The White House implied Trump cares about Cohen's lies, but not Flynn's, because Cohen's directly implicated the president

Michael Flynn talks with Michael CohenRetired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, left, chats with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, and Trump attorney Michael D. Cohen, center, in the lobby at Trump Tower, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, in New York.AP Photo/Kathy Willens

  • The White House on Tuesday seemed to imply President Donald Trump does not care if people closely associated with him break the law by lying to the FBI, as long as the president is not implicated in any crimes in the process.
  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn last December pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
  • Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen in late November pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
  • The president's disposition toward Flynn and Cohen could not be more stark, and it seems to be motivated by the fact Cohen implicated Trump in crimes and Flynn did not. 

The White House on Tuesday seemed to imply President Donald Trump does not care if people closely associated with him break the law by lying to the FBI, as long as the president is not implicated in any crimes in the process. 

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn last December pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had during the presidential transition period with Sergey Kislyak, who was Russia's ambassador to the US at the time. Additionally, Flynn admitted to lying about lobbying work he did on behalf of the Turkish government.  

Flynn also lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials about the nature of his communication with the Russian diplomat, which is why he was ultimately fired

Addressing the matter at a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "Maybe [Flynn] did do those things but that doesn't have anything to do with the president directly." 

Trump had wished Flynn well in a tweet on Tuesday morning as his former national security adviser headed to court for a sentencing hearing.

Sanders told reporters at the briefing it's "perfectly acceptable" for Trump to make positive comments about Flynn despite the fact he's admitted to lying to the FBI. 

"It's perfectly acceptable for the president to say positive things about someone while we wait for the court's determination," Sanders said. 

Sanders said there were "certainly concern" about Flynn's activities, but maintained the president was not linked to them.  

Read more: 'You sold your country out': Judge tears into Michael Flynn but agrees to delay sentencing after lawyers hint at more cooperation

This came not long after US District Judge Emmet Sullivan ultimately agreed to delay Flynn's sentencing.

Meanwhile, the White House press secretary defended the president for referring to Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, as a "rat."

Cohen is a "known liar," Sanders said. 

Cohen in August pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes in the Southern District of New York, including campaign finance violations linked to payments he made to two women who said they had affairs with Trump.

In open court, Cohen said Trump directed him to make the payments and that he did so in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. In short, Trump was implicated in campaign finance violations by Cohen. 

Read more: The Michael Cohen controversy reached a climax as he was sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty and implicating Trump - here's a full timeline of events

Federal prosecutors in a recent court filing endorsed Cohen's implication, stating he'd made the illegal payments "in coordination with and at the direction" of Trump.

In late November, Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build Trump Tower in Moscow, stating he'd misled lawmakers about the duration of discussions on the ultimately failed real estate deal. This came as part of a new plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, who's leading the investigation into Russian election interference. 

Cohen said the discussions on the plan lasted until June 2016, after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and that he briefed Trump and his family members on the deal multiple times.

Michael Cohen guilty pleaMichael Cohen, former personal attorney to Donald Trump, leaves federal court in November 2018 after pleading guilty to making false statements to Congress.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Cohen's lawyers in a sentencing memorandum submitted in late November said he was "in close and regular contact" with Trump's lawyers and White House staff leading up to his false congressional testimony last year.

Read more: Michael Cohen's lawyers dropped a slew of intriguing bombshells about Trump in a new court filing

The lawyers said Cohen's false testimony was catalyzed by him being "a loyal ally and then-champion of Client-1, to support and advance Client-1's political messaging." Client-1 is believed to be Trump. 

Similarly, Mueller in a sentencing memo filed earlier this month said Cohen "admitted he told these lies - which he made publicly and in submissions to Congress - in order to minimize links between the Moscow Project" and Trump. 

Mueller's memo said that in the process of cooperating Cohen "described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements contained within it." Additionally, the memo said Cohen offered "relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period."

Read more: Everything Michael Cohen told Mueller about the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia, according to the memo that could land Cohen a 'substantial' prison sentence

In short, Cohen's lawyers claimed he was in touch with the White House about his plans to lie to Congress, and prosecutors appear to have corroborated that claim.

Cohen last week was sentenced to three years in prison over the nine crimes he's pleaded guilty to, including those in which he's implicated Trump.

Trump vehemently denies any involvement in illegal activity and has called his former personal lawyer a "liar" and a "weak person."

Flynn and Cohen both told lies that landed them in serious legal trouble.

The primary difference is that Cohen's crimes and related lies implicate Trump, which seemingly explains the stark contrast in the president's disposition toward his two former employees.

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