Trump: Cohen Made A Deal To "Embarrass" Me, Reduce Prison Sentence; "He Was OK on Television"

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President Trump is interviewed by FOX News host Harris Faulkner on Thursday's edition of 'Outnumbered Overtime.' Trump reacted to the sentencing of his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen and his 46 percent job approval rating.

Transcript, via FOX News:

HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS: The New York Times is saying that a tabloid publisher's deal to hush money is now endangering Trump even more. I'm paraphrasing a little bit. You know, as you look at this, what do you want the nation to know about your former attorney being sentenced yesterday?



PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have to go check. I don't think they even paid any money to that tabloid, OK. I don't think we've made a payment to that tabloid. I was asking the question last -- I don't think we made a payment.

And then you have the other situation and every lawyer -- look, Trump didn't violate campaign finance laws and neither did the president -- Trump (inaudible). So they're saying that...

FAULKNER: Oh, wait. I interviewed him on my program the other day.

TRUMP: OK.

FAULKNER: The (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: He's another one. Michael Cohen plead guilty to something that's not even a crime.

FAULKNER: So...

TRUMP: Wait a minute. These are campaign -- nobody except for me would be looked at this like -- nobody. What about Congress? Where they have a slush fund and millions and millions of dollars is paid out each year. They have a slush fund -- millions. They don't talk about campaign finance or anything. Have you ever heard a campaign finance list (ph)? Have they listed that on their campaign finance sheets? No.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Number one, they say it's not a campaign finance violation. Number two -- or it's not even under campaign finance -- number two, if it was, it's not even a violation. Number three, it's a civil matter.

You know, President Obama had a really big one from ten times more money -- much more money, and you know what? He paid a fine. I'm the only one that this happens to.

FAULKNER: So Robert Ray, former special counsel for Whitewater...

TRUMP: He's a good man.

FAULKNER: ... was telling me on the program yesterday what you're saying, that if this happens, he said, you know, he couldn't see grounds for impeachment over that. He couldn't see grounds for indictment over that. That's his opinion, but it's an...

TRUMP: Nobody can.

FAULKNER: ... informed opinion that I've seen that there's not settled (ph) law in that anyway. But I...

TRUMP: These are the people that ran the FEC, Federal Elections Commission. These are people writing stories that Trump did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.

FAULKNER: So, Mr. President, let's get into, if we can, Michael Cohen. He was your attorney. Three years he was sentenced yesterday. And it may seem like he got a break because it could have been twice as much, but it's still three years in federal prison, $500,000 in restitution. This was someone who surreptitiously recorded you...

TRUMP: Terrible.

FAULKNER: ... is now known as a criminal liar, yet this is someone who was in your inner circle.

TRUMP: Yes, well it happens. I mean look, it happens. I hire usually good people, but it just happens.

FAULKNER: Why did you hire Michael Cohen? He was known as a fixer.

TRUMP: Years ago, I'll tell you what, first of all...

FAULKNER: That was his title, a fixer.

TRUMP: He did very low level work.

FAULKNER: Why did you need him?

TRUMP: He did more public relations than he did law. But he did -- so if you'd see him on television, he was OK on television, but years ago, many years, like 12, 13 years ago, he did me a favor. He was on a committee and he was so responsive and so good. And I said, he's a nice guy. I should...

(CROSSTALK)

FAULKNER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. That was the favor?

TRUMP: Years ago.

FAULKNER: Because, people have been asking, well, what is the favor that he did the president? He was on a committee with you.

TRUMP: Oh no, he was on a committee. It was a condominium committee many years ago, and he was a very big supporter of mine on that committee. I did a great job, Trump World Towers, a very tall building right opposite the United Nations. And when you build a building people always get together at the end and they make a settlement with the owner. They say the ceiling wasn't painted the right color or something. You know, sometimes serious stuff, but in my case it was a great building.

And he was on the committee. I thought he was a great guy. I thought he was really a nice guy. He was very supportive. And I liked him, and he was a lawyer, and because of that, I did it.

And you know what, in retrospect, I made a mistake. Because what he did was all unrelated to me, except for the two campaign finance charges that are not criminal and shouldn't have been on there.

They put that on to embarrass me. They put those two charges on to embarrass me. They're not criminal charges, number one.

Now, that's according -- Harris, that's according to the top people.

FAULKNER: And I've interviewed people who've told me this. So if (ph) you watch the program you know.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: So what happened is either Cohen or the prosecutors, in order to embarrass me, said, listen, I'm making this deal for reduced time and everything else, do me a favor, put these two charges on. They're not criminal charges.

FAULKNER: Right.

TRUMP: And they weren't for President Obama either.

FAULKNER: I want to move on.

I have one last question. Michael Cohen says that he lied in order to protect you. What's your response to that?

TRUMP: Let me tell you, I never directed him to do anything wrong. Whatever he did, he did on his own. He's a lawyer. A lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing. That's why you pay them a lot of money, et cetera, et cetera. He is a lawyer. He represents a client. I never directed him to do any incorrect or wrong. And he understands that.

Look, he did some bad things, unrelated to me, maybe related to his other clients. I wasn't his only client; he had other clients. He did some bad things and -- income tax evasion. I heard about taxi cab -- I heard about a lot of things. Now, I'm not reading about any of that stuff, because what he did is he made a deal to embarrass me. In order to embarrass me, they cut his term down. Pretty terrible stuff.

Let me tell you the other thing, his father-in-law is a very rich guy, I hear. His father-in-law, I thought, was the guy that was the primary focus. Well, what did he do? Did he make a deal to keep his father-in-law out? Did he make a deal to keep his wife, who supposedly -- maybe I'm wrong -- but you can check it, did he make keep -- make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble?

Now, how many people, when they say, "Listen, if you embarrass the President of the United States we'll give you a deal, your father-in-law, your wife, we'll cut you a deal." That's all it is. It's a terrible system we have. It's going on right now with General Flynn. The FBI said he didn't lie.

FAULKNER: I saw you tweet on that about...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: But Mueller said he did lie. So they took a man who's a general and a respected person and a nice man -- and I don't even know what he said about me, because maybe they scared him enough that he'll make up a story, but I have a feeling that maybe he didn't; he's a tougher kind of guy than Cohen. But they took a general that they said didn't lie and they convinced him he did lie, and he made some kind of a deal.

And now they're recommending no time. You know why? Because they're embarrassed that they got caught.

FAULKNER: All right, let's move on. So you mentioned Ohio, so I'm going to bring up John Kasich, and I'm going to bring up Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, because they say they may run against you in 2020.

TRUMP: I hope so.

FAULKNER: But look at the new Fox polling today, which has your -- your approval rating at 46 percent, which is just a couple tics off of your highest point in Feb of '17.

TRUMP: It was higher than Obama.

FAULKNER: What -- what is your...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: (Inaudible) higher than Obama.

FAULKNER: What is your reaction today to getting that number? It's still below 50, but 46 percent approval.

TRUMP: Well, I think it's amazing, because I only get bad news. I only get bad stories. You look at the paper, it's all nonsense. It's campaign contributions that if it were -- even the campaign contribution is totally legal. You look at stories one after another, they're all legal. The great lawyers that do that stuff are saying there's nothing illegal.

FAULKNER: All right, we'll get to that in a second...

TRUMP: No, no, but wait a minute. I mean, I get such bad news. So when you tell me I'm at 48 -- like Rasmussen, I was at 50 in Rasmussen. When you tell me I'm at 50 percent, I say, how can I possibly be at 50 percent?

When I open up China, like I'm doing right now, nobody reports it. Now, the Wall Street Journal...

FAULKNER: Well, we're talking about it.

TRUMP: Yes -- well, that's because, you know, I'm here and we're talking about it.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: But, no, it's on the front page now of The Wall Street Journal...

FAULKNER: Yes.

TRUMP: ... because there's never -- nobody's ever seen anything like this. But it won't be a big story on NBC, or ABC, or CBS, and CNN won't even cover it; you know, that's total fake news.

FAULKNER: What do you say to these men who think they have a shot in 2020 and you're sitting at 46, and it really hasn't moved all that much. And let's be honest, there's been some bumpy trails along the way. And weathering that with this type of approval rating, what do you say to a...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think I have the greatest base in the history of politics. I have people that I love and that love me, frankly. That includes a lot of women. I've got a tremendous percentage of women last time, remember? I wasn't going to get women; I wasn't going...

FAULKNER: I interviewed some of the women for Trump, yes.

TRUMP: Yes. I get women that -- they're the greatest, and I have tremendous women support. But if you remember the last election, I was worried I wouldn't get one women in the United States to run, and I got tremendous -- I mean, Hillary wish she had my numbers, OK. Hillary got trounced with women.

And I'll tell you something, the news and the polls are really fake, but I have the greatest base in history, because the 46 and 48 percent, those people, they never wavered. In fact it was your poll, and, frankly, Fox has always giving me a bad poll. I don't know why that is but...

FAULKNER: Really?

TRUMP: ... I think they've treated me fairer than most, but the polls have always been lousy.

FAULKNER: But there's positive news in this though.

TRUMP: No -- well the economy was really positive. I just saw the poll. The economy was very -- look, I've done a good job on the economy, but I've done a very good job on foreign relations. We're respected again as a nation.

(BREAK IN COVERAGE)

FAULKNER: I had the pleasure of meeting your chief Of staff this morning, General Kelly, and I know you're getting ready to make a position change there. You've said some glowing things about him this week. What are you looking for in the next chief of staff?

TRUMP: Well, I want somebody that's strong, but I want somebody that thinks like I do. It's my vision -- it is my vision after all. At the same time, I'm open to ideas.

We've had an incredible run. Nobody's done what I've done, and what this administration has done in the first two years, and we're not even that close to two years. We have a ways to go.

And something interesting, I just see this in the front page of The Wall Street Journal which just came out. China opened -- it's going to open its policy, a big policy shift. They're going to open the whole country, that they want to please President Trump, that they want to do things that they have to do and that people should have been after China for years, I mean frankly.

And I've established a fantastic relationship with President Xi, who's the head of China, the absolute head of China, and I think we're going to work a fantastic deal for both countries, but a fantastic deal for us. We're going to get China to open up.

FAULKNER: So, let's spend just a moment talking about the economy right now, because this goes along with the reporting that there has been a little bit of movement during this 90-day ceasefire. How are things going with what you have with China and the tariffs and all of that?

TRUMP: So, we had a tremendous meeting. It lasted for four hours. It was in Argentina during the G20. I met with President Xi at the end. And we had a fantastic meeting. It was just a great meting.

FAULKNER: What makes it fantastic?

TRUMP: The relationship that I have...

FAULKNER: I mean, what's that conversation like?

TRUMP: But what really makes it fantastic, is that we have placed tremendous tariffs on China, that when China sends things in to America now, they're paying 25 percent interest on everything they send in. And we've only gone to a certain tranche (ph), $250 billion. It's 25 on the first $50 billion, and then it's 10 on the rest. But it goes to 25 on January 1st.

But I released them of that temporarily until the end of the 90 days to see whether or not we could make a deal. But just one thing, after that, I have an additional $267 billion worth of taxes essentially to put on China. And they don't want that. That would be devastating for China. And they have now agreed to go and buy soybeans, tremendous amounts of soybeans. You see that already happening.

FAULKNER: So, that helps take the pressure off the American economy a little bit in terms of how it's...

TRUMP: Well, I don't think there is any pressure. Everyone's doing so well. I mean, there's not a lot of pressure. If you look at unemployment numbers they're the best in 50 years. If you look at African-American unemployment...

FAULKNER: Yes.

TRUMP: ... Hispanic unemployment, Asian unemployment...

FAULKNER: Lots of bright spots that you're talking about...

TRUMP: Best numbers ever. Best numbers ever.

FAULKNER: So, the Dow Jones though, and the S&Ps, the markets, it's been said, well, if you take credit for when they're soaring, you have to take credit for fixing...

TRUMP: Sure.

FAULKNER: ... them when they're not. So, we're at a point where we have lost the gains on the Dow for 2018. But in your presidency, we're up nearly 25 percent...

TRUMP: Yes, 33 percent even...

FAULKNER: ... in that. So, do you feel -- or what is your strategy, if you will, for bringing it back at this point?

TRUMP: Well, I have a very simple strategy. We were up almost 40 percent, and we had lost a little of that because of trade. I mean, I am doing great trade deals.

FAULKNER: And you're willing to do that. That's different. Is it risky?

TRUMP: Yes. Well, I'd rather do it when we're up 40 percent and now let's take a little bit off the table and fix it, because we cannot continue to lose $500 billion a year to China. And I had a fantastic meeting with President Xi.

This was a four-hour meeting where everything was agreed on. Now if we get it down in paper, that'll be another story. But I think we will.

FAULKNER: Yes.

TRUMP: We have great strength. Nobody's ever done what I've done. I went in...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I went in, Harris, and I said, look, we're going to tax all of your product. And by the way, if you saw the study that just came out, America is paying for 4 percent and China is paying for 21 percent.

FAULKNER: Is their economy in trouble?

TRUMP: It's not even affecting -- it's not even affecting us. You look at inflation, it's very low. Hopefully the Fed won't be raising interest rates anymore, because if you compare us to, as an example, President Obama, he had zero interest rates. Anybody can make money with zero interest rates.

I'm almost at a normalized interest rate. And yet, our economy is soaring. Our jobs are soaring. Our businesses are doing tremendously. Apple just announced they're going to be investing billions of dollars in this country. That just happened.

FAULKNER: So, two follows -- two quick follows. Is China's economy in trouble? And have you kind of gotten in -- the timing is interesting. Like it's been auspicious, you've kind of gotten in there when they would capitulate.

TRUMP: Well, China is -- no, it's -- look, I have greater respect for President Xi. He's not a capitulator. But I will tell you this, China's economy, if it's in trouble, it's only in trouble because of me. That's the only reason it's in trouble, because I've placed billions and billions -- we have taken in $11 billion worth of taxes that I taxed China -- $11 billion. We haven't made any money with China; we lost money with China.

In the last four months, we've taken in almost $11 billion of taxes. Nobody's ever heard of that. Nobody knows that. People don't report on that; they only report on nonsense.

FAULKNER: I -- I love this. Because I hadn't planned to ask this, but you're calling out companies and whatnot, and the nation got to see you as GM said, you know what? We're going to wipe away 15 percent of the workforce right before Christmas And you said, I want to talk to Ms. Barra.

TRUMP: Yes. I told her I don't like what you did. I think it's...

FAULKNER: Yes, the CEO Ms. Barra.

TRUMP: ... it was nasty. It doesn't really matter, because Ohio is under my leadership from a national standpoint. Ohio's going to replace those jobs like in two minutes. But I don't like that General Motors does that. And they're going down to Mexico to make cars?

Now, the new deal, the USMCA that I made, really makes it very uncomfortable for people to go out of the country, and it will be very uncomfortable for them. I think she's making a big mistake. They've changed the whole model of General Motors. They're going to all electric. All electric's not going to work. I don't run a car company, but all electric is not going to work. It's wonderful to have it as a percentage of your cars, but going into this model that she's doing, I think, is a mistake.

But to tell me a couple of weeks before Christmas that she's going to close in Ohio and Michigan, not acceptable to me. And she's either going to open fast or somebody else is going to go in. But General Motors is not going to be treated well.

FAULKNER: All right.

This is your wheelhouse, everybody knows this, and we see the energy and the electricity as you talk about these issues. The economy though is big, so are there other areas -- and I want to move on to other things here -- but real quickly, are there other areas that you want to focus on as you go into 2019?

TRUMP: Well, I'm focusing on everything. I mean, I think my strength thus far, even more than the economy -- and the economy, by the way, will get incredible when I make the deals with China, with Mexico and Canada, when they all kick-in -- but...

FAULKNER: Why are you so confident about that?

TRUMP: Because I know what I'm doing. I mean, it's business. Nobody ever went to China and said, "Listen, you're stealing our intellectual property. You're doing all sorts of things that are wrong. You're taking out of our country $500 billion a year, not trillion, not -- not million, you're taking away -- $500 billion away; you can't do it. You can't take $500 billion out of our country."

FAULKNER: So when they threaten to put more tariffs on us, you're not worried about that?

TRUMP: No, because what's happened is the disparity is so great. We do $525 billion with them; they do $100 billion with us. So they do five times more. It's really more than that. We charge them very little tax.

Let me tell you what just happened. They just lowered the tariff on their car from 40 percent to 15. It's not acceptable; 15 is still too high. We -- but it's still a big move.

FAULKNER: But -- but better. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: ... yesterday.

By the way, you know what we charged them? Two and a half. Now, you know what we charge them? Twenty-five percent.

FAULKNER: All right, let's move I'm being told I have to wrap with you, and I wanted to do a few rapid fire. So, can I just do one?

TRUMP: Just one.

FAULKNER: What do you love about being president?

TRUMP: I love getting things done for the people. It's a nasty job because I get hit so hard, so unfairly by so many, and I mean really unfairly. When you look at what we've done with taxes, what we've done with regulations, what we've done with China and national defense, and so many other things. Including the environment -- did you see last year, we were the only country that had fewer emissions, despite the success of...

(CROSSTALK)

FAULKNER: Your critics would say things differently.

TRUMP: Oh no, because -- hey, the Paris Accord...

FAULKNER: So when you get up in the morning, and you say, I get to go do this, what you love?

TRUMP: Let me tell you, the Paris Accords not working out too well for Paris. Take a look at what's happened over there.

FAULKNER: France is struggling on a (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Because of the Paris Accord, that whole country is burning down, OK? So -- and I was the one that kept us out of the Paris Accord. If I was in the Paris Accord, we would be paying trillions of dollars, trillions of dollars for nothing, and I wouldn't do that. And my people love the job I'm doing.

FAULKNER: Yes, you have such energy for this.

TRUMP: Do I have a choice?

FAULKNER: Well, yes you do, actually. You do, not every president would have worked six and seven out on a campaign trail.

TRUMP: You know I work hard, but...

FAULKNER: Some don't, but you do.

TRUMP: You know what, I like to say I work hard, but hopefully I work smart, because I know a lot of people, they work -- you have to work smart too, and we're doing great. The country is doing great, and we're respected again.

FAULKNER: All right, I'm being told we have to wrap, but I'm hoping to come back at some point.

TRUMP: I would love that.

FAULKNER: And you and I traded a lot of papers, and it's been a good conversation. Thank you, sir.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Harris.

FAULKNER: In the Oval Office a few moments ago, very fun, I got to see a little bit of things here. So thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

FAULKNER: Appreciate it.

TRUMP: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

FAULKNER: God bless you and your family, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

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