President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that he "never directed" Michael Cohen "to break the law."
In three tweets a day after his former attorney was sentenced to three years in prison, Trump said Cohen pleaded guilty in order to "embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence."
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his guilty pleas to charges including his central role in paying hush money to two women who claimed they had had affairs with Trump. The charges were brought by federal prosecutors in New York and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating potential coordination between Russia and Trump campaign-related figures.
Cohen's crimes included a range of financial violations, as well as lying to Congress. The hush money, paid in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, constituted violations of campaign-finance law. Prosecutors have said the payments, which went to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, were made "in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. Cohen and prosecutors said the money was paid in order to "influence" the election.
The White House has denied Trump had sex with either woman.
U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley said at Cohen's sentencing that each of the crimes on their own "warrant considerable punishment."
Trump said on Twitter that the 52-year-old Cohen, who was Trump's longtime personal attorney and a high-ranking executive at the Trump Organization, "has great liability if a mistake is made."
"That is why they get paid," Trump tweeted, referring to Cohen's status as a lawyer.
Trump also wrote that "many" campaign finance lawyers have told him he "did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance."
Trump asserted in a third tweet that Cohen pleaded guilty "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."
Later Thursday morning, Trump weighed in on the case of Michael Flynn, the president's formal national security advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
"They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements," Trump said, referring to the special counsel's handling of witnesses in the ongoing probe.
Late Wednesday, a judge in Flynn's case ordered the government to submit interview memos by Friday afternoon. Flynn's attorneys had alleged in a court filing, in which they requested a lenient sentence, that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not warn him that it was a crime to lie to the FBI.