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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Trump insists he did no wrong after aides convicted

US president defends former campaign chief but vents anger at lawyer who admitted paying hush money

US President Donald Trump denied any wrongdoing after two close associates were convicted. Reuters
US President Donald Trump denied any wrongdoing after two close associates were convicted. Reuters

A defiant Donald Trump denied wrongdoing and hailed his record in office amid the fallout from the conviction of two of his closest associates on Wednesday.

The US president turned to his two favourite modes of communication - Twitter and Fox News - to attack his critics and dismiss suggestions that he could be impeached.

His prime target was Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, who told a Manhattan court that Mr Trump had orchestrated an attempt to buy the silence of two women who claimed they had had affairs with him.

Mr Trump’s opponents are arguing that the hush money payments, in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election, were illegal unrecorded campaign donations.

The president told Fox and Friends that no offence had been committed because he reimbursed Mr Cohen out of his own pocket, rather than using campaign funds.

“In fact, my first question when I heard about it was 'did they come out of the campaign', because that could be a little dicey,” he said.

Mr Trump sought to distance himself from Mr Cohen, saying he was one of many lawyers working for him.

"I understood Michael Cohen very well, well turns out he wasn't a very good lawyer,” he said before rounding on him for co-operating with prosecutors.

"It's called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal,” the president said as he contrasted Mr Cohen’s behaviour with that of Paul Manafort, his former campaign chief, who was convicted of seven counts of financial fraud and one of failing to disclose a foreign bank account.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. 'Justice' took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break' - make up stories in order to get a 'deal.' Such respect for a brave man!" the president wrote on Twitter.

Many in Washington believe that Mr Trump will pardon Manafort, although the president declined to be drawn on the issue.

Some experts have argued that Mr Cohen's disclosures could increase the possibility of impeachment proceedings, especially if the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives in November’s mid-term elections.

But this was dismissed by Mr Trump.

"If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor.

“I don't know how you can impeach somebody who's done a great job."

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Read more:

One holdout kept jury from convicting Paul Manafort on all counts

Editorial: A watershed moment for the Trump presidency

Jolted by allies' criminal cases, Trump faces election and legal risks

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Updated: August 23, 2018 08:08 PM

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