Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump‘s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to eight criminal counts including tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump.
Mr. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, on Tuesday implicated the president in paying hush money he said were designed to sway the election, as part of a plea deal he made with federal prosecutors on fraud charges.
Cohen, who once said, “I would take a bullet for Trump,” turned on his former boss in a dramatic courtroom appearance that went down just as news emerged that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had been found guilty in his own fraud trial.
“I participated in the conduct for the purposes of influencing the election,” Cohen said about his payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump in the past. President Trump denies the claims.
The statement came as Cohen formally entered his plea at a Manhattan federal court, in which he admitted guilt to eight tax evasion, financial fraud, and campaign finance charges.
It represented a bombshell moment — and the most politically and potentially legally damaging for President Trump, who had previously denied knowledge of any payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
Cohen said one payment, for $150,000, was made during “summer of 2016, in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.”
The second payment, for $130,000, was made around “October of 2016, at the direction of the same candidate.”
Some legal experts speculated that because the Cohen plea included campaign finance violations based on payoffs, it is possible that Trump could be listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.
“It’s certainly possible, and I emphasize possible, that the president could be treated as a co-conspirator,” said the lawyer representing a senior Trump aide in the Russia probe.
“If Cohen broke the law by making these payments, then folks knew about it and agreed with it and assisted with it also broke the law. It’s that simple,” the lawyer added.
Cohen’s statements also stand out because the documents outlining his plea deal do not appear to offer any examples or evidence of Trump himself directing Cohen to do anything.
And Cohen’s lawyer, Mr. Lanny Davis, didn’t hold him back from directly calling out President Trump.
“If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” he asked in a statement.
Notably, the documents leave unanswered the question of whether Cohen has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the election — and any potential coordination with Trump’s campaign on those efforts.
Former New York City Mayor, Mr. Rudy Giuliani, who is representing President Trump in the Mueller probe, insisted the Cohen deal in no way implicated the president.
“There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen,” he told POLITICO.