Donald Trump slams ex-lawyer Michael Cohen who paid hush money to Stormy Daniels over 'affair'

After initially staying quiet over Michael Cohen's conviction on campaign finance charges, Trump slammed his former attorney in a trademark "tweetstorm" today.

He wrote: "If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!"

In a separate tweet, Trump insisted he had not committed a crime, writing: “Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime.

“President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”

But some say secret payments to bury embarrassing stories about a political candidate could be considered a violation of US campaign finance laws.

What do we know so far?

  • Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to paying hush money to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump
  • Cohen said he acted "in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump who has always denied the allegations
  • At almost the same time, a jury found former Trump adviser Paul Manafort guilty of financial crimes on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller
  • They were big wins for Mueller, though neither were connected to his probe into Russian election interference
  • Trump barely touched on the cases at a rally in West Virginia yesterday but has said he "feels badly" for both men
  • Cohen's case could strengthen the case to impeach Trump for "high crimes and misdemeanours", should the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives and Senate at the mid-term elections

Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to paying Stormy Daniels hush money

What led to Michael Cohen's conviction?

Porn star Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, said Cohen paid her £130,000 days before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Cohen also recorded a meeting in which he and Trump discussed buying the rights to a kiss-and-tell interview with former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also claimed to have had a "romantic relationship" with him.

It was made two months before Americans voted.

Secret payments made to bury embarrassing stories about a political candidate could be considered a violation of US campaign finance laws.

The judge told the hearing that Cohen, who will be sentenced on December 12, faces a possible prison sentence of up to five years and three months.

He set bail at $500,000 (£390,000).

Who is Paul Manafort and what was he convicted of?

Cohen's conviction came in the same hour that Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of eight charges of tax and bank fraud, as well as failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

It was the first big victory for US Special Counsel Robert Mueller whose team is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

The jury convicted Manafort on five counts of filing false tax returns on tens of millions of dollars which came from political consulting income.

Prosecutors claimed Manafort collected £50million in foreign bank accounts from 2010 to 2014 and spent around £11million on luxury purchases at around the same time.

How did Trump react to the back-to-back blows?

Trump took to the stage in Charleston, West Virginia, just hours after two key figures in his rise to power were convicted of very serious crimes.

He barely addressed the cases, instead speaking about his accomplishments in office, including apparent improvements on trade, taxes, North Korea and plans for a Space Force.

Trump has distanced himself from Cohen since he stepped down as his personal lawyer in May.

He has also repeatedly denied having affairs with either woman or colluding with the Russians.

Speaking before the rally in Charleston, he said Manafort's conviction "has nothing to do with Russian collusion" and said his crimes "doesn't involve me".

He told cheering supporters: "What we're doing is winning… Where is the collusion? You know they're still looking for collusion."

Trump has managed to shake off a string of accusations during his time in office.

His loyal base of supporters have stayed with him despite his refusal to side with US intelligence agencies over the Kremlin on Russian interference.

And the crowd in West Virginia loudly chanted Trump's campaign staples "Drain the swamp!" and "Lock her up!" – despite the fresh corruption convictions and looming prison sentences for his former advisers.

His lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said the payments were made to spare Trump and his family embarrassment and were unrelated to the campaign.

He said: "I think the president is absolutely in the clear… The Cohen thing is over."

Could Trump be prosecuted or impeached?

Cohen's lawyer Davis took aim at Trump after the court case, saying his client was living up to his vow to put his "loyalty to family and country" above his old boss.

He said: "Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election."

It's the Cohen case that places Trump in the most jeopardy, legal experts say.

Most believe a sitting president cannot be charged – but the Constitution does allow Congress to impeach and sack a president from office for "high crimes and misdemeanours".

Cohen's accusation increases political pressure for Trump ahead of November's congressional elections, where Democrats will try to regain control of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Ross Garber is a lawyer who has represented four Republican governors in impeachment proceedings.

He said Cohen's statement makes it more likely that, were Democrats to take control of Congress, there would be an impeachment probe.

What does this mean for the Mueller probe?

The trials did not resolve the central question behind Mueller's investigation – whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia to influence the election.

But Cohen, the man who once said he would take a bullet for Trump, has said he would be "more than happy" to talk to Mueller and tell him "all that he knows".

His lawyer told MSNBC that Cohen has information that would be "of interest" to his investigation and suggested he had inside knowledge of key meeting which took place at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

Donald Trump Jr, as well as other key figures including Kushner and Manafort, met with individuals who had connections with Russia.

Davis added: "The obvious possibility [exists] of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about.

"But also [there's the possibility of] knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and cheered it on."

There were also occasional references to Manafort's work on the campaign, including emails showing him lobbying Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner on behalf of a banker who approved £12million in loans because he wanted a job in the Trump administration.


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