Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight counts, including fraud and campaign finance violations.
Questioned by a federal judge in Manhattan, Cohen indicated he had paid sums of $130,000 and $150,000 each to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, at his boss’s request in order to buy their silence “with the purpose of influencing the election.”
Cohen, 51, appearing in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday, pleaded guilty to five counts of tax fraud, one of bank fraud and two counts of violating campaign finance laws.
He faces about four to five years in prison at the sentencing on December 12.
The guilty plea came almost at the same time as former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight financial crimes, including tax evasion and bank fraud.
Cohen, who was released on $500,000 bail, did not specify the women’s names, but the sums correspond to a payment known to have been made to adult film star Stormy Daniels just before the election to silence her claims of a one-night stand with Trump – and another destined for former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
He also did not name Trump, but said was “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”, and the other was made “under direction of the same candidate”.
In the charging documents, a press release and comments outside the court, prosecutors did not go as far as Cohen did in open court in pointing the finger at the president. Prosecutors said Cohen acted “in coordination with a candidate or campaign for federal office for purposes of influencing the election.”
Under federal law, an expenditure to protect a candidate’s political fortunes can be construed as a campaign contribution, subject to federal laws that bar contributions from corporations and set limits on how much can be donated.