WASHINGTON — The White House’s response to Michael Cohen’s guilty plea is that President Donald Trump is free of any wrongdoing, an argument that Press Secretary Sarah Sanders echoed multiple times during Wednesday’s briefing.
“He did nothing wrong,” Sanders told reporters. “There are no charges against him in this.”
On Tuesday, Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty to eight counts, including two campaign finance violations.
Cohen said “a candidate for federal office” directed him to make payments to two women shortly before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for silence over alleged affairs his former client.
The payments are now considered to be an excessive campaign contribution and an illegal corporate campaign contribution, since prosecutors noted that they were made with the goal of influencing the 2016 election.
Speaking from the podium the day after the plea deal, Sanders dismissed that Trump was implicated “just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal.”
Sanders similarly played down confusion surrounding a shifting narrative over when Trump knew about the payments.
Trump initially told reporters aboard Air Force One in April that he didn’t know about the payments at the time, a claim he repeated in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday.
Cohen, however, released audio in July of him discussing one of the payments with Trump.
When asked Tuesday if Trump had lied, Sanders said that notion was a “ridiculous accusation.”
Sanders declined to offer details that went beyond her statement Wednesday, repeatedly urging reporters to speak to Trump’s personal attorneys.
One of them, Rudy Giuliani, responded to Cohen’s plea on Tuesday in a manner similar to Sanders, saying in a statement that “there is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.”
Cohen’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 29.