Trump says he 'never directed Michael Cohen to break the law'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE on Thursday denied ordering Michael Cohen to break the law, one day after his former personal lawyer was sentenced to prison for making illegal hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 campaign and other financial crimes.

In a series of tweets, Trump pushed back on Cohen’s courthouse assertion that he acted out of a sense of duty to “cover up” the president’s “dirty deeds.”

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

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“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.”

Despite Cohen’s claim that he made the payments to affect the 2016 election, Trump said they did not break campaign finance laws and, even if they did, “I did nothing wrong.”

“Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook,” Trump wrote. “As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!”

Trump broke his silence after a federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Cohen to three years in prison for pleading guilty to bank and tax fraud, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws.

Cohen said Trump authorized him to make payments to two women, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and former adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, in order to keep them from discussing their alleged affairs with the former business mogul in the final weeks of the 2016 race.

The former Trump Organization executive is cooperating with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s team investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, another development that could pose grave legal and political dangers to Trump’s presidency.

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Cohen told the judge before he was sentenced that he took “full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to, the personal ones to me and those involving the president of the United States of America.” 

Pointing out that Trump recently called him “weak,” Cohen said the president “was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”

Lanny Davis, a legal adviser to Cohen, said after the sentencing his client would make himself available to congressional committees investigating Trump after the Mueller probe concludes.

“I look forward to assisting Michael to state publicly all he knows about Mr. Trump,” said Davis, who is also an opinion contributor for The Hill. 

The plea capped off a stunning turnabout for Cohen, a formerly rabid Trump loyalist who said he would take a bullet for the president.

Trump vented frustration in a combative interview with Fox News aired later Thursday when asked why he hired somebody like Cohen

“Well, it happens. Look it happens. I hire usually good people,” he responded, adding that Cohen mostly did “very low-level work” that was more public relations than law.

“In retrospect, I made a mistake,” the president added. 

Those comments appeared to undercut Trump's claim that Cohen was acting as his attorney in making the pay-offs.

Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal, which Cohen arranged, broke the law because they were made through corporate entities and were not reported on financial-disclosure forms.

But Trump and his legal team argue the payments, which the president initially denied knowledge of, were made to spare him personal embarrassment and thus do not violate campaign finance laws.

That argument was complicated on Wednesday when prosecutors revealed they have secured the cooperation of American Media, Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer that was involved in the payment to McDougal.

In exchange for immunity, AMI admitted that it made the payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign” and “in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.”

Despite reports Trump has privately expressed concern he could be impeached over the developments, he has declared publicly he is not worried about it.

“I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said in a Tuesday interview with Reuters.

This report was last updated at 1:17 p.m.