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Cooperman on insider trading charges: Information is not a crime

Billionaire hedge fund pioneer Leon Cooperman told CNBC on Tuesday the insider charges against him are "totally unjustified," and the amount of money the government is wasting prosecuting his firm is "shocking."

"Information is not a crime. We deal in information. We call on companies," he said. "What I look for is insight, not insider information."

in a "Squawk Box" interview, the Omega Advisors chairman and CEO said he has two jobs now: make money for his investors and convince a jury he's not guilty of the charges being brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Thankfully, despite this mild distraction, we're doing well. Our Omega credit fund is up 13 [or] 14 percent this year. Our equity-only fund is up about 7 percent this year, which is in line with S&P. And our all-weather, do everything fund is up about 5 percent," Cooperman said.

Omega has about $5.4 billion in assets under management, with what it says is a significant amount of personal general partner capital invested.

Cooperman said he was encouraged to fight the government by fellow billionaire and Omega investor Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot.

"[Ken Langone] called me up two [or] two and a half months ago ... and said look: 'I've known you for 40 years. I've been an investor with you for over a decade. I know what you stand for," Cooperman said.

Cooperman recalled Langone claiming the best $30 million he ever spent was defending himself against then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Cooperman added that Langone also said: "'You've done nothing wrong. Don't give these guys a dime.'"

Fighting the charges is going to cost "substantially more" than agreeing to a settlement, Cooperman said. "I could have settled ... for less than half what I give of what I give to charity annually."

In statement released to CNBC before his appearance, Cooperman said he acted "appropriately and lawfully" and won't let his legacy be "destroyed unfairly."

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Cooperman of buying into Atlas Pipeline Partners ahead of a deal, allegedly using his status as one of its largest shareholders to acquire nonpublic information about an upcoming transaction.

In his "Squawk Box" appearance, Cooperman also made the case for why he believes Donald Trump is not presidential, and argued for why he sees the stock market as fully valued.