US President Donald Trump has broken his silence over the sentencing of his former personal lawyer, insisting he “never directed” Michael Cohen to break the law.
Mr Trump’s comments come a day after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including arranging hush money payments to conceal Mr Trump’s alleged affairs.
And the President has gone from denying knowledge of the payments to saying they would have been private transactions that were not illegal.
Prosecutors have implicated Mr Trump in a crime but have not directly accused him of one.
Cohen and federal prosecutors have said the payments were made at Mr Trump’s direction to influence the 2016 election.
Cohen, often described as Mr Trump’s “fixer” was the first member of the President’s inner circle to be jailed over special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The lawyer lashed out at Mr Trump in a New York court as he faced sentencing Thursday, saying his former employer caused him to “follow a path of darkness rather than light”.
He said his “weakness was a blind loyalty to Donald Trump” and that he “felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds”.
The President has denied the affairs and argued the payments to the two women – Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels – were not campaign contributions.
In a series of tweets late Thursday, Mr Trump said Cohen only pleaded guilty “in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did”.
I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2018
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” he said.
“He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.
“Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me,” Trump said.
Trump asserted that “this was not campaign finance”.