Fri, Aug 24, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Trump says Cohen made up stories

MUELLER PROBE:The US president and the White House were caught off-guard when the former Trump lawyer admitted campaign finance crimes, implicating the president

AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump accused his former lawyer Michael Cohen of lying under pressure of prosecution as the White House grappled with allegations that the president orchestrated a campaign cover-up to buy the silence of two women who claimed that he had had affairs with them.

Confronting mounting legal and political threats, Trump on Wednesday said on Twitter that Cohen made up “stories in order to get a ‘deal’” from federal prosecutors.

Cohen on Tuesday pleaded guilty to eight charges, including campaign finance violations that he said he carried out in coordination with Trump.

Behind closed doors, Trump expressed worry and frustration that a man intimately familiar with his political, personal and business dealings for more than a decade had turned on him.

However, the White House signaled no clear strategy for managing the fallout.

At a White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at least seven times that Trump has done nothing wrong and is not the subject of criminal charges.

She referred substantive questions to the president’s personal counsel, Rudy Giuliani, who was at a golf course in Scotland.

Outside allies of the White House said they had received little guidance on how to respond to the events in their appearances on cable TV news and it was not clear that the White House was assembling any kind of coordinated response.

Trump himself publicly denied wrongdoing, sitting down with his favored program Fox and Friends for an interview that was to air yesterday.

In the interview, he incorrectly said that the hush-money payouts were not “even a campaign violation,” because he subsequently personally reimbursed Cohen for the payments instead of using campaign funds.

Federal law restricts how much individuals can donate to a campaign, bars corporations from making direct contributions and requires that transactions are disclosed.

Cohen on Tuesday said that he secretly used shell companies to make payments used to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.

Trump has insisted that he only found out about the payments after they were made, despite the release of a September 2016 taped conversation in which Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair she has said she had with Trump.

The White House denied that the president lied, with Sanders calling the assertion “ridiculous,” but not offering an explanation for Trump’s shifting accounts.

As Trump vented his frustration, White House aides sought to project a sense of calm. Used to the ever-present shadow of federal investigations, numbed West Wing staffers absorbed almost simultaneous announcements on Tuesday of the Cohen plea deal and the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial charges.

Manafort is to face trial next month on separate charges in Washington that include acting as a foreign agent.

That Cohen was in trouble was no surprise — federal prosecutors raided his offices months ago — but Trump and his allies were caught off-guard when he also pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes, which, for the first time, took the swirling criminal probes directly to the president.

Both cases resulted, at least in part, from the work of US special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged Russian attempts to sway voters in the 2016 election.

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