File photo of Michael Cohen (L) and Donald Trump (R). Photograph:( AFP )
The term "rat" is traditionally used in organised crime to refer to a "turncoat" or "informer" who has confessed to authorities and given law enforcement authorities inside information.
President Donald Trump on Sunday called his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen - who was sentenced to three years in prison after cooperating with prosecutors in several investigations, including the so-called "Russia probe" - a "rat" on Twitter.
"Remember, Michael Cohen only became a 'Rat' after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the witch hunt was illegally started," tweeted Trump.
Remember, Michael Cohen only became a “Rat” after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2018
The term "rat" is traditionally used in organised crime to refer to a "turncoat" or "informer" who has confessed to authorities and given law enforcement authorities inside information about the organisation.
Trump went on to say in the same Twitter post: "They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY'S OFFICE! Why didn't they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked's office?"
The initials DNC refers to the Democratic National Committee and "Crooked" is one of Trump's favorite expressions for former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, whom he defeated in the 2016 election and whose use of a private email server to send certain official emails while she was secretary of state - deemed by the FBI to have been reckless but not harmful to national security - he continually mentions.
Cohen, who at one time had publicly said that he would "take a bullet" for Trump, was sentenced this past week to three years in prison for assorted crimes, including violating campaign finance laws in deeds which he testified under oath that the president directed him to undertake.
Cohen was sentenced by a New York court for, among other things, paying hush money to two women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump, but he was also handed prison time for matters linked to the Russia probe, including his involvement in a project to build a "Trump Tower" in Moscow.
The president reacted this past week to the accusations against his former personal lawyer, tweeting "I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law."
Since May 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been heading an investigation - independent of government - into possible links between members of Trump's election campaign and the Kremlin, which US intelligence agencies accuse of interfering in the 2016 elections, but he has also been examining potential obstruction of justice by Trump himself.