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In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, President Donald Trump said that “flipping”—in which defendants facing jail time cooperate with prosecutors by offering damaging testimony on others—should “almost” be considered illegal.
The interview, which aired Thursday morning, is Trump’s first since his onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of financial crimes and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to bank, tax, and campaign finance charges—on the same day. Cohen directly implicated the president, who he said “directed” him to commit the campaign finance violations, stemming from the lawyer’s hush-money payoffs to two of Trump’s alleged mistresses. In his interview with Fox News, Trump insisted the campaign finance charges Cohen admitted to are “not a big deal.”
Following Cohen’s guilty plea Tuesday, his lawyer Lanny Davis embarked on a media blitz, saying his client would never accept a pardon from Trump and would gladly tell special counsel Robert Mueller all he knew about possible Russian collusion. This apparently caused Trump to muse to Fox News that “flipping” “almost ought to be outlawed” and that it wasn’t “fair.”
“Because if somebody is going to spend five years like Michael Cohen or 10 years or 15 years in jail because of a taxi cab industry because he defrauded some bank—the last two were the tiny ones, you know the campaign violations are considered not a big deal frankly,” he told Earhardt.
Trump continued, “But if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that.” Trump then claimed these so-called “flippers” fabricate stories for their own benefit.
Trump, talking about the possibility of his former associates turning on him, says, “It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.” (via Fox) pic.twitter.com/zD8jlXmaxm
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 23, 2018
In the interview, the president again expressed his long-standing frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and hinted that he may intervene in a battle between the Justice Department and Trump’s conservative allies in Congress, who have been seeking internal documents in their ongoing bid to undercut the Russia probe. Trump said, “I didn’t want to, but I think I’m going to have to. There’s such corruption.”
When asked about the possibility that Democrats would seek to impeach him if they take back the House in November, Trump said he didn’t “know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.” He also suggested his removal from office would result in a severe economic downturn.
“I’ll tell you what, if I ever got impeached I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor because without this thinking,” he said, pointing to his head, “you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.”
President @realDonaldTrump: “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.” pic.twitter.com/3BZNpSzish
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 23, 2018
The interview was also notable for what it did not include. Despite telling Sean Hannity on Wednesday that the president had said he was considering a pardon of Manafort, that exchange did not appear during the version of the interview that aired Thursday.