Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 8 counts

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Brian Ries, CNN
8:11 a.m. ET, August 22, 2018
8:59 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Trump's former lawyer pleaded guilty today. Here's what you need to know.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to eight criminal counts. Here's how it went down:

  • The charges: The counts against Cohen included tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump, including payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate that were designed to silence women who claimed affairs with the then-candidate.
  • Where Trump fits in: Cohen admitted that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he acted to keep information that would have been harmful to the candidate from becoming public. Though Trump himself isn't named, the court filing refers to an Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States.
  • What happens next: A sentencing date is set for December. Cohen faces up to 65 years in prison.
7:28 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Trump Organization source says Cohen doesn't have any dirt on the President

From CNN's Cristina Alesci

A source close to the Trump Organization told CNN that the Michael Cohen plea deal is further evidence that he doesn’t have anything damaging on President Trump. 

Even if Cohen says Trump told him to break the law, the source says, few would believe Cohen now, after admitting to lying.

This source also said there’s a recording of Cohen saying Trump didn’t know anything about the payment. 

The bottom line: Essentially, it’s Cohen’s word against the President’s, the source said.

7:18 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Cohen’s plea referenced the Stormy Daniels payment. Here’s what Trump said about it in April.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney, admitted in court today that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he acted to keep information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.

Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts. The charges against Cohen include tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump, including payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate that were designed to silence women who claimed affairs with the then-candidate.

Though not named in the plea deal filed in court, the women whom Cohen helped silence were two who have since gone public with their claims of sexual encounters or affairs with Trump: porn star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the claims.

Appearing in court on Tuesday, Cohen said of the charge linked to McDougal that it was done "for the principal purpose of influencing the election." Regarding the charge linked to Clifford, Cohen said the money "was later repaid to me by the candidate."

What has Trump said about all of this? Back in April, the President said he didn't know about the payment.

Here's that moment:

6:42 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Cohen failed to report $30,000 in proceeds from the sale of an Hermes Birkin bag

From CNN's Erica Orden

A shiny black crocodile Birkin bag is displayed in New York in 2014. Michael Cohen's plea said he failed to report proceeds of a similar bag.

President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty today to eight criminal counts including tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump.

According to the court filing, Cohen also failed to report $30,000 in proceeds from the sale of a Hermes Birkin bag.

Read that portion of the filing below:

6:30 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Giuliani: "There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President"

From CNN's Evan Perez

President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, reacting to Michael Cohen's plea, 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," Giuliani said.

Note: In court today, Cohen said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public. 

6:23 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

This is 1st time since Watergate a US President has been accused of campaign finance violation, expert says

Lawrence M. Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission and a CNN contributor, said that Michael Cohen's plea marks the first time in nearly 50 years that a US President has been accused of being a part of a campaign finance crime.

“This is the first time since Watergate that a President has been accused of being personally involved — directing and coordinating — a campaign finance violation," Noble said. 

Cohen’s under-oath admission — in which he said he violated campaign finance law "in coordination and at the direction” of Trump — holds specific and significant weight for the President.

“It’s unusual for a candidate to be personally liable” in a campaign violation, Noble said, “but if you can show that a candidate knew about the violation and knew about the act and participated, then the candidate can be personally liable.” 

Typically, criminal prosecution would be likely in a case like this where there is evidence of a knowing and willful violation of campaign finance laws against corporate and excessive contributions, and at this large of a dollar amount.

“I think all three of those have definitely been met in the sense that this would be something eligible for criminal prosecution,” Noble said, drawing comparisons to the charges brought against former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in 2011.

This reading of campaign finance violations stops at the prosecutors’ desks, however, as they decide how to interact with standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. 

 

6:18 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Cohen's ready to "tell the truth about Donald Trump," his lawyer says

Michael Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis said his client decided to plead guilty today because he's ready to "put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump."

Cohen pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to eight criminal counts and said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

Here's what Davis said about Cohen's plea:

5:42 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

READ ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's plea deal

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday to eight criminal counts including tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump.

Cohen said in a plea deal that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

Read Cohen's entire plea agreement right here.

5:16 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 8 counts

From CNN's Mark Morales

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty today to eight counts that include tax evasion and campaign finance violations.

  • Counts 1 to 5: Evasion of Assessment of Income Tax Liability
  • Count 6: False Statements to a Bank
  • Count 7: Causing an Unlawful Corporate Contribution
  • Count 8: Excessive Campaign Contribution

In a plea deal, he said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

A sentencing date is set for December.

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