Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison 12/13 06:05
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's one-time fixer, was sentenced
Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging the
payment of hush money to conceal his boss' alleged sexual affairs, telling a
judge that he agreed time and again to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds" out of
NEW YORK (AP) -- Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's one-time fixer, was
sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging
the payment of hush money to conceal his boss' alleged sexual affairs, telling
a judge that he agreed time and again to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds" out of
Separately, the legal and political peril surrounding Trump appeared to
deepen when prosecutors announced that another major piece of the investigation
had fallen into place: The parent company of the National Enquirer acknowledged
dispensing some of the hush money in concert with the Trump campaign to fend
off a scandal that could have damaged his bid for the White House.
Cohen, 52, shook his head slightly and closed his eyes as a judge pronounced
his sentence for evading $1.4 million in taxes, lying about Trump's business
dealings in Russia and violating campaign-finance laws in buying the silence of
porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal, who claimed
they had sex with the candidate. Cohen and federal prosecutors have said the
payments were made at Trump's direction to influence the election.
"Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds
rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass," said a
choked-up Cohen, a lawyer who once boasted he would "take a bullet" for Trump.
"My weakness can be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump, and I was
weak for not having the strength to question and to refuse his demands."
The twin developments represented a double dose of bad news for the
president, who ignored reporters' questions about Cohen during an appearance at
the White House later in the day.
Cohen is the first and, so far, only member of Trump's circle during two
years of investigations to go into open court and implicate him in a crime,
though whether a president can be prosecuted under the Constitution is an open
In a possible sign of further trouble for the president, Cohen said he will
continue cooperating with prosecutors, and one of his legal advisers said Cohen
is also prepared to tell "all he knows" to Congress if asked.
At the sentencing, defense attorney Guy Petrillo pleaded for leniency for
Cohen, saying, "He came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful
person in our country."
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said the defendant deserved modest
credit, but his assistance "does not wipe the slate clean."
"Somewhere along the way Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass,"
the judge said.
The judge also ordered Cohen to pay $1.39 million in restitution to the IRS,
forfeit $500,000 and pay $100,000 in fines. He was ordered to report to prison
March 6 and left court without comment.
The prison sentence was in line with what prosecutors asked for. Sentencing
guidelines called for around four to five years, and the government asked in
court papers that Cohen be given only a slight break.
The sentence was the culmination of a spectacular rise and fast fall of a
lawyer who attached himself to the fortunes of his biggest client, helped him
get elected president, then turned on him, cooperating with two interconnected
investigations: one run by federal prosecutors in New York, the other by
special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russia's efforts to
influence the presidential election.
Beyond the guilty pleas, it is unclear what Cohen has told prosecutors or
what he has left to say, though one of Mueller's prosecutors, Jeannie Rhee,
said in court that Cohen has "provided consistent and credible information
about core Russia-related issues under investigation." Legal experts said Cohen
could get his sentence reduced by cooperating.
In the hush-money case, Cohen arranged for American Media Inc., parent of
the pro-Trump National Enquirer, to pay $150,000 to McDougal to buy and bury
her story, according to prosecutors. Cohen also said he paid $130,000 to
Daniels and was reimbursed by Trump's business empire. Both payments were made
during the heat of the 2016 campaign.
Prosecutors said those secret payouts were not reported as campaign
contributions and violated the ban on corporate contributions and the $2,700
limit on donations by an individual.
Shortly after Cohen's sentencing, federal authorities announced a deal not
to prosecute AMI. As part of the deal, prosecutors said, AMI admitted making
the payment to McDougal "in concert" with the Trump campaign to protect him
from a story that could have hurt his candidacy. An AMI representative had no
Trump has denied any sexual relationship with the women and argued on
Twitter earlier this week that the payments to the women were "a simple private
transaction," not a campaign contribution. And if it was a prohibited
contribution, Trump said, Cohen is the one who should be held responsible.
"Lawyer's liability if he made a mistake, not me," Trump wrote, adding,
"Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!"
Trump's legal culpability could hinge on whether the payments to the women
were, in fact, made at his direction, and whether he intended them to influence
In a case with some parallels, prosecutors in 2011 charged former Sen. John
Edwards with funneling nearly $1 million in under-the-table campaign
contributions to hide his pregnant lover during his 2008 run for president.
Edwards had argued that the payments were a personal matter --- intended to
keep things secret from his wife --- and had nothing to do with the election.
A jury acquitted the Democrat on one charge and deadlocked on other counts.
He wasn't retried.
In addition to pleading guilty to the campaign-finance and tax charges,
Cohen admitted lying to Congress to conceal that he was negotiating a proposal
to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow well into the presidential campaign
season. He said he lied out of devotion to Trump, who insisted during the
campaign that he had no business ties whatsoever to Russia.
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who played a major role in exposing the
hush-money discussions, said outside the courthouse: "We will not stop until
the truth is known relating to the conduct of Donald Trump."
But he added: "Let me be clear, Michael Cohen is neither a hero nor a
patriot" and "deserves every day of the 36-month sentence he will serve."