Cohen cooperation doesn't guarantee Trump will be hit with campaign finance violation, says former federal prosecutor

Michael Cohen's guilty plea and subsequent sentencing don't mean it's a slam-dunk that President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE will be hit with charges of breaking campaign finance laws, former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno said Thursday.

"It would be a tough case, even under the best circumstances, even if this wasn't the president of the United States," Moreno told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on "Rising."

He said one component of a defense could include the president saying, "Look, I knew that there were transactions going on, but I trusted a person who knows a lot about campaign finance law, my lawyer. I trusted Michael Cohen, and he knows about campaign finance law."

"You do have to prove specific intent in a crime like this," Moreno said. "You have to show knowing violation of the law."

"This is far from a slam dunk case," he added.

Cohen, who was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison, has said Trump directed him to make payments to two women — former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels — to silence them in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign from discussing their alleged affairs with Trump from more than a decade ago.

Cohen, who was Trump's personal lawyer, is cooperating in law enforcement investigations, including Mueller's probe into Russia's election meddling and alleged ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “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."

— Julia Manchester