United States President Donald Trump has denied that the payments made to two women who claimed they had affairs with him before the 2016 US election were illegal, reported the Fox News. Trump said the money paid to adult film star Stephanie Clifford and former Playboy model Karen McDougal had come from his personal wealth and was not taken from election campaign funds.

“Did they come out of the campaign?” Trump said in an interview with the news channel. “They didn’t come out of the campaign, they came from me.”

The comments come a day after Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in a New York court to making illegal campaign contributions, which included paying pre-election hush money to Clifford. He has struck a deal with federal prosecutors.

Trump said he only found out about the payments “later on”. His stand contradicts what Cohen said under oath – that Trump had ordered him to pay the hush money. “Later on I knew. Later on,” the president added. “What he [Cohen] did – and they weren’t taken out of the campaign finance, that’s the big thing. That’s a much bigger thing.”

Trump said the US economy would collapse if he was impeached. “I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash,” he told interviewer Ainsley Earhardt. “I think everybody would be very poor.”

In May, Trump admitted to knowing about Cohen paying off Stormy Daniels before the 2016 elections. The lawyer has reportedly told prosecutors that the payments were intended to influence the election by covering up allegations of Trump’s affairs with the women.

On Wednesday, Trump also appeared to suggest that Cohen had decided to “make up stories” to try and secure a deal to decrease his jail sentence, reported the Telegraph.

In another blow for Trump on Wednesday, a jury in Virginia found his former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort guilty on eight fraud charges. This included five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to report a foreign bank account. Some of the frauds were committed while Manafort was working for Trump.

Trump called the conviction a “witch hunt”, AFP reported. “This has nothing to do with Russian collusion [in the US elections],” he said. “These are witch hunts and it’s a disgrace.”