President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges on Tuesday, including campaign finance violations related to hush money payments he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.
What’s more, Cohen admitted that he did so at the direction of Donald Trump, and with the goal of influencing the election.
Cohen pleaded guilty to a total of eight counts, including five counts of tax evasion involving nearly $4 million, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, one count of willful cause of unlawful corporate contribution from June 2016 to October 2016, and one excessive campaign contribution on October 27, 2016.
The last charge — one excessive campaign contribution — is related to a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen arranged to Stormy Daniels to keep her silent about an affair she says she had with Trump in 2006. Cohen wired the $130,000 to Daniels’s lawyers on October 27, 2016.
Cohen has been in deep legal trouble since April 9 — when the FBI raided his residence, office, and a hotel where he was staying and seized several of his electronic devices.
And though Cohen’s conduct has been examined in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference with the 2016 election, this indictment is separate from the Mueller investigation.
Several months ago, federal investigators in New York convened a grand jury to investigate Cohen for “criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings” and “finances,” as they put it in a court filing. They also secretly obtained search warrants on several of his email accounts.
This led to the high-profile April 9 raids. At that point, prosecutors were looking for information on Cohen’s hush money payment of $130,000 to Daniels on Trump’s behalf, hush money payments to other women, efforts to suppress negative information about Trump during the 2016 campaign, and information about taxi medallions Cohen owns.
ow Cohen appears to have reached a deal with prosecutors. It’s not quite clear what this might mean for President Trump, now that the man who’s been one of his closest associates for decades may be facing serious legal consequences.
Cohen, who once said he’d take a bullet for Trump, seems to have soured on his old boss as the months wore on. He gave several public signals that he might be willing to cooperate with prosecutors, including releasing a secret recording of himself and Trump discussing a payoff to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. A CNN report also suggested Cohen was considering telling Mueller that Trump had advance knowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton — something the president has repeatedly denied.
Cohen’s plea agreement doesn’t call for cooperation with prosecutors, including those on Mueller’s team. But Cohen’s revelations in court certainly deal a blow to the president, and Trump is clearly listed as “Individual 1” in the charging documents.
“There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen,” Rudy Guiliani, Trump’s attorney, told the New York Times.
But it’s not good news either. Cohen is the latest member of Trump’s inner circle charged with federal crimes, and Cohen’s plea came just as a jury returned a partial guilty verdict in the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.