NEW YORK – Michael Cohen, the former attorney and fixer for Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to several crimes, including violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to women who allegedly had sexual relationships with the mogul-turned-president, albeit before he entered the White House.
After months in the center of a wide-ranging and intensive investigation, Cohen finally agreed to a plea deal with authorities, who are also pursuing him for alleged tax evasion and bank fraud, crimes that he also pleaded guilty to, according to the prosecutor in the case, Robert Khuzami.
The prosecutor said that Cohen had engaged in “a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time” and that “Mr. Cohen decided he was above the law, and for that he is going to pay a very serious price.”
Cohen, who will remain free on bond, will learn his sentence on Dec. 12 and faces the possibility of spending several years in prison, according to reports by several US media outlets.
Trump’s admitted fixer said before the judge that during the 2016 presidential campaign he paid two women to keep silent about their alleged relationships with the magnate.
He did so, he said, “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Trump, and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” so that the sexual liaisons would not come to light and harm the mogul’s election chances.
Cohen thus admitted violating campaign finance laws by making an undeclared contribution to a campaign.
He arranged and made payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) and to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to ensure that they would not go public about their alleged affairs with Trump.
In Daniels’ case, the $130,000 transaction took place in October 2016, in the final stretch before the November election and when Trump’s image had been severely harmed by his sexist comments and accusations of harassment.
In recent months, Trump has tried to distance himself from the man who for many years was one of his closest collaborators, after in April the FBI raided Cohen’s office and seized an enormous quantity of documents.
The attorney, meanwhile, recently had suggested that he might cooperate with the authorities against the president with the aim of avoiding lengthy jail time.
The plea deal reached with prosecutors, however, does not include a commitment to cooperate with them on Cohen’s part and several US media outlets reported that he had opted to plead guilty to avoid a long trial and a larger fine.
Cohen’s plea deal was made shortly before another potentially damaging legal blow to the president: namely the conviction on eight of 18 counts of financial fraud filed against his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.