversies — attacking his own Justice Department, defending the newly withdrawn nominee to head the Veteran’s Administration, and detailing his personal attorney’s legal troubles.
He also acknowledged for the first time that Michael Cohen represented him in dealings with the adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Trump, his tone heated, his words coming fast, slammed the Justice Department for its handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, while insisting that he has not intervened in its operations — yet.
“So I’m very disappointed in my Justice Department,” he said. “But because of the fact that it’s going on, and I think you’ll understand this, I have decided that I won’t be involved. I may change my mind at some point because what’s going on is a disgrace. It’s an absolute disgrace. And, and, by the way, the only collusion is the collusion with the Democrats and the Russians.”
Trump also defended his former nominee to run the Veterans Administration, White House doctor Ronny Jackson, who withdrew himself for consideration just a short time earlier Thursday.
“Doc Ronny . . . he’s an admiral, highly respected, a real leader,” Trump said.
The president blamed Democrats for torpedoing Jackson’s nomination with smears against his character and for using delaying tactics to postpone appointment of nominees for other offices.
Conversely, he had praise for his own party. “We have great people in the Republican party,” he said.
Trump also lauded his own performance as president and his efforts to “drain the swamp” of entrenched interests in Washington. “I would give myself an A-plus,” he said.
In the wake of reports Wednesday that Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a lawsuit filed by adult film star Stormy Daniels, Trump defended Cohen, while acknowledging for the first time publicly that the lawyer helped the then-candidate on the matter.
“He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” Trump said in the call. “He represented me, and you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this, which would have been a problem.”
Earlier this month, the president denied knowing that Cohen had arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels in the final days before the 2016 election. The White House has insisted on several occasions that Daniels’s claim she had sex with Trump in 2006 were untrue.
In Thursday morning’s call, Trump asserted that Cohen is “a good guy” and that his personal legal troubles have nothing to do with the president.
“Michael is a good person,” he said. “Let me just tell you that Michael is a — in business — he’s really a businessman, and fairly big businesses [as] I understand it. I don’t know his business, but this doesn’t have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business. He also practices law. I would say, probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business.”
Trump also gave himself credit for warming relations with North Korea, even as he left much ambiguity about the planned meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. “It could be that I walk out quickly — with respect, but it could be,” he said.
“It could be that maybe the meeting doesn’t even take place. Who knows?”
The earlier rhetoric between himself and Kim, Trump acknowledged, had gotten personal.
“Look, it was very, very nasty, you know, with ‘Little Rocket Man,’ and with the buttons and—you know, ‘my button’s bigger than’—everybody said, ‘This guy’s going to get us into nuclear war.’”
The president insisted, though, that it was earlier, “weak” administrations that had brought the two nations closer to a potential nuclear conflict.
“This should have been settled long before I came into office,” he said. “This is a much different ball game than if they did it five or 10 or 20 years ago. This is a much more dangerous ball game now. But I will tell you it’s going very well.”