Trump attacks former lawyer Cohen after guilty plea

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Trump attacks former lawyer Cohen after guilty plea

The president’s former ‘fixer’ pleaded guilty to a number of election campaign finance charges.


The guilty pleas are a threat to Mr Trump’s presidency (AP)
The guilty pleas are a threat to Mr Trump’s presidency (AP)

Donald Trump has criticised his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, a day after his former “fixer” implicated the US president in a campaign cover-up to buy the silence of women who said they had sexual relationships with him.

As he faced a growing threat to his presidency, Mr Trump accused Cohen of making up “stories in order to get a ‘deal’” from US federal prosecutors.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations which he said he carried out in co-ordination with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump tweeted: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”

Cohen’s admission to the crimes in a federal court in New York came at nearly the same moment Mr Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted by a jury in Virginia of financial offences.

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

The double whammy followed inquiries by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s attempts to sway voters in the 2016 election.

He is examining the hacking of Democrats’ emails, whether the Trump campaign may have co-operated, and if the president himself obstructed justice in investigating both.

Mr Trump denounced the probe again on Twitter as a “witch hunt”.

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

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

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He said: “My observation is that the topics relating to hacking and the crime of hacking … that there are subjects that Michael Cohen could address that would be of interest to the special counsel.”

Mr Trump soon weighed in on Twitter, taking his shot at Cohen and praising Manafort, saying with regard to the latter he has “such respect for a brave man!”

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

However there is no doubt that Cohen’s acknowledgement of a co-ordinated pay-off scheme puts Mr Trump’s presidency on the defensive.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in the case, said: “It’s going to be hard for the president to try to discredit all this. It’s circling him.”

Manafort and Cohen played prominent roles in Mr Trump’s political rise in 2016.

Cohen said once he would take a bullet for Mr Trump, and was intimately familiar with Trump’s personal, business and political dealing for more than a decade. He released a secretly recorded audio tape of Mr Trump discussing a payout made via a third party to model Karen McDougal who claims she had a sexual relationship with Mr Trump in 2006.

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Michael Cohen admitted several offences (AP)

The “fixer” initially denied making the payments to the women – McDougal, and adult film actress Stormy Daniels – or that Mr Trump had any knowledge of them.

However, he changed his story as prosecutors closed in. Mr Davis told CNN of his client: “There has been an evolution in his loyalty toward Donald Trump.”

The payments to the women could be regarded as an illegal campaign expenditure if the money was clearly meant to influence the 2016 election.

Mr Trump, on Twitter, maintained otherwise, saying: “Michael Cohen plead (sic) guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime.”

He also complained that “President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!” Mr Trump was apparently referring to a fine levied on the former president’s 2008 campaign over missing and delayed disclosure of high-dollar donors in the final days of that race.

In a deal with federal prosecutors, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including tax evasion. He could get about four to five years in prison when he is sentenced on December 12.

Manafort was convicted of eight felony counts, including charges of filing false tax returns and failing to report foreign bank accounts. Prosecutors will decide whether to retry him on 10 other charges.

Manafort was a well-connected Republican consultant and lobbyist who prosecutors say made 60 million dollars (£46 million) in foreign money working for Russia-backed politicians in Ukraine. He was campaign chairman for months during the Republican nomination battle in 2016.

Press Association

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