BREAKING NEWS: Cohen guilty plea places scrutiny on Trump

Michael Cohen ( photo)

WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, pleaded guilty to eight counts Tuesday — including two that directly relate to Trump’s presidential campaign.

Appearing in federal court in Manhattan late Tuesday afternoon, Cohen acknowledged payments to two women and said that they were directed by Trump. 

The payments would have violated campaign finance laws, with one being an unlawful corporate contribution and the other exceeding caps.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion and one count of making a false statement to a financial institution. Cohen admitted to hiding over $4 million in income during a five-year period, enabling him to dodge more than $1.4 million in taxes due to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a statement from the Southern District of New York. The unreported income included money he received from loans, his taxi medallion business and brokerage commissions. He also admitted failing to disclose in a mortgage application more than $14 million in debt, the statement said.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse after the plea, Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami noted that the payments were intended to silence women whom he believed had disparaging information with the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.

He added that Cohen submitted “sham” reimbursement forms suggesting that the payments were for services rendered.

Cohen is free on $500,000 bail. He left the courthouse alone and got in the rear seat of a waiting SUV.

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, said in a statement Tuesday evening: “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.”

Before Cohen and Trump parted ways, Cohen famously told Vanity Fair that he would take a bullet for the president. But in early July, Cohen’s allegiance to Trump became questionable after the president’s former self-described fixer said in an interview that his primary loyalty was to his family and his country.

Cohen’s plea deal comes after Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on eight counts related to hiding foreign bank accounts along with tax and bank fraud. 

Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 counts.

Trump has largely stayed out of the public eye Tuesday.

The president ignored questions Tuesday afternoon while boarding Air Force One en route to a rally scheduled to take place in Charleston, West Virginia. But when Trump landed, he said he “felt bad” about Manafort and called him “a good man.”

Trump tried to distance himself from Manafort by noting that he also had worked for the late President Ronald Reagan and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Trump refused to answer questions about Cohen, although at one point he did say: “I feel bad. I feel bad for them both,” in an apparent reference to Cohen.

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