In its correction, the network said it subsequently learnt that the feds were only monitoring the source of calls and weren’t listening in
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is attacking NBC News after it corrected a story that said federal investigators had placed a wiretap on the phone lines of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
Trump says on Twitter Friday: “NBC NEWS is wrong again! They cite ‘sources’ which are constantly wrong.” Trump tweeted: “the sources probably don’t exist, they are fabricated, fiction! NBC, my former home with the Apprentice, is now as bad as Fake News CNN. Sad!”
NBC News attributed its story on Thursday to two anonymous sources with knowledge of legal proceedings against Cohen. In its correction, the network said it subsequently learnt that the feds were only monitoring the source of calls and weren’t listening in.
Trump has frequently criticised the media for “fake news” involving stories he doesn’t like. Trump also admitted that $130,000 (Dh477,100) of hush money was paid to the pornographic film actor Stormy Daniels to stop her going public about an alleged affair with him, despite the president previously denying knowledge of a deal.
The revelation threatened to engulf Trump in one of the most tawdry and legally damaging scandals of his presidency, and on Thursday provoked astonished reactions from ethics experts.
Daniels’ lawyer called the revelation “stunning” and said: “This is not about sex … this is about a cover-up.”
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and now one of Trump’s lawyers, revealed on Wednesday night that Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 he paid to Daniels.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, in an afternoon briefing shortly afterwards declined to comment on the report. She referred reporters to both Trump’s outside lawyers and the Department of Justice. However NBC later corrected the report saying that Cohen’s calls had been monitored via a pen register, which simply tracks calls and does not involve conversations being recorded.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claims that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 — months after his wife, Melania, gave birth — and was paid to stay silent as part of a non-disclosure agreement she is now seeking to invalidate.
Trump had told reporters on Air Force One last month that he did not know about the $130,000 payment to Daniels — made by Cohen days before the 2016 presidential election — or the source of the money.
But after Giuliani said on live television on Wednesday that Trump had indeed reimbursed Cohen for the payment, the president reversed his position in an extraordinary sequence of tweets — just hours before leading a national day of prayer at the White House.
At 6.46am on Thursday, Trump wrote on Twitter, in uncharacteristically legal-minded language, that Cohen received a monthly retainer. “Not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement,” a non-disclosure agreement with Daniels. He claimed: “These agreements are … very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”
Trump described the allegations of an affair as “false and extortionist”, adding: “Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction.”
Sanders said of Trump’s comments on Air Force One: “He didn’t know at the time but eventually learnt” about the payments that he made. She added the “president denies and continues to deny” the allegations of an affair but conceded that she only learnt of the payments from Giuliani’s appearance on Fox News on Wednesday evening.
But watchdog groups and experts argued that despite his contention that no money from his campaign was used to pay off Daniels, Trump still broke campaign finance laws by failing to declare the secret payment to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). No debt to Cohen is listed on Trump’s personal financial disclosure form, which was certified on 16 June 2017.