President Donald Trump has claimed the US economy would collapse if he were impeached, in his first interview since his former lawyer implicated him in criminal activity. 

"I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor, because without this thinking, you would see – you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse," Mr Trump said in a Thursday morning interview with Fox News.

Mr Trump was responding to a question on his mounting legal woes after his former attorney, Michael Cohen, said under oath that Mr Trump instructed him to commit a crime by breaking US campaign finance laws to make hush money payments to two women.

In his first comments on how the payments were made, Mr Trump sought to distance himself from Cohen, suggesting he had acted independently.

Asked whether he directed his lawyer to make the payments, the president said: “He made the deal. He made the deals.”

The US president then launched into a rambling statement on job creation and other economic progress he said had been made during his presidency and insisted Americans would be much worse off if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election.

"I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job," Mr Trump said.

The president also sought to distance himself from his former lawyer, who has plead guilty to eight charges this week, saying "I’m not involved, I haven’t been charged with anything. People don’t like to say that."

However the president went on to say "campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly".

Without providing evidence, the Republican president said the campaign finance violations to which Cohen pleaded guilty were not a crime, even though prosecutors and Cohen agreed they were.

Mr Trump also attacked Cohen for agreeing to a plea deal with prosecutors. "It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal," he said.

Closing the net around Trump

In the wide-ranging interview, aired on Mr Trump’s favourite show Fox & Friends, the president attacked his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department.

Mr Sessions, a former senator and early supporter of Mr Trump, drew the president’s ire last year when he recused himself from overseeing the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Mr Trump reprised a litany of complaints against the Justice Department and Mr Sessions, who he said he put in post because he thought he would be "loyal".

"He took the job and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of a man is this?," Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump also suggested he has not ruled out pardoning his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted on Tuesday of bank and tax fraud.

He expressed "great respect" for Manafort, adding that "every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington" is probably guilty some of the charges laid against him.

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