Katherine Pecora, Staff Writer
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, plead guilty to tax fraud, and to bank and campaign finance violations. Cohen is accused of paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels, with whom the president allegedly had an affair. Cohen claims that he had done so “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” though Cohen did not specifically name Trump. Cohen plead guilty to eight counts of various crimes that carry a maximum penalty of 65 years.
Cohen’s admission of breaking campaign finance laws was the most relevant. Cohen was likely held to a slightly higher standard as a lawyer and was therefore fully aware of his wrongdoing. Robert Khuzami, the deputy U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said “Cohen’s crimes had been ‘particularly significant’ because he was a trained lawyer.” Though Cohen has admitted his guilt, he has not agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York.
Over the past five years, Cohen failed to report an income of $1.3 million from a taxi business, $100,000 from brokerage commissions and $200,000 from consultancy fees. He had provided false invoices to the campaign for legal fees he allegedly provided the previous year. Furthermore, he sought reimbursement for his “excessive campaign contribution” by submitting fake invoices to the campaign.
President Trump’s ex-campaign chief, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to disclose foreign bank accounts. This was the first criminal trial arising from the Department of Justice’s probe into the 2016 Russian meddling. Last October, Manafort was charged by special counsel Robert Mueller III.
Manafort’s crimes predate his association with Trump. He was accused of using 31 foreign bank accounts in three different countries to evade taxes on millions of dollars. Manafort’s crimes involve his political consultancy overseas, including promoting pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. The star witness of the prosecution was Manafort’s former associate and fellow Trump campaign staffer Rick Gates. Gates has admitted to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort while helping him commit tax crimes. It was alleged that Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to aid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political goals in other parts of Europe. The jury found Manafort guilty of a maximum prison sentence of 80 years. Even a reduced sentence could send Manafort to prison for the rest of his life. Manafort is set to be brought to trial again by the special counsel’s office in less than a month for other possible charges.