White House press secretary Sarah Sanders distanced President Trump from attorney Michael Cohen at Friday’s briefing, hours after court filings confirmed that Cohen is under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York.
When asked whether Trump continues to have confidence in Cohen, Sanders responded, “I know that the president has worked with him as a personal attorney. Beyond that, I don’t have anything else.”
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that, in addition to arranging a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, Cohn helped facilitate a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model on behalf of Trump confidant Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Sanders was asked whether Trump still held Cohen in confidence. “I would refer you to Mr. Cohen’s personal attorney,” she replied.
In a follow up question, another reporter asked whether Cohen was still the president’s personal attorney.
“I’m not sure, Jill,” Sanders, who came to the briefing armed with pre-written statements that anticipated questions about former FBI director James Comey’s new memoir, said. “I’d have to check.”
Cohen has been a focal point for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government. That inquiry spurred a raid on Cohen’s offices and New York hotel room, the seizure of his files and computers as part of a separate FBI investigation into Cohen’s business dealings.
Although usually identified as Trump’s attorney, Cohen also has extensive holdings in real estate and the taxi business, which are believed to be part of the investigation. On Friday, Cohen asked a Manhattan judge to block the review of the documents seized by the FBI, arguing that some of them may be protected by attorney-client privilege.
Cohen has made a point of proclaiming his loyalty to Trump in public. While Sanders’s chilly comments suggested the White House was putting some distance between them, the New York Times reported Friday that Trump called Cohen privately to “check in.”
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