It’s difficult to imagine a worse day in the presidency of Donald Trump than Tuesday, when two gripping legal dramas, one involving his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and the other embroiling his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, collided in a surreal split screen crescendo.
In New York, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to eight felony counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
Three hundred miles south, in Alexandria, Va., a jury found Manafort guilty of eight unrelated felonies: Five counts of felony tax fraud, one count of failing to report a foreign bank account, and two counts of bank fraud.
In entering the plea, Cohen did not specifically name the two women or even Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an “unnamed candidate.” But the amounts and the dates all lined up with the payments made to Daniels and McDougal.
In total, Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution.
Cohen could have received up to 65 years in prison if convicted of all charges. However, as part of his plea deal, Cohen agreed not to challenge any sentence between 46 and 63 months. The deal does not involve a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors.
Cohen is set to be sentenced Dec. 12.
Cohen’s home, office and hotel room were raided in April by federal investigators looking into his financial dealings, including his alleged practice of paying women to stay silent about claims they had affairs with now-President Trump. Daniels and McDougal have both claimed they had sex with Trump while he was married, which the president denies.
Cohen was behind the $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, and recently released a tape of a conversation from September 2016 of him and Trump discussing the possible payment to McDougal.
Trump denied to reporters in April that he knew anything about Cohen’s payments to Daniels, though the explanation from the president and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have shifted multiples times since.
Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami told reporters that Cohen had sought reimbursement for the payments to both women by “submitting invoices to the candidate’s company” — believed to be the Trump Organization — that falsely indicated that Cohen had provided legal services in the year 2017.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2016 that McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc. — the parent company to the National Enquirer — for the rights to the story, but it never ran.
As part of his guilty plea, Cohen also admitted to underreporting his income by $4.1 million on his tax returns for the years between 2012 and 2016. Of that amount, $2.5 million was interest payments from a personal loan; $1.3 million was income from his taxi medallion business; $100,000 was income from brokerage commissions; and $200,000 was from “consulting fees.”
The investigation into Cohen was handled by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York after it was referred to them by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 21st, 2018