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22nd Aug 2018

Trump aide admits under oath President told him to break electoral law

Michael Cohen plead guilty to eight charges of campaign finance fraud, bank fraud and tax evasion, and faces up to six years in jail

Oli Dugmore

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12: Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for President-elect Donald Trump, walks through the lobby at Trump Tower, January 12, 2017 in New York City. Trump and his transition team are continuing the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen plead guilty to campaign finance fraud, bank fraud and tax evasion, and faces up to six years in jail

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has admitted to paying hush money to two women whose stories would damage the then presidential candidate’s campaign.

Michael Cohen plead guilty in plea deal to paying money to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, “at the direction of a candidate for federal office . . . for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”

Cohen’s own lawyer, Lanny Davis, later said in a statement: “if those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

51-year-old Cohen had previously said he would “take a bullet” for President Trump, faced with a jail sentence from the New York courthouse between three and six years his resolution has melted.

The plea inflicts massive damage on the Trump administration and, while not part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Cohen’s in depth knowledge of Trump may appeal to the special counsel. Cohen may be inclined to cooperate knowing Mueller could recommend more lenient sentencing at his hearing on December 12.

Michael Cohen exits the federal courthouse on August 21 in New York. (Credit: Yana Paskova)

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Trump’s former campaign manager was convicted of financial crimes and faces up to 240 years in jail.

Speaking last night after the convictions Mr Trump said: “Paul Manafort is a good man. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. It’s a witch-hunt and it’s a disgrace.”

Despite Cohen’s admission directly implicating the president in a federal crime, justice department guidelines prevent the president from being indicted. However, if the Democrats win Congress in November’s midterms they could impeach him.

Trump’s former aide also did not name the women or his boss in entering his plea, but payments match up to $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels and $150,000 paid to Karen McDougal in a non-disclosure agreement. Cohen made the payments through a company he owned before submitting fake invoices to Trump, through which he was duly reimbursed. The president is alleged to have had affairs with both women.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: Surrounded by his team of lawyers, Deputy U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Robert Khuzami speaks to the media about the Michael Cohen case outside of federal court, August 21, 2018 in New York City. Cohen reached a plea agreement with prosecutors involving charges of bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The deputy US attorney for the southern district of New York, Robert Khuzami, said: “[Cohen] worked to pay money to silence two women who had information he believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign and to the candidate.”

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said: “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr Cohen. It is clear that Mr Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”