WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump accused on Wednesday his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who pled guilty this week to violating election campaign finance rules, of “making up stories” to get a reduced sentence.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal,’” said Trump on his Twitter account.
“Such respect for a brave man!” the president added, referring to Manafort.
Trump thus compared the cases of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who on Tuesday was found guilty in a Virginia federal court on several counts of tax evasion and bank fraud, and Cohen, who – also on Tuesday – admitted his guilt on eight charges, including two violations of the federal campaign financing law, in a separate case.
In an ironic tone, the Republican president also wrote in a separate tweet “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”
These are the first comments Trump has made on the social networks – his preferred means of communicating with the public, particularly with his political base – regarding the verdict in Manafort’s case and the plea deal reached by Cohen and his attorneys, either or both of which may prove politically and legally problematic for him.
Cohen, who turned himself in to the FBI on Tuesday and appeared shortly thereafter before a New York federal judge to enter his guilty plea, acknowledged having made two hush money payments prior to the November 2016 election – of $150,000 and $130,000 – to two women who claimed to have had sexual relations with Trump years before.
Those payments could have violated the laws on election financing if they are deemed to be an illegal contribution to Trump’s campaign, and Cohen testified that it was then-candidate Trump who directed him to make the payments for the purpose of keeping the affairs quiet and thus ensuring that news of them did not hurt his election chances.
Cohen testified that he acted “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Trump, and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” thus explicitly implicating the candidate and now-president in those potential crimes.
Regarding the case, Trump tweeted that Cohen had pleaded guilty to “two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime,” adding that “President (Barack) Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”
Cohen admitted his guilt on a total of eight charges, including tax evasion and bank fraud, and – when sentence is passed upon him – he could spend years in prison.