Meanwhile on Fox, Alan Dershowitz: Cohen Plea Makes for 'Bad Day but Not a Fatal One'

Harvard Law School's emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz played down excitement over Michael Cohen's plea deal implicating President Donald Trump in campaign finance violations, referring to such offenses as the "jaywalking" of election laws.

Cohen was Trump's longtime so-called fixer and attorney until federal prosecutors opened an investigation into his business dealings. Now he has pleaded guilty to a number of fraud charges as well as campaign finance violations relating to the president.

Those violations involve Cohen's hush payments to two women claiming extramarital affairs with Trump. The president denies the affairs and any advance knowledge of the payments before reports of their existence emerged in the media.

But Cohen's plea deal alleges that payments were made "for the principal purpose of influencing the election" and "in coordination and at the direction of the candidate for federal office." Trump is not named explicitly.

Speaking on FOX News' Tucker Carlson Tonight, Dershowitz said the crime "is very, very vague" and "really depends completely on the credibility of Cohen."

"It's very easy to embellish a story," Dershowitz said. "Let's assume hypothetically that it's true that he did pay the money and it was designed to help the impact of the election. That wouldn't involve the president.

"All he has to do then is say, 'And the president directed me to do it.' That's the kind of embellishment that people put on a story when they want to avoid dying in prison. The prosecutor says to them you have two choices: You'll die in prison or you can give me a story that I can use to go and get the president."

Dershowitz said he was not suggesting this happened in Cohen's case but said there is a "risk" that it may have "and we may see that at work here. We're a long way from tolling the bells for this administration. It's a bad day, it's a negative day, but not a fatal one," he said.

However, Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis claimed there is "proof" that the Trump Organization wired money into an account that was used to buy the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels, real name is Stephanie Clifford, one of the two women alleging affairs with the president. The other woman is former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Davis told CNN's Don Lemon that "there is no doubt" Trump "committed a crime."

"Violation of election laws are regarded as kind of jaywalking in the realm of things about elections," Dershowitz told Tucker Carlson.

"Every administration violates the election laws. Every candidate violates the election laws when they run for president. Usually they pay a fine, something like that happens. Here they're trying to elevate this into an impeachable offense or a felony against the president."

Responding to this claim on Twitter, President Barack Obama's former counsel Norm Eisen wrote: "Come on @AlanDersh. Not everyone does this, Obama certainly didn't (I helped see to that)—& it IS a felony."

Dershowitz also said the president may eventually be named "as an unindicted co-conspirator" but it would be "very unfair" because Trump would not have the opportunity to defend himself.

"This is a story that will unravel over time but it's not nearly as deadly, lethal, as some have portrayed it as being," he said.

Alan Dershowitz
Attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz in 2015. Dershowitz played down Michael Cohen's plea deal implicating President Donald Trump in campaign finance violations. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity