If you’re trying to guess what will finally bring the Trump 2016 ride to a stop, you can cross off sexual assault allegations and rape-related gaffes. On Tuesday Donald Trump responded to his attorney Michael Cohen’s claim that marital rape is legal, by declaring that the man his campaign offered up when asked about an old rape allegation from Trump’s ex-wife Ivana doesn’t really speak for him. “He’s speaking for himself. He’s not speaking for me, obviously,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday afternoon. “Michael was extremely angry because he knew (the alleged incident) never took place.”
Earlier in the day, Cohen issued an apology (he gets there eventually, after hurling another attack at the reporter he threatened):
As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me but nothing more than charges of rape or racism. They hit me at my core. Rarely am I surprised by the press, but the gall of this particular reporter to make such a reprehensible and false allegation against Mr. Trump truly stunned me. In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment – which I do not believe – and which I apologize for entirely.
Ivana Trump also responded, in a statement “verified by the Trump campaign”:
I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is totally without merit. Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of. I have nothing but fondness for Donald and wish him the best of luck on his campaign. Incidentally, I think he would make an incredible president.
The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak reported on Tuesday that he initially reached out to Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks for comment. She asked for a question in writing, and then Cohen called back and threatened him, reading from the email that was sent to the Trump campaign. The incident raised questions about Cohen’s role in the campaign. While Cohen is an executive vice-president at the Trump Organization, he’s made frequent media appearances related to the campaign and answered reporters’ questions, which may be illegal. BuzzFeed reports:
According to campaign finance laws, there are two potential issues if Cohen is taking on campaign-related duties. Campaign finance and lobbying regulations expert Joseph Sandler, a lawyer for Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, explained to BuzzFeed News that it would be a violation of the law if Cohen were to reduce his hours devoted to Trump Organization work in favor of the campaign without having reduced his pay from the Trump Organization, constituting an illegal corporate in-kind contribution to the campaign.
Also, the time spent working on campaign-related affairs could be a factor. “If Cohen is working out of the Trump Organization’s offices and doing campaign work during working hours, if that work exceeds four hours a month, that would constitute an unlawful use of corporate resources for a federal campaign,” Sandler said.
That’s why Team Trump was eager to put distance between Cohen and the campaign on Tuesday. Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN, “Michael Cohen is a corporate employee and is not affiliated with the campaign in any way.” When asked about Cohen’s media appearances, another campaign source claimed he wasn’t acting as a surrogate, he was merely “speaking as someone who has great insight into Mr. Trump’s skills as an executive.”
Not that it really matters. Campaign-finance violations rarely get voters fired up, and on Tuesday evening Trump generated two new controversies. Note to other scandal-plagued candidates: Telling a lawyer who asked for a break to breast-feed, “You’re disgusting,” and musing about putting Sarah Palin in your cabinet probably only works for Trump.