Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Gets 3-year Prison Sentence
WASHINGTON, DC – December 13, 2018
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations involving hush payments to two women and for lying to Congress. He said Donald Trump "led me to take a path of darkness instead of light."
US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan sentenced Cohen to three years for the payments, which violated campaign finance law, and to two months for the false statements to Congress. The two terms will run concurrently. The judge set March 6 for Cohen’s voluntary surrender.
Cohen pleaded guilty to the campaign finance charge in August and to making false statements in November. The women who received the money had claimed they had sex with Trump.
As part of the sentence, the judge ordered Cohen to forfeit $500,000 and pay restitution of nearly $1.4 million for the campaign finance law violations.
Federal prosecutors in New York charged that Cohen, just before the November 2016 election, paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 and helped arrange a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal so the women would keep quiet about their past relationships with Trump, who is married. Trump denies having the affairs.
Prosecutors have said the payments violated campaign finance laws. Cohen told prosecutors the payments were directed by Trump, implicating the president in a possible campaign finance law violation.
Federal law requires that the contribution of “anything of value” to a campaign must be disclosed, and an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.
“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Cohen told the judge during the sentencing hearing.
“I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds,” Cohen said.
Cohen was sentenced on the separate charge of lying to Congress brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Cohen pleaded guilty to that charge last month.
In his guilty plea to Mueller’s charge, Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the timeline for discussions about plans for real estate businessman Trump’s proposed skyscraper in Moscow. The project was never built.
Cohen said in written testimony to two Congressional committees that the talks ended in January 2016, before the first electoral contests to select the Republican presidential nominee, when they actually continued until June 2016 after Trump clinched the Republican nomination.
Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has accused Mueller’s team of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his campaign and his business dealings. Russia has denied US allegations of interfering in the election to help Trump.
In an interview on Tuesday, Trump denied the payments were campaign contributions. “If it were, it’s only civil, and even if it’s only civil, there was no violation based on what we did,” Trump said.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has argued the hush payments cannot be considered campaign finance violations because they were made to protect Trump’s reputation and would have been made even if he had not been a presidential candidate.
The sentencing capped the stunning about-face of a lawyer who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump but has now directly implicated the president in criminal conduct. The three-year sentence imposed by the judge was a modest reduction from the four to five years recommended under federal guidelines, but still underscored the seriousness of the charges.
“While Mr. Cohen pledges to help in further investigations that is not something the court can consider now,” Pauley said.
Cohen, who served as Trump's attorney for 12 years, was dismissed from the president's legal team in May. Months later, the FBI seized secret recordings made by Cohen where the two purportedly discussed the payment regarding McDougal, who had sold the story of her affair to American tabloid The National Enquirer.
Trump lashed out at Cohen over the tapes, claiming they were illegal. He has since badmouthed his former lawyer on social media, tweeting in August: "If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!"