Washington (AFP) - US President Donald Trump on Monday claimed hush payments to alleged former lovers before the 2016 presidential election were legal, pointing to a "simple private transaction."
Federal prosecutors in New York on Friday urged "substantial" jail time for his former lawyer Michael Cohen who pleaded guilty in August to bank fraud and campaign finance violations as a result of the pay-offs to two women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump.
But Trump denied the payments constituted a violation of US campaign financing laws.
"There was NO COLLUSION," he tweeted. "So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, ... which it was not."
Trump, referred to as "Individual-1," in the court documents, was directly implicated in ordering Cohen to make illegal payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to ensure their silence about the alleged sexual affairs.
Prosecutors argued that the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, making them undeclared campaign contributions.
But Trump insisted that even if the payments were illegal, it would be a civil matter.
"It is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama's - but was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine," he claimed.
"Lawyer's liability if (Cohen) made a mistake, not me."
The 2008 Obama campaign paid a $375,000 fine in 2013 to settle violations of a rule that contributions made 20 days before an election had to be reported within 48 hours.
But that case is distinct from the felonies Cohen admitted to as the violations were not alleged to be intended to swing the election outcome.
Trump went on to accuse Cohen, who will be sentenced on Wednesday, of "just trying to get his sentence reduced."
Trump's story on the payments has changed repeatedly.
In August, he accused Cohen of making up "stories" to cut a plea deal.
But he went on to say the payments were financed with his own money -- to which Cohen had access -- and that while he had no knowledge of them at the time, he had since been fully transparent.