On August 21, 2018, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to eight counts including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and making false statements in federal court in New York.
Timeline of Cohen’s courtroom appearance:
Cohen Arrives in Manhattan federal court (4:02 p.m.)
Rosenstein made aware of Cohen’s plea deal (4:08 p.m.)
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was consulted and made aware of Cohen’s plea deal.
The plea deal does not include a cooperation agreement and indicates that New York prosecutors don’t see any additional value in trying to reach such a deal with Cohen, the person said.
Cohen Intends Plead Guilty, Lawyer Tells Judge (4:17 p.m.)
U.S. District Judge William Pauley was told by prosecutors at the start of the hearing that Cohen will plead guilty on eight counts. He was also told that there is a plea agreement between the defense and the prosecution.
Cohen charged with eight counts (4:31 p.m.)
Cohen is charged with eight counts: evading personal income taxes, making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution, making a false statement to a financial institution, and making an excessive campaign contribution in October 2016.
Judge Discusses Sentence (4:37 p.m.)
Cohen faces a likely prison sentence of 46 to 63 months, the judge said.
Cohen Acted for Candidate in Violating Campaign Law (4:43 p.m.)
Cohen said he was directed to violate campaign law at the direction of a candidate for federal office. At the same candidate’s direction, he said he paid $130,000 to somebody to keep them quiet, which was later repaid by the candidate. He didn’t identify the candidate or the person who was paid, but those facts match Cohen’s payment to Clifford and Trump’s repayment.
Cohen Payment Was to Hide Alleged Affairs (4:47 p.m.)
The prosecutor told the judge the purpose of the payments was to ensure that the individuals did not disclose “alleged affairs with the candidate.” Besides the $130,000 payment, Cohen admitted to making an illegal contribution of $150,000, which was how much McDougal received from the National Enquirer’s publisher to quash her story.
Cohen Hearing Ends (4:52 p.m.)
Cohen was released on $500,000 bond, cosigned by his wife and a second person. The judge set sentencing for Dec. 12.
Plea Agreement Outlines Case against Cohen (5:19 p.m.)
Cohen pleaded guilty to failure to report personal income taxes for the five-year period beginning in 2012. He also admitted to making false statements to a financial institution tied to a credit decision around February 2015, to wilfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution from at least June 2016 to October 2016, and to making an excessive campaign contribution on October 27, 2016, according to his plea agreement.
A U.S. prosecutor told the judge the purpose of the payments was to ensure that the individuals did not disclose “alleged affairs with the candidate.” In addition to a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, Cohen admitted to making an illegal contribution of $150,000, which was how much former Playmate Karen McDougal received from the National Enquirer’s publisher to bury her story about an alleged affair.
Michael Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis told reporters outside of the courthouse:
“Michael Cohen took this step today so that his family can move on to the next chapter. This is Michael fulfilling his promise made on July 2 to put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump. Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer said:
“There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen. It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”
Former White House counsel for Richard Nixon, John Dean said:
“It’s a big day, it’s a bad day.”“I think we’ve established today that we have a criminal president, and that is historic.”
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist said:
“Today clarifies that November is a referendum on impeachment – an up-or-down vote.”
“Every Trump supporter needs to get with the program.”
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said in a statement:
“The White House looks increasingly like a criminal enterprise with the convictions today of President Trump’s former campaign manager and personal lawyer.”
Current Justice Department guidelines state that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and that any wrongdoing should be referred to Congress for impeachment proceedings.
After first denying knowledge of the payment, Trump admitted in May to reimbursing Cohen for a $130,000 payment made to Daniels, the porn actress, although he denied the transaction had anything to do with the campaign or involved campaign funds. Trump was also heard on a 2016 recording made by Cohen that appears to show Trump was informed of the payments.
On August 22, 2018, Michael Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis told CNN:
“It’s my observation that Mr. Cohen has knowledge that would be of interest to the special counsel about the issue of whether Donald Trump, ahead of time, knew about the hacking of emails, which is a computer crime.”
Davis told MSNBC that Cohen’s knowledge involves the:
“Possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election.”
“Not only is he not hoping for it, he would not accept a pardon. He considers a pardon from somebody who has acted so corruptly as president to be something he would never accept.”