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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Donald Trump calls for his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to be jailed

The US president also praised another former adviser, Roger Stone, for refusing to testify against him

President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen exits Federal Court after entering a guilty plea in Manhattan. Reuters
President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen exits Federal Court after entering a guilty plea in Manhattan. Reuters

US President Donald Trump called on Monday for a long jail term for his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, who admitted lying to Congress about pursuing a real-estate deal with Russia on Mr Trump’s behalf during the 2016 election campaign.

Mr Trump also praised another former adviser, Roger Stone, for refusing to testify against him – drawing accusations of witness tampering and illegally obstructing the Russia collusion investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The president accused his former confidant of fabricating stories about his Russia dealings to minimise his sentence on multiple counts of tax evasion, financial fraud and campaign finance violations that he has admitted in federal court in New York.

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Last week, Mr Cohen also admitted to lying in testimony about contacts with powerful Moscow figures over building a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Those contacts, including with a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, continued throughout the first half of 2016, even after Mr Trump secured the Republican nomination for president, Mr Cohen admitted – contradicting claims by Mr Trump that there were no dealings beyond 2015.

In a pre-sentencing pitch to the court on Friday, Mr Cohen’s lawyers asked that he be given no jail time, noting his ongoing co-operation with Mr Mueller’s sprawling investigation.

Mr Trump, who has returned from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, unleashed his ire in a volley of tweets.

“You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, taxis, etc and not serve a long prison term?” he said.

“He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence,” Trump added.

Once one of the real-estate tycoon’s closest allies and a top executive at the Trump Organisation, Mr Cohen has become a key witness in Mr Mueller’s investigation in to whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in 2016.

His revelation in court that Mr Trump and his family were kept informed about contacts over building a Trump Tower in Moscow has ratcheted up the pressure from the investigation on the US president.

Mr Trump has repeatedly labelled the probe an “illegal witch hunt” and accused Mr Mueller on Monday of forcing witnesses to make up lies damaging to the president.

“Bob Mueller... and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don’t want the truth, they only want lies. The truth is very bad for their mission!” Trump tweeted.

The president compared Mr Cohen with Mr Stone, who is also being investigated by Mr Mueller over his possible role in colluding with the Russians during the campaign.

In an ABC News interview on Sunday, Mr Stone, a veteran Republican political consultant, denied any impropriety and said he would never give evidence against Mr Trump, with whom he has worked for four decades.

Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Stone’s comments showed “he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump’".

“Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’“ he said.

Legal experts said Mr Trump was empowering the obstruction of justice case against him by using the power of his position to influence witnesses.

“This is genuinely looking like witness tampering. The fact it’s done out in the open is no defence,” said Neal Katyal, a veteran constitutional lawyer and former acting solicitor general of the Department of Justice.