US President Donald Trump has called his former personal lawyer a “weak person” after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Friday morning to lying to Congress over the Russia inquiry.
Cohen admitted misleading lawmakers on talks held during the US presidential campaign about a Trump property deal in Moscow.
Mr Trump angrily responded to the development by accusing his former long-time confidante of “lying” to seek a reduced sentence.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating finance laws during the 2016 presidential election by handling hush money for Mr Trump’s alleged lovers. He is scheduled to be sentenced for those crimes next month.
Thursday’s hearing was the latest twist in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr Trump or his inner circle colluded with an alleged Russian attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen’s claim contradicts the President’s continued insistence that he had no financial ties to Russia – an assertion he frequently repeated when questioned about his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As he left the White House for a G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Mr Trump told reporters of Cohen: “He’s a weak person and not a very smart person.”
He said he had decided not to go ahead with the Moscow building project, although he did not specify when he decided against pursuing the project.
“He’s got himself a big prison sentence. And he’s trying to get a much lesser prison sentence by making up this story,” the President said.
Mr Trump added that he did nothing wrong by pursuing the Moscow real estate project.
“When I’m running for president that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business,” he said.
Mr Trump has sought to distance himself from Cohen despite their long relationship.
Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet” for the President, pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations in August, and claimed he acted on Mr Trump’s orders.
He testified in August that Mr Trump had directed him to commit a crime by arranging payments to silence two women before the 2016 election who said they had affairs with Mr Trump.
The president has denied having affairs with the women.