US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS
US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

US President Donald Trump, in tweets about the stunning legal setbacks involving two of his former lieutenants, has attacked the one who has turned on him and defended the one who has remained loyal.

Trump lashed out on Wednesday at former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen in a Twitter post, saying the campaign finance violations Cohen pleaded guilty to in federal court in New York on Tuesday were "not a crime", although prosecutors and Cohen agreed that they were. Trump made the claim without offering any evidence.

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 charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign-finance violations. He said he had acted at the direction of Trump.


The number of charges Paul Manafort was found guilty of in a financial fraud trial

In television interviews, Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, said Cohen would not accept a presidential pardon if Trump offered him one because he wanted no part in what he saw as Trump’s abuse of his clemency power.

"He does not want anything from Donald Trump," Davis told MSNBC. Davis said Cohen also had information that would be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the 2016 campaign, and that a website had been set up to collect donations for Cohen’s legal expenses.

Cohen told a federal court in Manhattan that Trump directed him to arrange payments before the 2016 presidential election to silence two women who said they had affairs with Trump.

His plea came as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight charges in a financial-fraud trial in Virginia, stemming from a federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and possible co-ordination with the Trump campaign. The Mueller investigation has clouded Trump’s presidency for more than a year.

In a morning 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 two findings of guilt against Cohen and Manafort ratchet up political pressure on Trump and fellow Republicans before the November elections, in which Democrats are seeking to regain control of Congress.