Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been in the dumpster for some time. As of Thursday, his average approval rating, as calculated by FiveThirtyEight, stands at 40.6 percent. But one of the few places where he can find a receptive audience is Fox News Channel–and particularly, “Fox & Friends.” Without fail, whenever Trump seems to be having a particularly rough time of it, he has a chat with the gang on the curvy couch.
This week was no exception. His nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Ronny Jackson, was in a death spiral. He’d just been publicly rebuked by his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, for his isolationist line. So Trump apparently thought a friendly chat on “Fox & Friends” would fix everything.
As expected, hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Killmeade let Trump be Trump. The result was predictable–a virtual stew of alternative facts and word salad. Watch here.
Trump ranted and raved about the investigation into Russia’s effort to hack the election, as well as the investigation into his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. Apparently sensing the start of a dumpster fire, Killmeade asked Trump what he thought about Cohen’s announcement that he was pleading the Fifth in the civil lawsuit Stormy Daniels has filed against him.
Trump replied that the Cohen investigation “has nothing to do with me.” That led Doocy to ask how much legal work Cohen did for Trump. The response?
“Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”
With just three sentences, Trump put himself and Cohen in a world of hurt. You may recall that during the raid on Cohen’s office earlier this month, Trump wailed that the raid was an attack on attorney-client privilege.
But federal prosecutors in Manhattan maintain that Cohen is a lawyer in name only, and therefore little privileged material was actually seized. By saying that Cohen doesn’t actually do much legal work for him, Trump sabotaged his own lawyers’ effort to wall off documents from the investigation.
More seriously, though, Trump cut the legs out from Cohen’s own explanation of his role in “facilitating” a payment of $130,000 to Daniels in return for her keeping quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen maintains he made that payment out of his own pocket, with no involvement from Trump. Trump himself maintained earlier this month that he knew nothing about the agreement.
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, didn’t take long to pounce. While speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Avenatti saw this statement for the Christmas gift that it was. Watch here.
In a colossal understatement, Avenatti said that this was “a very damaging admission” that “blows the entire argument we’ve heard for weeks out of the water.”
Federal prosecutors also pounced on this, using Trump’s own words to argue for the appointment of a “special master” to sift through the documents. Later that day, federal judge Kimba Wood appointed retired judge Barbara Jones to that post.
Later that day, Avenatti filed a motion on Daniels’ behalf to intervene in the federal investigation.
Daniels, through Avenatti, maintains that the non-disclosure agreement is void on several counts–including that it was an illegal end run around campaign finance law. That contention appears to have been bolstered by Trump’s admission that Cohen acted on his behalf.
Strangely, Trump is under the delusion that this interview went well.
No, Mr. Trump. It was a dumpster fire. And both you and Cohen got burned, and bigly.
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