Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, pleads guilty in New York court


Former fixer admits fraud and campaign finance charges and says hush money payments to women were directed by Trump

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen on Tuesday said Trump directed him to make payments that infringed campaign finance laws, in an effort to keep quiet two women who alleged sexual affairs with the billionaire.

The president has denied any knowledge of the payments at the time they were constructed. His role in them could describe him personally into legal jeopardy, legal analysts said.

Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, said in a tweet:” If those pays were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?

The disclosure was made as Cohen pleaded guilty to bank scam, tax fraud and campaign finance violations in federal tribunal in New York. At the same time in Alexandria, Virginia, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty of bank fraud, tax fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account.

The campaign finance charges against Cohen stemmed from pays he made to the pornographic film actor Stormy Daniels and to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

As part of the bargain, Cohen agreed not to challenge any prison sentence from 46 to 63 months.

” Mr Cohen decided he was above the law, and for that he is going to pay a very serious price ,” said deputy US attorney Robert Khuzami outside the district courthouse in Manhattan.

Cohen admitted to attempting to hide billings he made to ” the candidate” for” money to silence two women”, Khuzami said, by submitting invoices for legal services in 2017. In fact there were no such services and the invoices sought reimbursement for the hush payments.

Khuzami accused Trump’s former top deputy of” a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a substantial period of time” that was ” particularly significant when done by a lawyer “.

Cohen admitted to hiding $4.3 m in income over a five-year period, including receipts from loans, from his taxi the enterprises and from brokerage commissions. The subterfuge resulted in $ 1.3 m in unpaid taxes. He also failed to disclose more than $14 m in debt in a mortgage application.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges for causing an unlawful corporate contribution and making an excessive personal contribution for the purpose of affecting the election.

Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, departs following his appearance in federal tribunal in New York on Tuesday. Photograph: Kevin Hagen/ AP

Cohen did not agree to testify in other matters, such as the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But his apparent decision to plead guilty was nonetheless a political jolt for Trump, who first condemned the investigation of Cohen as” an attack on our country” and later turned on Cohen, suggesting that he was ” trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam “.

In Charleston, West Virginia, arriving for a rally on Tuesday evening, Trump told reporters the Manafort verdict was a ” humiliation” but ignored shouted questions about Cohen.

On Twitter, Davis said:” This is Michael fulfilling his promise made on July 2nd to put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump .”

Cohen was under investigation in the southern district of New York. Federal agents raided his home and offices on 9 April, on a referral from Mueller.

Prosecutors focused on money flows through a limited liability corporation Cohen set up as part of his work for Trump- including payments to women claiming affairs- and on $20 m in loans received by taxi cab business operated by Cohen and family members.

In addition, Cohen has operated a real estate business, ran as a personal injury lawyer and pursued multiple dead-end startups including a float casino and multiple medical billing companies.

On Tuesday, Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, rejected the Cohen plea as insignificant in the context of the Russia investigation.

” Unless I find a direct correlation and coordination on hacking of the emails, I don’t see what this does for getting the president removed from office ,” he said.

Nunberg also rejected the importance of Cohen paying off women.

” So what do they have ?” he asked of the prosecutors.” That Cohen paid off a woman and Trump told him to? My argument would be Trump has done this before, this wasn’t his first rodeo doing this .” Nunberg later was pointed out that he believed the conduct to which Cohen pleaded guilty did not represent a campaign finance violation.

Donald Trump gestures while speaking in Charleston, West Virginia. Photograph: Alex Brandon/ AP

Cohen went to work for the Trump Organization in 2007 as a dealmaker, lawyer and fixer. His portfolio included scouting real estate in the US and abroad and threatening reporters preparing tales deemed harmful to Trump. Cohen was also charged with dealing with women. In a videotape released last month, he and Trump can be heard discussing a payment related to accusations by McDougal.

A month before the 2016 election, Cohen opened a limited liability corporation called Essential Consultants and used it to make a $ 130,000 payment to Daniels. Trump has denied the affairs.

The establishment of the LLC set in motion events that led to Cohen’s indictment. After Trump was elected president, Cohen utilized the company to catch hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from firms in the US and abroad attempting Trump’s ear. He also utilized the company to pay dues at private clubs and for luxury items, according to documents released by Daniels’ legal team.

Neither function fitted with the purpose of the company as stated in bank documents submitted by Cohen, who described the LLC as part of a real estate consultancy. Bankers flagged the money flows to regulators.

Trump and Cohen had a public falling out. Cohen, who had long professed his willingness to “take a bullet” for the president, changed his tune.

” My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will ,” he told ABC News, adding:” I put my family and country first .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com


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