After news broke that Michael Cohen, the attorney who spent many years working as President Donald Trump's personal "fixer," pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to Congress last year about his contacts with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, conservative commentators rushed to criticize the president.
David French, a writer at the conservative-leaning National Review and a staunch Trump critic, tweeted Thursday, "Let's just be clear — there is now evidence that Trump was pursuing a substantial personal business relationship with our chief geopolitical foe long after he wrapped up the GOP nomination."
"Regardless of the legality of his actions, this is not acceptable," French added.
Earlier on Thursday, French posted, "This is your daily reminder that you cannot believe a single word that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth. But I guess to some people, constant lying is 'just words.' It's just his 'style.'"
Meanwhile, longtime GOP operative Bill Kristol, who is reportedly planning to assemble a "political war machine" to take on Trump in 2020, wrote on Twitter, "Collusion, collusion!"
In another tweet, he wrote, "Whoa. Am I right that Michael Cohen has now presumably had to testify truthfully to Mueller's team about all the conversations he had with Donald Trump—about Russia finances, about Russia and the campaign, about pardons, and about everything else?"
Republicans for the Rule of Law, a political nonprofit composed mostly of veteran members of the GOP, invoked the president's criticism of the ongoing federal investigation and wrote, "For a witch hunt, they sure have found a lot of witches."
The commentators' criticisms come after Cohen admitted that he "knowingly and deliberately" made false statements in 2017 to the Senate Intelligence Committee about an aborted plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. At the time, Cohen said the president's company pursued the development during the Republican primary, but that talks ended "for a variety of business reasons."
Cohen on Thursday also told the judge that he lied about the timing of the negotiations of the Moscow project and revealed that Trump was personally aware of the deal, signing a letter of intent and discussing it with Cohen on two other occasions. Cohen also disclosed that he agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the potential development, and that he communicated with Russian government officials about the project. He said he sent an email to the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of the potential deal.
Cohen said that he made the false statements to be consistent with Trump's "political message."
In response to Cohen's agreement, Trump told reporters, "When I'm running for president, that doesn’t mean I'm not allowed to do business." He added that Cohen is "a weak person and not a very smart person." Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Cohen "should be prosecuted to the extent of the law. That's why we put people under oath."
Rudy Giuliani, one of the president's personal lawyers, called Cohen a "liar" in a statement. "It's no surprise that Cohen lied to Congress," Giuliani said. "He’s a proven liar who is doing anything he can to get out of a long-term prison sentence for serious crimes of bank and tax fraud that had nothing to do with the Trump Organization."
Cohen, who was previously one of the president's most loyal and ardent defenders in business in politics, indicated earlier this year that his loyalty to Trump might be wavering as he vowed to "put family and country first" by cooperating with prosecutors. His decision to cooperate with Mueller has made him, perhaps, one of the most key witnesses against his former boss.
The news of the agreement comes during an eventful week in the Mueller investigation. Mueller informed a federal judge on Monday that he has voided his cooperation agreement with Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican consultant who spent five months as Trump's campaign chair during the 2016 campaign. Mueller said Manafort lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as his team, two months after reaching a plea deal in the Russia probe. Manafort was previously thought to be a star cooperator in the ongoing probe. Manafort's attorneys dispute the claims that he lied.
The president this week has been upping his relentless criticisms of the investigation and Mueller's team, accusing the prosecutors in a Wednesday tweet of "viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts" and comparing the probe to the McCarthy period, named for former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), who accused hundreds of Americans of being communists or communist sympathizers in the 1950s.