Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty to Illegal Campaign Contributions 'At the Direction of a Candidate for Federal Office'

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a federal court in New York, admitting that he made illegal campaign contributions and acted to keep harmful information regarding a candidate from becoming public during the 2016 election “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.”

The name of the “candidate” was not revealed in court or in the criminal information charging document, but Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s attorneys, said Cohen “testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime.”

According to CNN, the counts against Cohen include tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump, including payments he made to women to silence and prevent them from making their alleged affairs with the then-presidential candidate become public.

Although both of the women are not named in the plea deal filed in court, the campaign finance violations are associated with Cohen’s hush money agreements with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who both claimed to have had affairs with Trump, ABC News reports.

In the document, Cohen is identified as the personal attorney “to Individual-1, who at that point had become the President of the United States.”

via William Farrington

The document states that Cohen made a contribution to “Individual-1” and “did so by making and causing to be made an expenditure, in cooperation, consultation, and concert with, and at the request and suggestion of one or more members of the campaign, to wit, COHEN made a $130,000 payment to Woman-2 to ensure that she not publicize damaging allegation before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election.”

Cohen had arranged a nondisclosure agreement with Daniels, and paid her $130,000, for which Cohen was charged with making an excessive campaign contribution, since the payment was made in service of the campaign and exceeded the federal limit.

Regarding McDougal, Cohen and a CEO of a media company “worked together to keep an individual from publicly disclosing” information that would have been harmful to a candidate, adding that the individual received $150,000. According to CNN, American Media Inc. paid McDougal $150,000 in 2016 for a contract that, in essence, silenced her claims of an affair with Trump.

“In or about August 2015, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Corporation-1 (“Chairman-1”), in coordination with MICHAEL COHEN, the defendant, and one or more members of the campaign, offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-1's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided,” the criminal information says. “Chairman-1 agreed to keep COHEN apprised of any such negative stories.”

“I participated in this conduct for the principal purpose” of influencing an election, Cohen said.

The charges against Cohen also included his failure to report $4 million in income, according to the criminal information filed against him, resulting in his avoidance of $1.4 million in taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to making false statement to a bank by understating his debt in order to secure loans to buy property.

“There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen,” Trump’s current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement on Tuesday. “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.” 

Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, responded to Giuliani’s statements, saying, “Michael Cohen took this step today so that his family can move on to the next chapter.”

“This is Michael fulfilling his promise made on July 2nd to put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump,” Davis added, referring to comments Cohen made in a special interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?” Davis said.