U.S. President Donald Trump has denied asking his former acting attorney general to put a Trump ally in charge of a federal investigation into hush money paid to two women during the 2016 election campaign.
The allegation appeared Tuesday in a New York Times article that said Trump called Matthew Whitaker to see if he would put the probe in the hands of Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“No, not at all. I don’t know who gave you that,” Trump told reporters when asked about the story. “Just more fake news. There’s a lot of fake, there’s a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn’t.”
If true, the episode could be used as evidence of Trump seeking to influence one of several ongoing law enforcement investigations into his conduct and that of his associates.
The Times cited several U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the phone call between Trump and Whitaker. The newspaper said Berman had already recused himself from the case due to conflict of interest.
The investigation involved payments made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer, to two women who said they had sexual affairs with Trump. The money was meant to keep their stories quiet and not harm Trump’s presidential run.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to the payments.