Donald Trump denies wrongdoing over hush money as he accuses lawyer of lying

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Donald Trump denies wrongdoing over hush money as he accuses lawyer of lying

The president’s former lawyer pleaded guilty to eight charges, including campaign finance violations.


Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted Donald Trump had done nothing wrong (PA)
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted Donald Trump had done nothing wrong (PA)

Donald Trump has accused his former lawyer Michael Cohen of lying under pressure of prosecution as his White House grappled with allegations that the president had orchestrated a campaign cover-up to buy the silence of two women who claimed he had affairs with them.

Confronting mounting legal and political threats, Mr Trump tweeted to accuse Cohen of making up “stories in order to get a ‘deal’ from federal prosecutors.

Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to eight charges, including campaign finance violations that he said he carried out in coordination with Mr Trump.

Behind closed doors, Mr Trump was said to have expressed worry and frustration that a man intimately familiar with his political, personal and business dealings for more than a decade had turned on him.

At a White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted at least seven times that Mr Trump had done nothing wrong and was not the subject of criminal charges.

She referred substantive questions to the president’s personal counsel Rudy Giuliani, who was at a golf course in Scotland.

Mr Trump himself publicly denied wrongdoing, sitting down with his favoured programme Fox & Friends for an interview set to air on Thursday.

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(PA Graphics)

In the interview, he argued, incorrectly, that the hush-money payouts were not “even a campaign violation” because he subsequently reimbursed Cohen for the payments personally instead of with campaign funds.

Federal law restricts how much individuals can donate to a campaign, bars corporations from making direct contributions and requires the disclosure of transactions.

Cohen had said on Tuesday he secretly used shell companies to make payments used to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.

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Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump (Craig Ruttle/AP)

Mr Trump has insisted that he only found out about the payments after they were made, despite the release of a September 2016 taped conversation in which Mr Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay Ms McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair she says she had with Mr Trump.

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The White House denied the president had lied, with Ms Sanders calling the assertion “ridiculous”. Yet she offered no explanation for Mr Trump’s shifting accounts.

As Mr Trump vented his frustration, White House aides sought to project a sense of calm.

West Wing staffers absorbed near-simultaneous announcements on Tuesday of the Cohen plea deal and the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial charges.

Manafort faces trial on separate charges in September in the District of Columbia that include acting as a foreign agent.

Federal prosecutors raided Cohen’s offices months ago — but Mr Trump and his allies were caught off-guard when he also pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes, which, for the first time, took the swirling criminal probes directly to the president.

Both cases resulted, at least in part, from the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s attempts to sway voters in the 2016 election.

“The only thing that I have done wrong,” Mr Trump tweeted late on Wednesday, “is to win an election that was expected to be won by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The problem is, they forgot to campaign in numerous states!”

Meanwhile, Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said on Wednesday that Cohen has information “that would be of interest” to the special counsel.

“There are subjects that Michael Cohen could address that would be of interest to the special counsel,” Mr Davis said in a series of television interviews.

Mr Davis also said Cohen is not looking for a presidential pardon.

Mr Trump, in turn, praised Manafort as “a brave man!”

Manafort, Mr Trump wrote, had “tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’.”

Ms Sanders said the matter of a pardon for Manafort had not been discussed.

Press Association

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