WASHINGTON DC, USA (DECEMBER 11, 2018) (REUTERS) – U.S. President Donald Trump discussed a wide range of issues – from impeachment to trade with China – in an exclusive interview with Reuters on Tuesday (December 11).
Trump said he was not concerned that he would get impeached and that payments made ahead of the 2016 election by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to two women did not violate campaign finance laws.
Court filings last week drew renewed attention to six-figure payments made during the 2016 campaign by Cohen to two women so they would not discuss their alleged affairs with the candidate. Democrats in Congress said Trump could face impeachment and jail time if the transactions violated campaign finance laws.
Trump, who has criticized Cohen and called for him to get a long sentence, said his ex-lawyer should have known the rules.
In Tuesday’s interview with text journalists, Trump also weighed in on the case against Chinese telecommunications executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested earlier this month in Vancouver on charges of violated U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Trump, who wants China to open up its markets to more American-made products and stop what Washington calls the theft of intellectual property, said he had not yet spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the case against Huawei’s executive.
Meng, 46, faces U.S. accusations she misled multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions and incurring severe penalties, court documents said.
In the wake of his meeting with Xi in Buenos Aires at the G20, Trump said during the interview that trade talks with Beijing were underway by telephone, with more meetings likely among U.S. and Chinese officials.
He said the Chinese government was once again buying large quantities of U.S. soybeans, a reversal after China in July imposed tariffs on U.S. supplies of the oilseed in retaliation for U.S. duties on Chinese goods.
Commodity traders in Chicago, however, said they have seen no evidence of a resumption of soybean purchases by China, which last year bought about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports in deals valued at more than $12 billion.
Also in Tuesday’s interview, Trump said that he stood by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince despite a CIA assessment that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and pleas from U.S. senators for Trump to condemn the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Trump refused to comment on whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder, but he provided an explicit show of support for the prince since Khashoggi’s death more than two months ago.
“He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office.
In the interview, Trump also commented on interest rates, saying it would be a mistake if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates when it meets next week, as it is expected to do, continuing his criticism of the U.S. central bank.
Trump added that he needed the flexibility of lower interest rates to support the broader U.S. economy as he fights a growing trade battle against China, and potentially other countries.
Trump named Jerome Powell as Fed chairman, but has repeatedly railed against him since he took over as head of the U.S. central bank last February. Trump in August told Reuters that he was not “thrilled” with Powell’s raising interest rates.