WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Thursday denied directing his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to break the law after the US president’s longtime close ally was sentenced to three years for campaign finance violations and other crimes.
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law,” Trump tweeted.
“It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.”
Cohen, 52, apologised Wednesday for covering up the “dirty deeds” of his ex-boss as he was handed jail time for multiple crimes including hush money payments implicating Trump.
Pleading for leniency in a packed Manhattan courtroom before US District Court Judge William H. Pauley III, Cohen said he had been led astray by misplaced admiration for Trump.
An emotional Cohen told the court he accepted responsibility for his personal crimes and “those involving the President of the United States of America.”
In his first public comments since Cohen’s sentencing, Trump said on Twitter that legal experts had cleared him of any wrongdoing and repeated his denial that he had broken campaign finance laws, arguing that Cohen’s crimes did not involve campaign finance.
“Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis,” Trump tweeted.
“Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!”
Cohen admitted to charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York of tax evasion, providing false statements to a bank and illegal campaign contributions.
Cohen also pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress — a charge stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to get him elected.
Among the charges against Cohen was making secret payments to silence two women threatening to go public during the election campaign with claims they had affairs with Trump.