Embattled Trump warns impeachment would 'crash' economy

Washington (AFP) –


US President Donald Trump warned Thursday of a stock market crash if he were removed from office, playing his ace card -- the economy -- to stave off talk of impeachment.

Fingered as a co-conspirator in a federal felony, Trump went on Fox News to deal with the fall-out from back-to-back court debacles this week that carry serious legal and political consequences for his presidency.

"I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor," Trump cautioned on "Fox and Friends," his favorite television news show.

"You would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe in reverse," he said.

Trump's stewardship of the economy has been a rare bright spot in an administration that has otherwise lurched from crisis to scandal, bleeding staff as it goes.

Since Trump came to office in early 2017, US economic growth has lept from two percent to a very solid four percent last quarter.

The White House says the mini boom is due to Trump's success in cutting red tape and the passage of a tax cut worth an estimated two trillion dollars.

It is the party's main argument to voters ahead of elections in which Democrats are expected to regain control of one, and possibly both, houses of Congress in November.

Critics describe the tax cut as an unsustainable and unfunded stimulus package for the rich that will fuel a boom-and-bust dynamic.

Trump's mere mention of impeachment, however, shows how deep his political troubles have become, with this week's events putting his presidency's future in serious doubt.

On Tuesday, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on multiple counts of fraud, in the first case sent to trial by the special prosecutor probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Manafort now faces lengthy prison time.

Almost simultaneously, Michael Cohen, Trump's fixer for decades, pleaded guilty to election fraud and in a shock move pointed to Trump as a co-conspirator.

Cohen told a federal judge that he made secret payments to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they had said they had with Trump.

Although Cohen did not name them, the women were believed to be porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Because the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, they violated US laws governing campaign contributions.

In the Fox interview, an at times rambling Trump stewed over the question of his removal from office: "I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job."

The president's story about Cohen's payments has changed multiple times over the past year, and in the Fox interview he tried several ways of defusing the allegations.

Trump claimed his former lawyer "made the deals," and insisted that Cohen's actions were "not a crime," while going on to claim that "campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly."

Trump then said the hush payments were financed with his own money -- to which Cohen had access -- and that while he had no knowledge of them at the time, he had since been fully transparent.

In entering a guilty plea, Cohen said under oath that the payments were made "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," in clear reference to Trump.

- Presidential pardon? -

Despite Trump's defiant tone, Washington-based campaign finance expert Kate Belinski, of the Nossaman law firm, said to expect legal consequences for both Trump and his campaign -- most likely in the form of a civil complaint before the Federal Election Commission.

In addition to the two counts of violating campaign finance laws, Cohen also has pled guilty to six counts of fraud.

In the sit-down with Fox, Trump slammed his once close associate for "flipping," saying it "almost ought to be outlawed."

Trump conversely praised Manafort for going to trial -- where the president's former campaign chief was found guilty of eight counts of financial fraud.

The US president lauded the 69-year-old Manafort for leaving his fate to a jury rather than striking a plea deal -- a move that has sparked speculation Manafort hopes for a pardon.

Asked if he was considering such a move, Trump said only that he has "great respect for what he has done, in terms of what he has gone through."

"One of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial," Trump said.

On Thursday Trump ignored questions from the press on the issue.