US President Donald Trump lashed out at Michael Cohen on Wednesday after his former lawyer implicated him in campaign finance violations, accusing him of making up “stories” in order to get a plea deal.
The president’s longtime lawyer dealt him a bitter political blow on Tuesday as he admitted to felony charges in New York that included making illegal campaign contributions – and implicated the president.
At almost the same time, Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort was found guilty of tax and bank fraud by a jury in Virginia.
In his first reaction to the Cohen bombshell, Trump asserted in a series of tweets that his former lawyer’s campaign finance violations were “not a crime.”
“Michael Cohen plead (sic) guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime,” he tweeted, adding that “President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”
The 2008 Obama campaign paid a $375,000 fine in 2013 to settle violations of a rule that contributions made 20 days before an election had to be reported within 48 hours.
Cohen’s illegal campaign contributions involved secret hush payments he made on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 campaign to two women who claimed to have had affairs with the Republican candidate.
Trump contrasted Cohen’s actions with those of Manafort, whom he described as “such a brave man.”
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump wrote. “Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.'”
“A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote, referring to the counts on which the jury could not reach a unanimous decision.
He did not have similarly kind words for his ex-attorney.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” Trump wrote.
On Tuesday, Cohen detailed how he made pre-election hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both claim to have had affairs with Trump.
But in a sensational twist, Cohen also pointed to the president — or “individual 1” — as a co-conspirator, alleging that he acted “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” in making those payments.
“I participated in this conduct with the purpose of influencing the election,” a visibly crestfallen Cohen told the judge — an admission that puts Trump himself in legal jeopardy.
Unlike Cohen, the 69-year-old Manafort did not take a plea deal, choosing to leave his fate to a jury and prompting speculation that he was hoping for a pardon by Trump — something the president has refused to rule out.
Manafort’s case went to the jury on Thursday after 12 days of gripping testimony about hidden bank accounts, betrayal and lavish spending on luxury homes, cars, antique rugs and clothes.
After four days of deliberation, jurors found him guilty of eight counts: five of making false income tax returns, two of bank fraud and one of failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts.