Updated at 1:21 p.m. ET
After hours of saying little about the guilty plea of one former close associate and the conviction of another, President Trump lashed out, slamming his ex-lawyer on Twitter while expressing sympathy for his former campaign chairman.
Trump had harsh words for his former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who has signaled a willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felony charges, including campaign finance violations and tax evasion, on Tuesday, the same day Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts in a federal tax and bank fraud trial.
Trump attacked Cohen, tweeting, “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”
Cohen has said Trump illegally directed him to make payments to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump in an effort to influence the 2016 election; the president has denied the affairs. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, told NPR’s Rachel Martin that his client believes Trump is “both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office” and that Cohen would not accept a pardon from Trump.
Trump’s allies, including Manafort’s predecessor as campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, have questioned Cohen’s credibility, calling him a “serial liar” and noting that he admitted to dishonest behavior as part of his guilty plea.
Also on Twitter, Trump falsely claimed that Cohen had admitted guilt to two counts of campaign finance violations that are “not a crime” — they are, in fact, felonies. Trump noted that President Barack Obama “had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”
Obama’s 2008 campaign did, in fact, pay $375,000 to the Federal Election Commission as a result of campaign reporting errors; others, including Republican nominee Bob Dole’s 1988 campaign, also paid fines for similar reasons.
There has been speculation that Manafort, who has maintained his innocence, may be hoping for a presidential pardon as a reward for his loyalty. On Twitter, Trump praised Manafort, saying he feels badly for him and his “wonderful family.” He added, “Such respect for a brave man!”
In another tweet, Trump noted that the jury could not reach agreement on 10 of the 18 counts against Manafort.
Aside from the president’s tweets, the White House has been largely mum on the convictions. Sources close to the White House have acknowledged to NPR that advisers are “very worried” — or at least ought to be — about the mounting legal troubles swirling around Trump and his former associates.
Arriving in West Virginia for a campaign rally Tuesday night, Trump said he felt badly for Manafort and called him a “good man” before adding, “It doesn’t involve me.” Trump did not mention Manafort or Cohen during the rally, complaining only briefly about the “witch hunt,” his favored term for Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.