(CN) – President Donald Trump said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning that his attorney Michael Cohen represented him “with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” pivoting from his previous denial of any knowledge about a nondisclosure agreement with the adult film star who says she had an affair with Trump.
In a wide-ranging interview that went on for about an hour, Trump mentioned he’d forgotten to buy First Lady Melania Trump a birthday present and also called FBI officials under James Comey’s tenure “crooked.” Trump appeared to hit a nerve with Fox hosts as he ventured into topics related to the federal investigation of Cohen.
“Michael would represent me, and represent me on some things,” Trump said in a phone interview with hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade. “He represents me— like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”
Trump’s admission is the first time he has offered evidence of his knowledge of Cohen’s dealings with Daniels. He had previously said Cohen acted on his own and that he wasn’t aware of the $130,000 Cohen paid to Daniel.
Daniels, given name Stephanie Clifford, signed a nondisclosure agreement with Cohen just before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
“From what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump said in regards to the criminal investigation of his personal attorney. “There were no campaign funds going in.”
Trump previously told reporters aboard Air Force One he had no knowledge of the payment to Daniels or where the funds came from.
The connection seemed to cut out at that point Thursday morning and the Fox hosts ended the interview, saying they were sure Trump had work to do.
Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti responded to Trump’s admission, tweeting: “Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen previously represented to the American people that Mr. Cohen acted on his own and Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement with my client, the $130k payment, etc. As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false.”
Cohen is under federal criminal investigation in New York. FBI agents raided his office, home and hotel room on April 9, seeking records about the payment to Daniels. Special precautions are being taken since Cohen is an attorney for the president, such as allowing a “filter team” to determine which documents may be off limits to investigators.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in New York ruled Thursday that she will appoint a neutral special master to help determine which materials, if any, seized in FBI raid are subject to attorney-client privilege.
Cohen’s attorneys argue that a bulk of the document seized by federal authorities is protected by attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors, on the other hand, have argued that very little in the batch of documents represented protected legal work Cohen performed for Trump.
On “Fox & Friends,” Trump characterized Cohen mainly as businessman who “also practices law.” His off the cuff remarks quickly became part of ongoing legal proceedings.
Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York noted Trump’s summation of Cohen in a letter filed before a hearing Thursday on updates to the status of the materials seized in the April 9 raid.
Documents uncovered in the raid, linking Cohen to real estate work for Fox host Sean Hannity, coupled with Trump’s statement, “suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents,” according to the letter.
The characterization supports prosecutors’ argument that Cohen is mainly an informal fixer and deal-broker who practices very little law.
“How much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?” Doocy asked the president during the “Fox & Friends” interview.
“As a percentage of my overall legal work, [he did] a tiny, tiny little fraction,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments boost the prosecution’s arguments and undermine the claim by Cohen’s attorneys that privileged documents must be filtered out in a review by a neutral party.
Daniels is asking U.S District Judge James Otero in Los Angeles to invalidate the confidentiality agreement she signed before the election because Trump never signed it.
She said she would return the $130,000 if the agreement was nullified.
Cohen’s attorneys have accused Daniels of violating the confidentiality clauses more than 20 times and said she could be liable for $1 million in damages for each violation.
Cohen has also asked Otero to delay the Daniels case in light of the FBI raid and criminal investigation.
In a hearing last Friday in Los Angeles federal court, Otero said there were “gaping holes” in Cohen’s request for a delay.
Cohen filed court papers Wednesday saying he will assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in that case.