WASHINGTON — President Trump reacted angrily on Thursday to the relatively short prison sentence handed down to his longtime personal attorney and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, and said Mr. Cohen failed him as his lawyer because he should have known about campaign finance law.
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Mr. Trump said in a series of Twitter posts. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.”
Mr. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday, related to two separate cases — a reduced sentence that reflected the information he shared with federal prosecutors, including details that implicated Mr. Trump in criminal activity. Mr. Cohen had faced a much lengthier sentence for his crimes of tax evasion, bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.
Mr. Trump said that his former lawyer had pleaded guilty to the charges in order to embarrass him and to get a reduced prison term. The president also dismissed the seriousness of lying to investigators — a federal crime that could lead to up to five years in prison. Referring to the special counsel, he said, “They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!”
The president said Mr. Cohen was guilty on charges completely unrelated to him, and repeated his earlier argument that his former lawyer agreed to admit to two campaign violations that are not even criminal and which Mr. Cohen probably did not commit.
“Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me,” Mr. Trump wrote. “But he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis.”
Mr. Trump also suggested on Thursday that, despite his plea deal, Mr. Cohen’s family could face future charges — something prosecutors have not raised publicly.
“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,” Mr. Trump wrote in one of his morning Twitter posts.
“They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated – the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI,” Mr. Trump wrote. “They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!”
For months, the president has demeaned Mr. Cohen, calling him weak and praising other former aides who have refused to cooperate with authorities. Mr. Trump has dismissed the campaign violations that Mr. Cohen is accused of committing at his behest and has said they are civil violations at best. And this week he said that Mr. Cohen should have known about campaign finance laws and protected his client, implying that it was not his fault he got bad legal representation.
“Michael Cohen is a lawyer. I assume he would know what he’s doing,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday in an Oval Office interview with Reuters.
Prosecutors said Mr. Trump directed Mr. Cohen to make illegal hush payments to women who said they had had affairs with Mr. Trump to keep the women from embarrassing Mr. Trump during his campaign for president. Mr. Cohen also told prosecutors that there was “government level” teaming between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign during 2015, reflecting a time frame that started much earlier than prosecutors previously knew.
During his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Cohen said he pleaded to the court for leniency to end his legal troubles and spare his family more embarrassment in the future. He also said he refused to sign a full cooperation agreement, as most defendants in the Southern District of New York do, because, “I do not need a cooperation agreement to be in place to do the right thing.”
A full cooperation agreement in the Southern District of New York would require Mr. Cohen to admit to every crime he has ever committed and provide details about the crimes of others.
In Twitter posts earlier this month, Mr. Trump also suggested that Mr. Cohen’s wife and father-in-law might face legal troubles of their own.
Before he started working for Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen worked as a personal injury lawyer and built his own taxi business, a venture that came to him through his wife’s father, Fima Shusterman. Mr. Shusterman emigrated to the United States in 1975 from Ukraine. After he got married, Mr. Cohen started doing business with Russian and Ukranian immigrants from New York, Chicago and Florida in communities known for links to organized crime. He started working for the Trump Organization in 2007.