Michael Cohen pleads guilty to campaign finance violations, tax and bank fraud

Criminal Justice

- Michael Cohen pleads guilty to campaign finance violations, tax and bank fraud

Michael Cohen./a katz (Shutterstock.com.)

Updated: Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and so-called fixer for President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations and bank and tax fraud after surrendering to the FBI on Tuesday.

The Washington Post says Cohen faces a recommended sentence of four to five years. Fox News says the sentence could be 46 to 63 months.

CNN, Politico and Bloomberg also have coverage.

Cohen, who turns 52 on Saturday, is free on $500,000 bond with sentencing set for Dec. 12, Bloomberg reports.

According to the Associated Press, Cohen and Trump arranged payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both claimed past affairs with Trump. Speaking in a Manhattan federal court, Cohen said one payment was made “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” and the second was made “under direction of the same candidate,” according to AP. Cohen didn’t identify Trump in court, AP reported. However, the charging documents posted by the Post reference the candidate as “Individual-1” who “had become the president of the United States.”

Cohen, who previously had said in a Vanity Fair article, “I’m the guy would take a bullet for the president,” changed his tone after federal law enforcement raided his home, office and hotel room in April. In July, he told ABC News that he would put “his family and country first.” Recently, Politico noted that Cohen had been speaking with John Dean, a former White House counsel whose congressional testimony in part brought down President Richard Nixon.

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Earlier reports Tuesday indicated that federal prosecutors and Cohen were negotiating a cooperation agreement. However, as the Times notes, the plea deal indicates those talks broke down.

Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan, gave Bloomberg some possible reasons why that happened.

“It could mean that they don’t need him or don’t trust him or just aren’t ready to cut the deal yet,” said Sandick, a defense attorney with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler.

At a press conference, Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami of the Southern District of New York said the tax evasion charges stem from $4.1 million in income Cohen failed to report between 2012 and 2016: $2.5 million was from interest payments; $1.3 million from his taxi medallion business; $100,000 from brokerage commissions; and $200,000 from consulting fees.

“These are very serious charges and reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time,” Khuzami said.

Tuesday’s events add to the long line of federal charges and pleas of those tied to then-candidate Trump’s campaign.

Shortly after news about Cohen broke, jurors in Virginia found Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.

Manafort’s deputy and business partner, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy against the United States and to making false statements. Gates was the prosecution’s star witness during Manafort’s trial.

Michael Flynn, a staple on the campaign trail who served briefly as national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI and said he would cooperate in the Robert Mueller probe. Flynn is still awaiting sentencing.

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George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the campaign, also pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and has been cooperating with Mueller’s team. Last Friday, Mueller asked for up to six months jail time for Papadopoulos. A judge is expected to rule on the sentence in early September, according to the Times.

Trump, who is holding a campaign-style rally Tuesday night in West Virginia, did not tweet about Cohen or Manafort, but commented in a tweet that he was “looking forward to seeing everyone soon!”

Updated at 5:10 p.m. and 5:50 p.m.

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Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A. is president and managing partner of Allentown-based ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, Inc., a local search and digital marketing agency that offers clients lead generation, local seo and Google Maps Domination. Ed has been a digital entrepreneur since 1994, having discovered very early the opportunities the Internet offered. After having spent over two decades helping attorneys grow their practice, Ed joined the staff of ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing as President and Managing Partner, where he is expanding the agency’s cutting-edge services to the legal market. A true marketing futurist, Ed's vast experience working directly with attorneys has given him a unique perspective on law firm marketing not found in many other digital marketing agencies. Ed has reshaped the offerings of ForLawFirmsOnly to focus on growing law firms through a holistic approach to digital marketing evident in the reformulated lead generation processes now in place. Want to learn more about ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, their lead generation programs, or just talk to Ed about his visions for helping law firms grow? Call him at 855-943-8736.

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