Donald Trump said he would make America great. Now, engulfed in escalating scandal, he is warning that if he is removed from office, it could make America break.
"I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job. I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash," the president said in a "Fox & Friends" interview that aired Thursday.
"I think everybody would be very poor because without this thinking" — he pointed at his head — "you would see ... numbers that you wouldn't believe, in reverse." (See video clip here.)
No serious impeachment move is yet afoot, but Trump was asked to respond to the potential for such an effort if Democrats win the House in November. Given doubts about whether a sitting president could be indicted and tried, impeachment is seen as a more likely route if special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation concludes with accusations of criminal conduct, such as conspiracy or obstruction of justice.
Michael Cohen's implication of Trump in violating campaign-finance law creates another possible impeachment path. Cohen said in his guilty plea that Trump directed him to make secret hush-money payments to two women who said they were sexually involved with him a decade ago.
In the interview, Trump sought again to distance himself from Cohen, his former personal attorney who appears to be shopping around more inside dirt on the president to prosecutors.
“They make it sound like I didn't live without him,” Trump complained. He described Cohen as a “part-time” employee he “didn’t see as much.” For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Trump's aggrievement with Cohen and others who have turned on him, or might yet, metastasized into an attack on the common practice of prosecutors flipping witnesses, a crucial law-enforcement tool for fighting a wide range of criminal activity, from political corruption to business fraud to drug cartels to gangs to espionage to terrorism.
"It almost ought to be outlawed," Trump said. "It's not fair."
Mueller has multiple cooperating witnesses in his probe.
"Thirty, 40 years, I have been watching flippers," Trump said. "Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go."
Et tu, Pecker?
There's so much flipping going on, it's like a gymnastics meet. Longtime Trump pal David Pecker, chief executive of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, was granted immunity by Manhattan federal prosecutors for providing information about Cohen, Trump and the hush money payments, The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair reported.
"I thought Pecker would be the last one to turn," a Trump friend said to Vanity Fair.
Pecker told prosecutors that Trump was aware of the payments, according to the Journal, even as the president continues to insist he was not. The Enquirer's role was pivotal. Prosecutors said that in August 2015, Pecker offered to help Cohen find negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women and arrange to buy and bury them so they were never published. The practice is known as “catch and kill.”
The Associated Press reports that the Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on the payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its relationship with Trump.
After the first news reports surfaced in late 2016 about the arrangement with former Playboy model Karen McDougal, Pecker and another top executive removed the documents from the safe. The AP reported it is unclear whether the documents were destroyed or simply moved to a location known to fewer people. Enquiring minds will want to know.
Trump heaped more abuse on Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the Fox interview, asking, “What kind of man is this?”
The nation's top law enforcement officer has been in Trump's doghouse since he recused himself from the Russia investigation, which Trump wanted overseen by a loyal subordinate who would protect him. Now Trump is more broadly complaining that the Justice Department under Sessions goes after Republicans, not Democrats.
"I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department,” Trump said.
Sessions barked back. "I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President's agenda," he said in a statement. Sessions declared that while he's attorney general, the department's actions "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."
Pro-Trump juror: No doubt on Manafort guilt
Paula Duncan, one of the jurors who convicted Paul Manafort of tax and bank fraud, is a Trump supporter who said she drove to court every day with a red MAGA hat in the back seat. She even echoes Trump in calling the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt." But the evidence showed the former Trump campaign chairman was guilty, Duncan said in an interview with Fox News.
"I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t,” Duncan said.
Were it not for one holdout juror, Duncan added, Manafort would have been found guilty on all 18 counts. The panel was unanimous on eight counts, and the judge declared a mistrial for the 10 counts for which the jury was 11-1 for conviction. Mueller's prosecutors need to decide by next week whether to try Manafort on those again.
Holding on to get-out-of-jail cards
There were conflicting reports and signals over whether Trump might pardon Manafort. Ainsley Earhardt, who conducted the Fox interview, said Wednesday night that Trump told her he “would consider” it. But she backtracked Thursday, indicating it was an impression she got from other Trump remarks.
Then The Washington Post reported, based on an interview with Rudy Giuliani, that Trump asked his lawyers several weeks ago for their advice on the possibility of pardoning Manafort. But Giuliani told Fox that Manafort's name did not come up specifically in the discussion.
Both stories say the lawyers counseled Trump to hold off on any pardon decisions until the Mueller investigation is over.
What else is happening:
- Giuliani, speaking to Britain's Sky News while at a Trump golf resort in Scotland, said that if Trump was impeached, "the American people would revolt."
- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo joined a growing call by Democrats to enact a state law that would allow anyone pardoned of crimes by a president to still be subject to prosecution under state law, reports Newsday's Michael Gormley. But legal experts said that power in state law already applies to the cases of Cohen and Manafort.
- The Trump administration has laid down rules aimed at preventing residents in New York and other high-tax states from avoiding a new $10,000 cap on widely popular state and local tax deductions.
- The nation’s top education officials are mulling whether to use federal money earmarked for academic enrichment and student support to buy guns for schools — a proposal that key New York State officials rejected, reports Newsday's Zachary R. Dowdy.
- The Senate overwhelmingly passed an $857 billion spending package on an 85-7 bipartisan vote, and Republican leaders hope it will convince Trump to back down from threatening a government shutdown in September, Politico reported.
- Echoing false claims promoted by white nationalists and aired Wednesday night by Fox's Tucker Carlson, Trump tweeted Wednesday night that he was asking the State Department to look into the "large-scale" killing of farmers in South Africa amid seizures of white-owned farmland.
- Vice President Mike Pence spoke to NASA workers in Houston about the Trump administration's drive to establish a permanent U.S. presence around the moon in the early 2020s before eventual voyages to Mars.