U.S. President Donald Trump called for a “full and complete” sentence for his former lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday, weighing in on a judicial proceeding with accusations Cohen lied about dealings with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12 after pleading guilty on Thursday to tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress.
A former member of Trump’s inner circle, Cohen has been cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Russia denies election meddling and Trump describes the investigation as a political witch hunt.
Cohen’s lawyers asked the judge in a court filing on Friday not to sentence him to prison.
It is unusual for a president or any senior government official to comment on court proceedings.
Since the plea deal, Trump also attacked Cohen as “weak” and a liar. Cohen said in the court filing that he, with Trump’s knowledge, had pursued a Moscow building project with Russian government officials well into the presidential campaign.
Cohen admitted he lied to Congress when he said efforts to pursue a Moscow real estate ended in January 2016, when they actually continued until June 2016, after Trump had clinched the Republican presidential nomination.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump accused Cohen of cooperating with federal prosecutors in the Russia probe in exchange for a reduced sentence on unrelated tax fraud and campaign finance charges.
“He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence,” Trump said.
The Republican president has repeatedly attacked Mueller’s probe and expressed sympathy for former associates caught in its web, including ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who faces sentencing after convictions of tax and bank fraud charges.
On Monday, Trump praised longtime associate Roger Stone, who has been under scrutiny by investigators over his comments about leaked Democratic emails during the presidential campaign. Stone told ABC News on Sunday he would not testify against Trump and has not discussed a pardon with the president.
“Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!'” Trump said in another Twitter post.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Grant McCool)