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President Trump Reacts On Twitter To The Latest In The Special Counsel Investigation


The White House is trying to create some distance between President Trump and two men who were once his close associates - the former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen and his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort. Federal prosecutors disclosed more information yesterday about crimes they say those men committed. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us. Tam, thanks for being with us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

SIMON: What stood out for you in these filings?

KEITH: So many things. But - so let's go to the Manafort filing. It outlined all the ways that the special counsel's office say that he lied to prosecutors and the grand jury. But the most notable thing they say that they lied about, as relates to the president, is contacts that they say he had as recently as this year with people in the Trump administration, including someone described as a senior administration official. We don't know who that was or what they were communicating about, but it's notable.

And then, in the Cohen filings, there are references to an Individual 1, and that is the president. And federal prosecutors say that Cohen coordinated with and did, at the direction of Individual 1, make payments to two women claiming they had affairs with Trump to keep them quiet before the 2016 election. Cohen already pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law as part of that scheme. But, now, you have, in court filings, federal prosecutors saying that the president directed Cohen. So both of those are notable. Another one is that the special counsel's office is saying that Cohen was contacted by an unnamed Russian back in 2015, and they discussed or - the idea of political synergy between Russia and the Trump campaign, though they said that it didn't come to fruition.

SIMON: At the same time, President Trump - and I guess noting this is Manafort, this is Cohen - says it's got nothing to do with him.

KEITH: Yeah. So last night, he tweeted, totally clears the president. Thank you - exclamation point. He followed up this morning, in all caps (reading) after two years and millions of pages of documents and a cost of over $30 million, no collusion - exclamation point.

Though, it is worth noting that the - Individual 1, at least, is mentioned, repeatedly, in these documents. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, she put out statements not disputing, necessarily, that Cohen was directed by Trump but saying that Cohen is a liar, not a hero and that those filings had nothing new in them. As for Manafort, she says it doesn't really have anything to do with the president. It was all about his lobbying work.

SIMON: I gather the administration's made some personnel announcements maybe to - well, maybe to give us something else to chew over.

KEITH: Well, they certainly have given us something else to chew on. The president, this morning, tweeted an announcement that four-star General Mark Milley will be his pick to be the new chief of - he's the chief of the Army right now. But he would be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Dunford when he retires. Also yesterday, the president announced his pick for attorney general, William Barr, as well as for U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Heather Nauert.

SIMON: NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks so much, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.