President Donald Trump lashed out at his former personal attorney in a tweet on Wednesday, one day after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts, including tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations related to his work for Trump.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” the president, 72, tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, Trump claimed, without offering proof, that Cohen, 51, had “[made] up stories in order to get a deal” — unlike, Trump said, his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, 69, who was convicted Tuesday of eight fraud-related counts. (Manafort’s conviction was for charges unrelated to the 2016 campaign.)
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump wrote. ” ‘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!”
On Tuesday, the president said he “[felt] badly for both” men, adding that, “Paul Manafort is a good man,” according to transcripts provided by the White House.
Cohen told a federal judge on Tuesday that Trump had directed him during the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the affairs.
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Cohen said he made the payments “for the purpose of influencing the election.” Cohen’s admission directly implicated Trump in a federal crime, sparking new calls for the president to be impeached.
Politico reported that Cohen’s accusations against Trump could embolden special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, “even if they are unrelated to allegations of collusion with Russia.”
But many legal experts say impeachment is unlikely.
Richard Johnson, a professor in U.S. politics at Lancaster University, cautioned “those who think impeachment is around the corner.”
“Impeachment is a political process. The jury is 100 U.S. senators, whose overwhelming concern is re-election and, even more pertinently for some, re-nomination,” he argued in a research note, according to CNBC. “Two-thirds of them must vote to convict. We’re in a new partisan landscape from the 1970s. Even if Democrats take control of the House, will there be around 17 Republican senators willing to vote with around 50 Democrats to convict a Republican president? I doubt it.”
And Jacob Parakilas, the deputy head of the U.S. and Americas program at the British think tank Chatham House, told CNBC that he thinks the political implications of the Manafort and Cohen outcomes are not clear.
“It’s fair to say that any day that sees close associates of the sitting president convicted and pleading guilty to numerous crimes … is not a great day for the Republican Party,” he said. “Yet that said, the (midterms) are still a few months away, and the news cycle these days is so incredibly rapid that if these things don’t develop further, it’s possible they’ll be consumed into a bigger narrative that may or may not favor the Democrats.
“But I don’t think this is the last we’re hearing of either Manafort or Cohen, I don’t think this is the end of their sagas,” he predicted.
After Cohen’s guilty plea, speculation mounted that Trump could grant his former longtime lawyer a presidential pardon. But according to Cohen’s attorney, a pardon would not be welcome.
“I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office,” Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, told NPR’s Morning Edition, later referring to the president as a “criminal.”