US President Donald Trump has warned stock markets could ‘crash’ if he were removed from office, playing his best card – the economy – to quell talk of impeachment as investigators dug deeper Thursday into claims he ordered illegal hush payments.
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions – once again the target of Trump’s ire after back-to-back court debacles for the president this week – issued a blunt warning that the US Justice Department would not be ‘improperly influenced by political considerations.’
The row with Sessions was the latest hiccup in a fraught week for the Republican leader – one that saw his former campaign chairman convicted of financial crimes, and his former lawyer implicate him in campaign finance violations.
Trump fought back, using his stewardship of the world’s biggest economy – a rare bright spot for an administration mired in scandal after scandal, bleeding staff as it goes – to try to head off the swirling crises.
‘I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor,’ Trump said in an interview aired Thursday on ‘Fox and Friends.’
‘You would see – you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse,’ he said.
‘I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job.’
Since Trump came to office in early 2017, US economic growth has leapt from two percent to a very solid four percent last quarter.
In the interview, Trump also lashed out at Sessions over the federal probe into Russian election meddling that has expanded into questions of collusion and obstruction of justice as well as the financial dealings of Trump associates.
‘I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department and it’s a sort of an incredible thing,’ Trump said.
But Sessions did not stay silent for long, answering: ‘I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.’
– Hush payments ‘not a crime’? -In the toughest blow yet to Trump’s presidency, his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen implicated him in pleading guilty this week to making hush payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who said they had had affairs with the Republican candidate.
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, putting Trump in legal jeopardy as an unindicted co-conspirator.
The Wall Street Journal and other US media reported Thursday that the CEO of tabloid publisher American Media, David Pecker, has been given immunity by prosecutors investigating the payments, opening a new area of vulnerability for Trump.
Pecker’s company publishes the National Enquirer.
At almost the same time as the Cohen guilty plea, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud. 
While unrelated to the Russia probe, it was the first case brought to trial by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
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’ – a clear reference to Trump. 
Cooperating ‘almost ought to be outlawed’
In addition to the two counts of violating campaign finance laws, Cohen also has pleaded 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.