Trump Takes on Former Lieutenants after Legal Blows

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    Vincent Obia with agency reports

    The United States President Donald Trump focused on two of his former aides Wednesday in tweets following striking legal setbacks, slamming one for turning on him and applauding the other for staying loyal.

    Trump lashed out at former long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, in a Twitter post for trying to implicate him before a federal judge, but congratulated Paul Manafort for defending him.

    Trump said the campaign finance violations Cohen pleaded guilty to in federal court in New York on Tuesday were “not a crime,” even though prosecutors and Cohen agreed that they were.

    In another tweet, Trump said: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen.”

    Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

    Cohen, who once said he was so loyal that he would “take a bullet” for Trump, told a federal court in Manhattan that Trump directed him to arrange payments ahead of the 2016 presidential election to silence two women who said they had affairs with with the president.

    Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, had said his client had information that would be of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

    Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, labelled Trump a “co-conspirator” and demanded that the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which is scheduled for early September, be delayed in the wake of Cohen’s plea.

    Trump had granted presidential pardons to conservative commentator, Dinesh D’Souza and former Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio, but Cohen’s attorney said his client would not accept a presidential pardon.

    Davis accused Trump of abusing his clemency rights.

    “Mr. Cohen is not interested in being dirtied by a pardon from such a man,” Davis told NPR.

    Cohen’s plea came as Paul Manafort, who served as chairman of Trump’s campaign, was found guilty on eight charges in a separate financial fraud trial in Alexandria, Virginia, stemming from a federal investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

    In a tweet, Trump said: “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.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

    The Cohen and Manafort cases increase political pressure on Trump and fellow Republicans ahead of November mid-term elections, in which Democrats are seeking to regain control of Congress.

    The Mueller investigation has clouded Trump’s presidency for more than a year and Tuesday’s developments up pressure on him personally.

    While Cohen refrained from naming Trump in court on Tuesday, choosing instead to refer to him as “the candidate,” Davis on Wednesday in television interviews accused the president of being directly involved.

    Cohen had “information … regarding both knowledge of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy by the Russians and the failure to report that knowledge to the FBI,” Davis told MSNBC.

    He also said on CNN: “Cohen has knowledge that would be of interest to the special counsel about whether Trump knew ahead of time about the hacking of emails.”