As he so often does, President Trump falsely declared on “60 Minutes” that North Korea and the United States were going to war before he stepped in to thwart it.
Interviewer Lesley Stahl was having none of it. “We were going to war?”
Trump immediately retreated to safer ground, expressing a view rather than trying to assert a fact: “I think it was going to end up in war,” he said, before moving on to his “impression” of the situation.
The 26-minute interview that aired Oct. 14 was typical Trump — bobbing and weaving through a litany of false claims, misleading assertions and exaggerated facts. Trump again demonstrated what The Fact Checker has long documented: His rhetoric is fundamentally based on making statements that are not true, and he will be as deceptive as his audience will allow.
.. Trump resorting to all of his favored moves to sidestep the truth.
.. On Stahl’s first question, about whether Trump still thinks climate change is a hoax, the president dodged by saying “something’s happening.” He then completely reversed course and declared that climate change is not a hoax and that “I’m not denying climate change.”
.. Trump also falsely said the climate will change back again, even though the National Climate Assessment approved by his White House last year said that there was no turning back. He said he did not know whether climate change was man-made, though the same report said “there is no convincing alternative” posed by the evidence.
.. Trump did his usual shrug when asked whether North Korea is building more nuclear missiles. “Well, nobody really knows. I mean, people are saying that.” Among the people who are saying that are U.S. intelligence agencies, who have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile and is instead working to conceal its weapons and production facilities.
.. Even when he adjusts his rhetoric, at times contradicting what he has just said, Trump almost always appears to believe firmly in what he is saying.
.. On trade, the president continues to suggest that deficits mean the United States is losing money: “I told President Xi we cannot continue to have China take $500 billion a year out of the United States.”
That’s wrong. The trade deficit just means Americans are buying more Chinese products than the Chinese are buying from the United States, not that the Chinese are somehow stealing U.S. money.
.. Trump also continues to misstate the trade deficit with China. It’s not $500 billion, as he told Stahl; it was $335 billion in 2017
.. Curiously, he denied to Stahl that he ever said he was engaged in a trade war with China, even though he has said and tweeted it many times, including on Fox News last week.
.. He also falsely said that “the European Union was formed in order to take advantage of us on trade.” That’s a misreading of history, at best. The E.U. got its start shortly after World War II as the European Coal and Steel Community — an early effort to bind together bitter enemies such as Germany and France in a common economic space to promote peace.
.. Trump surfaced another old favorite knock on U.S. allies — “we shouldn’t be paying almost the entire cost of NATO to protect Europe.” Actually, the United States pays 22 percent of NATO’s common fund. Trump keeps counting U.S. defense spending devoted to patrolling the Pacific Ocean and other parts of the world as part of NATO funding.
When it was pointed out that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a former general who served in the military for 44 years, says he believes NATO had kept the peace for 70 years, Trump sniffed, “I think I know more about it than he does.”
.. Questioned about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump conceded that “they meddled.” But he added, “I think China meddled, too.” When Stahl said he was “diverting the whole Russia thing,” Trump insisted he was not. “I’m not doing anything,” he demurred. “I’m saying Russia, but I’m also saying China.”
There is no evidence China engaged in the same disinformation effort as Russia, which intelligence agencies have said was designed to swing the election toward Trump.
.. Finally, Trump continued his habit of mischaracterizing what his predecessor did. He claimed that Barack Obama “gave away” the Crimea region of Ukraine, when actually Russia seized it and Obama then led an effort to impose sanctions in response.
.. In one of the testier back-and-forths, Trump tried to shut down Stahl with one line that was indisputably true: “I’m president,” he said, “and you’re not.”
In May 2011, Daniels agreed to tell her story to a sister publication of In Touch magazine for $15,000 dollars. Two former employees of the magazine told us the story never ran because after the magazine called Mr. Trump seeking comment, his attorney Michael Cohen threatened to sue. Daniels says she was never paid, and says a few weeks later, she was threatened by a man who approached her in Las Vegas.
.. Stormy Daniels: I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. T– taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin’ all the stuff out. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.” And then he was gone.
Anderson Cooper: You took it as a direct threat?
Stormy Daniels: Absolutely.
Stormy Daniels: I was rattled. I remember going into the workout class. And my hands are shaking so much, I was afraid I was gonna– drop her.
Anderson Cooper: Did you ever see that person again?
Stormy Daniels: No. But I– if I did, I would know it right away.
Anderson Cooper: You’d be able to– you’d be able to recognize that person?
Stormy Daniels: 100%. Even now, all these years later. If he walked in this door right now, I would instantly know.
Five years later, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president.
Stormy Daniels: Suddenly people are reaching out to me again, offering me money. Large amounts of money. Was I tempted? Yes– I struggle with it. And then I get the call. “I think I have the best deal for you.”
Anderson Cooper: From your lawyer?
Stormy Daniels: Yeah.
The deal was an offer not to tell her story. It came from Mr. Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen. In return for signing this non-disclosure agreement, Cohen would pay her $130,000 dollars through a Delaware-based limited liability corporation he had established in mid-October 2016 called essential consultants. Daniels says the agreement was appealing because it meant she would receive some money but also not have to worry about the effect the revelation of the affair would have on her child who was now old enough to watch the news. She signed the agreement eleven days before the election.
Anderson Cooper: Was it hush money to stay silent?
Stormy Daniels: Yes. The story was coming out again. I was concerned for my family and their safety.
Anderson Cooper: I think some people watching this are going to doubt that you entered into this negotiation– because you feared for your safety. They’re gonna think y– that you saw an opportunity.
Stormy Daniels: I think the fact that I didn’t even negotiate, I just quickly said yes to this v– very, you know, strict contract. And what most people will agree with me extremely low number. It’s all the proof I need.
Anderson Cooper: you feel like if you had wanted to go public, you could have gotten paid a lot of money to go public–
Stormy Daniels: Without a doubt. I know for a fact. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, in my heart, and some people argue that I don’t have one of those, but whatever, that I was doing the right thing. I turned down a large payday multiple times because one, I didn’t wanna kiss and tell and be labeled all the things that I’m being labeled now
.. 15 months after she signed the non-disclosure agreement, in January 2018, the Wall Street Journal published this story, quoting anonymous sources, saying that Mr. Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen had paid her for her silence. Daniels says she was not the source of the story. But once it was published, she says she was pressured by her former attorney and former business manager to sign statements that Michael Cohen released publically, denying she’d had an affair with Mr. Trump.
.. Anderson Cooper: So you signed and released– a statement that said I am not denying this affair because I was paid in hush money I’m denying it because it never happened. That’s a lie?
Stormy Daniels: Yes.
Anderson Cooper: If it was untruthful, why did you sign it?
Stormy Daniels: Because they made it sound like I had no choice.
Anderson Cooper: I mean, no one was putting a gun to your head?
Stormy Daniels: Not physical violence, no.
Anderson Cooper: you thought that there would be some sort of legal repercussion if you didn’t sign it?
Stormy Daniels: Correct. As a matter of fact, the exact sentence used was, “They can make your life hell in many different ways.”
Anderson Cooper: They being…
Stormy Daniels: I’m not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen.
.. Trevor Potter: It is. If he was then reimbursed by the president, that doesn’t remove the fact that the initial payment violated Cohen’s contribution limits. I guess it mitigates it if he’s paid back by the candidate because the candidate could have paid for it without limit.
.. Anderson Cooper: Michael Cohen has said, “Look, this had nothing to do with the election.” He would’ve made this agreement months before.
Michael Avenatti: So why didn’t he? It just slipped his mind? It’s just a coincidence that, in the waning days of the campaign, he thought to himself, “Oh, you know, I know I’ve been thinkin’ about this for years. Perhaps now is a good time to get that NDA executed with Stormy Daniels.”
.. He also says the non-disclosure agreement Stormy Daniels signed in 2016, when she was represented by a different lawyer, was FedExed to Cohen at his Trump Organization office in Trump Tower in New York.
.. The cover letter from Daniels’ previous attorney also identifies who he thought Michael Cohen was working for.
Michael Avenatti: To Mr. Cohen as executive vice president and special counsel to Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization, again– listing the 5th Avenue address. this idea that there’s a separation now between Mr. Cohen, individually, and the Trump Organization or Mr. Cohen, individually, and Donald Trump, it– it– it’s nonsense.
.. Michael Avenatti: This is about the cover-up. This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy.
.. Avenatti points to this recent court filing in which the president’s lawyers claim Daniels is already liable for damages “in excess of $20 million” for unspecified violations of her non-disclosure agreement. And in that article in Vanity Fair this past week, Michael Cohen said that when he wins damages from Stormy Daniels, “I might even take an extended vacation on her dime.”
Anderson Cooper: You’re saying they’re tryin’ to intimidate her.
Michael Avenatti: There’s no question. You threaten someone– with a $20 million lawsuit, it’s a thuggish tactic. It’s no different than what happened in the parking lot in Las Vegas.
.. Anderson Cooper: You seem to be saying that she has some sort of text message, or video, or– or photographs. Or you could just be bluffing.
Michael Avenatti: You should ask some of the other people in my career when they’ve bet on me bluffing.
.. Anderson Cooper: In college and law school, you did opposition research for Democratic political operative Rahm Emanuel. Some people looking at that would say you’re politically motivated,
.. Anderson Cooper: As a prosecutor, you wanna get leverage over somebody that you could then use to get them to give you other information on which–
.. Anderson Cooper: Paul Manafort has been charged with crimes that don’t have anything to do with Russia in some cases.
Trevor Potter: Well, and that certainly preceded the campaign. And so– clearly, the Justice Department, the deputy attorney general who is ultimately in charge of this, has determined that looking at what Manafort did in other contexts– is relevant to the investigation. And I think you can say exactly the same thing about Cohen. He was– involved– indisputably with Trump Organization activities with Russia and negotiations with the Russians. Mr. Cohen is in the middle of a place that’s of great interest to the Special Counsel.
Anderson Cooper: Is there any recent precedent for p– prosecuting somebody for an undisclosed campaign contribution?
Trevor Potter: As it happens, there is. There’s sort of a pretty spectacular one.
Former Senator John Edwards was prosecuted, but never convicted, for payments a supporter and his campaign finance chairman made a year before the 2008 election to a woman who’d had Edwards’ child.
.. Anderson Cooper: But come on. You would not sign statements one, two, three times about something which you knew to be a lie.
Michael Avenatti: If the President of the United States’ fixer made it clear to me, either directly or indirectly, that I needed to sign it, and I was in the position of Stormy Daniels, I might sign those statements
Stormy Daniels: I felt intimidated and s– honestly bullied. And I didn’t know what to do. And so I signed it. Even though I had repeatedly expressed that I wouldn’t break the agreement, but I was not comfortable lying.
Anderson Cooper: How do we know you’re telling the truth?
Stormy Daniels: ‘Cause I have no reason to lie. I’m opening myself up for, you know, possible danger and definitely a whole lot of s***.
.. Anderson Cooper: Jenna Jameson– another well-known– adult film actress said recently about you, “The left looks at her as a whore and just uses her to try to discredit the president. The right looks at her like a treacherous rat. It’s a lose-lose. Should’ve kept her trap shut.”
Report: ’60 Minutes’ to air interview with porn star who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006; reaction from Vince Coglianese, editorial director of The Daily Caller, and Katie Glueck, senior political correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.