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Cohen crimes ‘totally unrelated to the campaign,’ says Trump

President Trump today reiterated his belief that he is not implicated by the guilty pleas of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The president expressed frustration that he should be associated with Cohen’s crimes, saying they were “totally unrelated to the campaign.” Also, another longtime Trump friend is reportedly preparing to share additional information about the hush money payments Cohen made.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump spent much of today defending himself from the fallout following convictions this week of both his former personal lawyer and his former campaign chairman.

    Striking back, Mr. Trump took aim at some now familiar targets.

    As the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller continue their probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the president took aim at his attorney general.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I put an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions, never took control of the Justice Department.

    And it's a — sort of an incredible thing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jeff Sessions fired back in a statement writing, "I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in. While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

    The war of words is set against the backdrop of a week's worth of court appearances, guilty pleas, and convictions of confidants close to Mr. Trump.

    In the latest twist, multiple news outlets report that federal prosecutors have granted legal immunity to David Pecker, the chairman of American Media, Inc., The National Enquirer's parent company.

    In exchange, Pecker, a longtime friend of the president, will reportedly provide information about hush money paid by President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, to silence two women from disclosing alleged affairs with Mr. Trump.

    On Tuesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to several crimes, including making illegal campaign contributions at the direction of Mr. Trump. The president insisted again today that he is not implicated.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They got Cohen on totally unrelated to the campaign. I'm not involved. I wasn't charged with anything. People don't like to say that, but I wasn't charged.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He criticized Cohen's guilty plea, referred to it as flipping, cooperating with prosecutors, something he said that almost ought to be illegal.

    But he said he had great respect for his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who was convicted of eight counts of tax and bank fraud.

    One of the jurors in Manafort's weeks-long trial told FOX News there was a single holdout juror who prevented a unanimous verdict of conviction on 10 other deadlocked charges.

    Paula Duncan, a Trump supporter, who says she kept her "Make America Great Again" hat in her car every day, voted to convict.

  • Paula Duncan:

    The public, America, needed to know how close this was. And the evidence was overwhelming. I didn't want Paul Manafort to be guilty, but he was. And no one's above the law.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    At the White House today, the president didn't respond to reporters' questions whether he would grant Manafort a pardon. His current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says the president asked about it weeks ago, but they recommended against.

    And several leading Republicans, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, have also warned Mr. Trump against that action.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

    I mean, you have to actually earn a pardon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, The New York Times reports other Republicans are telling vulnerable GOP incumbents to speak out, with Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole saying — quote — "Where there's smoke — and there's a lot of smoke — there may well be fire."

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